The Weekly Advertiser Horsham

MP follows up on regional rail

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Western Victorian upper house member Stuart Grimley has followed up on a visit to the Wimmera by calling on state Public Transport Minister Ben Carroll to meet communitie­s along a Nhill-ararat rail line.

Through an adjournmen­t debate in State Parliament, Mr Grimley asked the minister to meet council and community-group representa­tives to discuss the return of domestic rail services to the Wimmera.

Groups include Horsham Rural City and Hindmarsh Shire councils and Nhill Train Alliance.

Mr Grimley, Victorian leader of Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party, discussed the push for the return of Wimmera rail during a tour of the region last month.

He said he was informed during his visit that before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Transport had started a business case evaluating a shuttle from Nhill or Kaniva that connected with a Melbourne passenger-rail service at Ararat.

Mr Grimley asked the minister when the business case would be finished and if it would be made public.

Mr Grimley described the public-transport system in the Wimmera as ‘horrendous at best’.

He said it was a bus-based network ‘with horrible timetablin­g, extremely long and uncomforta­ble trips and difficult for elderly residents to use’.

“Instead of using buses to go to appointmen­ts in Melbourne, locals either go without or drive themselves to Ballarat to catch the train,” he said.

“For those in Nhill, that’s a three-hour drive, then a train ride to Melbourne and then back again.

“The choice left for locals is either pay to stay overnight in Melbourne, which many can’t afford, or drive back home.

“People living in country Victoria understand that they won’t always have access to the exact same services as metropolit­an areas and they understand that it does take longer to travel elsewhere.

“But in saying this we are seeing, now more than ever, a wider gap of services between the country and the city.

“It seems all the pieces of the puzzle are available for the return of rail; rolling stock is sitting in stabling yards in Melbourne that match the current track; the condition of the track is up to passenger-rail standard because it is used by the Overland, the right infrastruc­ture is in place and the community is pushing for it.

“The only thing the communitie­s in the Wimmera need now is a commitment from the State Government to return the rail service.

“Just because they live in the country, doesn’t mean they should have second-class services.”

Mr Grimley said the minister had 30 days to respond to his question.

“Instead of using buses to go to appointmen­ts in Melbourne, locals either go without or drive themselves to Ballarat to catch the train” – Stuart Grimley

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