The Weekly Advertiser Horsham

Domestic rail stays on regional agenda


An exhaustive call for a return of Wimmera domestic passenger-rail services continues to draw frustratio­n from regional leaders.

Cr Les Power used a Horsham Rural City Council chief executive operationa­l report at a July meeting to stress the need for an appropriat­e service.

Cr Power, in speaking on elements in the report, pinpointed a meeting involving chief executive Sunil Bhalla and mayor Robyn Gulline with Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party Member for Western Victoria Stuart Grimley on the rail issue.

The occasion opened an opportunit­y to maintain a theme Cr Power had pushed through the monthly meeting – that Horsham deserved more recognitio­n as a regional city.

“We are one of the few regional cities in Victoria that doesn’t have a passenger rail service,” he said.

“I’m pleased that the mayor and CEO pushed our views for the rail service to return here.”

Mr Grimley declared he would champion the return of domestic dayto-day passenger rail to the Wimmera after meeting municipal and developmen­t leaders in Horsham last month.

He heard from advocates about a plea for at least a shuttle rail service to link Nhill to a Vlocity train that travels from Ararat to Melbourne.

A shuttle, providing embarking and departure opportunit­ies for communitie­s within proximity to Nhill, Dimboola, Horsham and Stawell would involve a switch in trains and overcome rail-gauge issues historical­ly blocking the idea.

Interstate trains and state trains run on railway tracks with different widths or gauges.

The interstate ‘standard’ gauge running through the Wimmera, providing transport and tourist train services via The Overland, is different to the state ‘broad’ gauge carrying domestic passenger services to and from Melbourne. Different gauges require different or gauge-adaptable trains and carriages.

Cr Gulline reinforced a message in the meeting with Mr Grimley that many Wimmera residents were limited in their ability to travel to and from Ballarat and Melbourne because of inappropri­ate bus or The Overland services.

She said people would be happy with any improvemen­t in passenger rail services, including taking old, outdated stock out of retirement.

“We are talking about a need for passenger rail every chance we get,” she said.

Wimmera Developmen­t Associatio­n, in recognisin­g a need for the region to exploit burgeoning investment opportunit­ies, has long identified reliable domestic passenger rail services as a key part of the formula.

It has outlined that rail is a preferred method of transport for many people with diverse cultural background­s who could meet growing workforce demands.

Mr Grimley said he would present the case to State Parliament this month.

Cr Power, meanwhile, also pointed out the benefits of other activities in the chief executive’s operationa­l report ranging from a western Victorian health-service merger proposal to the developmen­t of Horsham youth programs and municipal participat­ion in National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee, NAIDOC Week.

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