Minister hopeful passing loop will add to rail flexibility in the south-west

TRANSPORT Minister Terry Mulder has left the door open for more passenger train services between south-west Victoria and Melbourne.

In response to criticism from Victorian Greens leader Greg Barber claiming there were no plans to improve the service, Mr Mulder told The Standard he remained optimistic about the prospect of extra trains.

Mr Mulder said the new $10 million passing loop being built at Warncoort would give the Warrnambool line operational flexibility it lacked and allow longer freight trains.

However, he conceded V/Line’s passenger rolling stock was in full use on week days and the 40 new railcars being built at Dandenong would be used on shorter lines closer to Melbourne. He also slammed the carbon tax supported by the Greens and claimed it was adding millions of dollars a year to public transport operating costs.

“This is money that could be used to fund new long-distance train trips on lines such as Warrnambool,” Mr Mulder said. “The Greens failed to say anything when the previous Labor government quietly ripped up a useful previous crossing loop at Winchelsea.”

Warrnambool City mayor Michael Neoh said councillors discussed the train issue during the first day of their workshop conference at Port Campbell yesterday.

“All councillors support the strategy of more rail services,” he said. 

“Maybe it’s more feasible to concentrate on improvements for Warrnambool to Geelong, given there are at least 30 services a day between Geelong and Melbourne.

“We need more passenger services and faster travelling times.

“For Warrnambool to get a greater share of regional growth we need jobs and better connectivity to Melbourne rather than having to rely on substandard roads,” Cr Neoh said.

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