WE'VE campaigned for passing lanes -- now we need to campaign for trains.
That's the message Cr Michael Neoh is pushing for upcoming council elections.
Cr Neoh said south-west municipalities had made their voices heard regarding the need for more passing lanes along the Princes Highway's western stretch of the state, but the time was right to push for more adequate train services, in particular five return passengers services instead of three.
He said that with a federal election next year and a state vote the following year, the campaign needed to start now to push for improved and more frequent train services for the south-west.
"I think it's a key issue that's been overlooked," Cr Neoh said.
South West Coast MP Denis Napthine said the state government was already investing $10 million to reinstate a passing loop between Warrnambool and Geelong, plus $5.3 billion into a regional rail project that w ould create a dedicated regional line from Little River to Southern Cross Station.
But Cr Neoh said such investments were not guarantees for more trains.
"With the Princes Highway, we were promised 21 passing lanes in a decade and weren't provided with any," he said, adding that it was only in the lead-up to an election that an "ironclad promise" was given, yielding six passing lanes.
That followed a cross-council campaign backed by the media and this was what needed to happen with the trains, Cr Neoh said.
"We need to advocate to get an ironclad promise. There's a difference between planning for more trains and getting more trains.
"We still need funding and trains to increase it to five services. Just because we've got a passing lane it's not a promise we'll get those services.
"We need solidarity in Warrnambool City Council. We need all the councillors to get behind it, as well as Moyne, Corangamite and Glenelg.
"That should be a role of the incoming council, to get a solid commitment before elections."
Cr Neoh described it as a huge issue that affected students, business people and anyone who used public transport from Mt Gambier to Colac.
Dr Napthine said the south-west does "have good services with the three passenger trains and a freight service".
"The government and Transport Minister Terry Mulder is acutely aware of the patronage on those lines and the case being made for additional passenger and freight services," he said.
Dr Napthine estimated the dedicated regional line project should be completed by 2015 or 2016. "That will be a dedicated line through Footscray into Southern Cross so the regional trains do not get caught up in metropolitan train system.
"I use the trains from time to time and people who use them will know that you go along pretty well until you get to Werribee and Laverton and then it's crawl, stop, crawl, stop, all the way into Southern Cross.
"The dedicated regional line, together with the passing loop, will give us the opportunity to argue for more passenger and freight services for the south-west."
He said reopening the passing loop would also allow steam trains back on the line .