Frus­tra­tion over pas­sen­ger rail

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News -

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 west­ern­ 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.

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