KATE DOWLER, The Weekly Times
July 6, 2017 12:00am

EIGHT Western Victorian councils are pushing for passenger rail to be returned to Hamilton and Horsham, from Melbourne via Ararat.

This comes as a new feasibility study showed four daily services to Horsham and three to Hamilton would be economically viable.

The councils’ pitch to the Victorian and Federal governments, to be launched on Tuesday, will call for $369 million for rail and signalling upgrades. The service would cost $6 million annually.

The study, by John Hearsch Consulting, commissioned by the councils and the two governments, found “rail passenger services could and should be reinstated to Horsham and Hamilton”.

Southern Grampians Mayor Mary-Ann Brown said the return of passenger rail would “be a game-changer” for Hamilton.

Cr Brown said $369 million “was not a lot of money in the overall scheme of things when you consider the State Government sold the Port of Melbourne for $10 billion”.

Horsham Rural City Council chief executive officer Peter Brown said western Victoria was worst off in Victoria for public transport and improving the services was crucial for economic development.

Federal Member for Wannon Dan Tehan said the Federal Government’s $1.5 billion rail spend included $153 million for the Warrnambool, Ararat and Maryborough line services, which would enable planning for restoration of services to Hamilton.

The councils behind the plan are Ararat Rural City, Glenelg Shire, Hindmarsh Shire, Northern Grampians Shire, West Wimmera Shire, Yarriambiack Shire, Southern Grampians Shire and Horsham Rural City.