A PUSH for more frequent passenger train services between Warrnambool and Melbourne has gathered momentum with Colac Otway Shire Council voting unanimously to make it a top-tier priority.
The issue will be taken to the G21 and Great South Coast regional lobby groups.
Warrnambool’s mayor Michael Neoh welcomed the Colac Otway push for improvements he has been campaigning on for years.
He supported Colac mayor Brian Crook’s view that the rail service must be made a priority by the region’s lobby groups and renewed pressure put on the state government in the election lead-up.
Both leaders have called for two extra services, better timetabling and more modern rolling stock
“Our key plank is to make sure we can attract people to regional cities and connectivity is a key,” Cr Neoh said.
“Without more frequent and appropriate public service linkages to Geelong and Melbourne there’s a huge barrier.
“Having two extra services would make living in the south-west more attractive.
“People would find it easier to go to Melbourne and back in the same day.
“This is not a new issue and the government’s excuses are becoming very lame. Perhaps the transport minister Terry Mulder needs to speak to the people who have to get up at 4am to meet the early-morning train.”
Mr Mulder said in response to this week’s Colac Otway decision there must be a demonstrated need to justify extra services. “The community would not want us running empty trains,” he said.
“They can make it a priority but I think the G21 pillar understands it needs to be evidence-based.”
The government spent about $10 million on a recently-completed passing loop at Warncoort to allow more services and longer freight trains to use the Warrnambool-Geelong line.
However, Cr Crook said the investment was pointless if more trains and rolling stock were not allocated.
“I suggest the south-west community leaders need to come together to discuss train timetables and service frequency,” he said.
“Our region deserves better. There should be five services at a minimum.
“With fuel prices continuing to rise public service becomes more important.”