By Sian Johnson
The Warrnambool Standard

Getting wheels turning: Close to 90 per cent of survey respondents said they would like to see passenger rail to Hamilton.

A proposal to return passenger rail to Hamilton needs state government action to get off the ground, the Southern Grampians Shire chief executive officer says.

CEO Michael Tudball said a state government business case would be the next step towards getting funding for the $369 million project, which would see daily passenger rail services in Hamilton and Horsham within seven years.

“We think we’ve got a very good case for why the western part of the state has access to a similar service that everywhere else (in Victoria) has”, he said.

Mr Tudball said the scale of the project, outlined in a study backed by eight councils, meant it would require a joint approach from the state and federal governments.

The report said public transport improvements would benefit more than 110,000 residents of the Grampians and Barwon South West regions.

The CEO said population growth across the state, especially in Melbourne, was making car transport less viable.

“One day you’re not going to be able to get into the city (by car),” he said.

“Our road networks can’t keep up with growth and we’re now transporting more freight than ever. People will use a train service if it’s timely, efficient and effective.”

Transport Minister Jacinta Allan’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Close to 90 per cent of respondents to an online poll set up by The Standard supported the idea of passenger rail returning to Hamilton, with 510 people voting ‘yes’.

Glenelg Shire was one of the councils behind the feasibility study, however, the report looked into but did not recommend restoring a rail service beyond Hamilton to Portland.

The report said Portland was better served by Warrnambool’s rail service.
Glenelg mayor Anita Rank said the proposal would still provide benefits to shire residents.

“It may be a long way off and not include a direct line to Portland, but any access or improvement to services in Hamilton and Warrnambool will greatly benefit Glenelg Shire,” Cr Rank said.

“It’s not only around commuter services, but also opens up opportunities to promote tourism.”

Cr Rank said the eight councils who backed the report supported each other.

“It may seem a long way off and it’s estimated to cost $369 million, but unless you start investing in nation-building projects you’re not going to get anywhere,” she said.

“You’ve got to start somewhere and this is a start.

“People living in regional and rural Victoria should not be limited or have less benefits than anyone living in capital city.”