Frustration over passenger rail
Agroup of western Victorian mayors has spoken of the frustration in waiting for the Andrews Labor government to announce its stance on rail-passenger services west and south of Ararat.
Western Rail group, with members representing eight councils, is clinging to a hope that Labor will make its position clear as part of a build-up to the November 24 state election.
It also wants everyday commuters from across the region to have their say by filling out a ‘tell us your story’ section on website westernrail.com. au.
Horsham, Northern Grampians and Southern Grampians mayors were outspoken on the issue at a meeting in Hamilton last week.
Horsham mayor Pam Clarke said representatives shared their frustration, especially after what they considered an encouraging past meeting with Transport Minister Jacinta Allen.
“Labor has unofficially promised they will give us at least something. All we’re really asking for is a business case and the government has told us this can be done. But we need a commitment,” she said.
“The closer it’s getting to the election the more frustrating it’s becoming.”
Cr Clarke said councils outside politically swinging electorates realised they faced an uphill battle to win funding promises.
“There are millions of dollars being promised to swinging seats all over Victoria, but we would still like the government of Victoria to realise there is a whole section of the state in need of appropriate public transport services,” she said.
“From Horsham’s perspective there is no reason why Horsham could not get a sprinter-train service to overcome rail-gauge issues. That’s not the hard part. The hard part is getting a Labor commitment.
“And we have Hamilton in Southern Grampians Shire that is even worse off than us.”
A Stawell passenger-rail service, running in a swinging Ripon electorate, would be part of an obvious extension to Horsham. Northern Grampians mayor Tony Driscoll echoed the group’s frustration.
“Minister Allan has said the Andrews Labor Government’s Regional Rail Revival investment ‘shows we are getting on with giving regional Victorians the transport services they deserve’ – yet this does not seem to be the case for our communities yet,” he said. Southern Grampians mayor Mary-ann Brown expressed her disappointment that despite many meetings with Minister Allan since the release of a Western Rail report 18 months ago, the Labor government had yet to make a commitment.
“We have been very patient,” she said.
“Our communities have been living in hope for their elected representatives to deliver and we had anticipated an announcement in the lead-up to the state election.”
Cr Clarke said the group was grateful passenger rail services had increased to Ararat in the past 12 months, but there had been no sign of any improvements for communities further south and west.
“Ararat Rural City Council has been supportive and from its lobbying now has an extra 19 train services,” she said.
“They fully understand the circumstances of their neighbours, as has Ballarat. We’re all supporting each other.
“What we really need is for people to tell us their stories so we can use that to lobby the government.
“It’s all good and well for us to be jumping up and down but if we don’t have community behind us the government just doesn’t see the need.”
UNITED FRONT: Western Victorian mayors, from left, Tony Driscoll, Northern Grampians, Mary-ann Brown, Southern Grampians, Pam Clarke, Horsham Rural City, and Graeme Massey, Yarriambiack, and Ararat Rural City councillor Gwenda Allgood have joined forces to call on the Labor government to take a stance on the region’s rail issue.