Fund­ing hur­dle for rail pro­posal

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News - BY DEAN LAW­SON

Wim­mera De­vel­op­ment As­so­ci­a­tion has wel­comed a pri­vate-en­ter­prise pro­posal from a new Hor­sham-based com­pany in ef­forts to re­turn pas­sen­ger-rail ser­vices to the Wim­mera.

As­so­ci­a­tion executive di­rec­tor Ralph Kenyon said the con­cept from Wim­mera Rail Ser­vices, a fam­ily firm with mem­bers boast­ing life­time ex­pe­ri­ence in the rail in­dus­try, added a new di­men­sion to the push.

He said the idea that a Wim­mera-based pri­vate en­ter­prise take charge of pro­vid­ing cost-ef­fect­ing pas­sen­ger-rail ser­vices with gov­ern­ment back­ing was ‘food for thought’.

“What’s pleas­ing is that the com­mu­nity is get­ting highly en­gaged in the process and in this case is will­ing to pick up the man­tel in ef­forts to re­turn pas­sen­ger-rail ser­vices to the Wim­mera and south­ern Mallee,” he said.

“It will be­ing in­ter­est­ing to see how Wim­mera Rail Ser­vices pro­gresses when, af­ter it es­tab­lishes con­nec­tions with key stake­hold­ers in the re­gion, it speaks to the gov­ern­ment about its pro­posal.

“The po­ten­tial for in­tro­duc­ing pri­vate en­ter­prise into this type of mar­ket seems good on pa­per. But the proof will be in the sup­port the com­pany can gen­er­ate in con­vinc­ing the gov­ern­ment to back the idea to the tune of the many mil­lions of dol­lars re­quired.”

Wim­mera Rail Ser­vices, led by man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Greg Phillips of Hor­sham and his son and com­pany op­er­a­tions man­ager Tim, has in­vested money into de­vel­op­ing a three-stage blue­print out­lin­ing how it would re­turn daily pas­sen­ger-rail ser­vices to and from the Wim­mera.

The firm is con­fi­dent, with a State Gov­ern- ment com­mit­ment of $70-mil­lion, it could quickly pro­vide the first stage of a ‘safe, re­li­able, on-time, value for money and cus­tomer-fo­cused ser­vice in­te­grated with other pub­lic trans­port op­er­a­tions’.

Its 2019 first stage would in­clude five re­turn­train ser­vices a day be­tween Hor­sham and Ararat, timed to al­low in­ter­con­nec­tion with V-line ser­vices at Ararat.

A 2020 stage two would in­clude the stan­dard­i­s­a­tion of a rail line be­tween Ararat and Bal­larat, al­low­ing for a sin­gle pas­sen­ger rail con­nec­tion be­tween Hor­sham and Bal­larat.

A 2022 stage three, in two parts, would in­clude an up­grade of sig­nalling in­fra­struc­ture be­tween Bal­larat and Ararat and an up­grade of rail-line in­fra­struc­ture be­tween Hor­sham and Ararat.

Mr Kenyon said he be­lieved the com­pany needed to con­tinue to in­ves­ti­gate the pro­posal in detail to be able to mount a con­vinc­ing ar­gu­ment for fund­ing.

“But im­por­tantly, it shows lo­cal ini­tia­tive and con­sid­er­a­tion of a dif­fer­ent way of get­ting a de­sired out­come. The mo­ti­va­tion is con­sis­tent with what coun­cils in the re­gion are try­ing to achieve. It’s all food for thought,” he said.

“What’s pleas­ing is that the com­mu­nity is get­ting highly en­gaged in the process and in this case is will­ing to pick up the man­tel in ef­forts to re­turn pas­sen­ger-rail ser­vices to the Wim­mera and south­ern Mallee” – Ralph Kenyon

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