FIVE daily rail services are needed to meet commuter demand, according to six south-west councils behind a campaign to improve the Warrnambool-Geelong line.
Mayors from the Corangamite, Colac-Otway, Glenelg, Moyne, Surf Coast and Warrnambool City councils met at Camperdown railway station yesterday to officially launch the push, timed four months ahead of the state election.
The shire leaders are calling for two new services daily along the line on top of the present three, claiming increased demand has necessitated the proposed expansion.
The Great South Coast Group has suggested four return passenger services could be accommodated without changing the existing infrastructure. An interim fifth service could be provided by coach, the group proposed, while rail infrastructure was being upgraded.
Corangamite Shire mayor Chris O’Connor said all south-west councils wanted to present a united front to both government and opposition ahead of the November state election.
Cr O’Connor met with state Transport Minister Terry Mulder in the past fortnight and said the conversation was encouraging.
“We had a great discussion with Terry and I believe he’s open to ways to improve public transport in the region,” he said.
“Increasing the number of services between Warr-nambool and Geelong is something that’s needed for uni and TAFE students, senior citizens and so on.”
Moyne Shire mayor James Purcell said extra services would allow south-west passengers greater flexibility for day trips to Geelong and Melbourne.
“There’s a fair bit of frustration with the train timetable we have at the moment,” Cr Purcell said.
“Extra services are critical for the region to grow.”
Warrnambool mayor Michael Neoh said the region-wide plan was a reasonable proposition given it was not based on expensive infrastructure upgrades.
“What we’ve proposed doesn’t require a huge investment from government — it’s just a smarter approach to the service we already have,” Cr Neoh said.
Colac-Otway Shire mayor Lyn Russell said the duplication of the Princes Highway between Winchelsea and Colac would lead to population growth in the latter city during the next decade.
“With those extra people, we’ll need more train services because we all know not everyone is able to drive,” Cr Russell said.
Surf Coast Shire mayor Rose Hodge said out of all the towns in her municipality, Winchelsea would most benefit from improved services.
“Many Winchelsea residents have to drive to Geelong to catch the train to Melbourne, even though we have a train station, and that’s because services are too infrequent,” Cr Hodge said.
Glenelg Shire mayor John Northcott said extra train services would lead to greater patronage from Portland region commuters.
“The problem at the moment is that the morning service leaves Warrnambool at 5.30am — you have to leave before 4.30 in the morning from Portland in order to get the train on time,” Cr Northcott said.