SEVEN councils in the south-west and Wimmera are inching closer towards the return of passenger rail services after “heartening” talks with the state government.
Glenelg Shire and Southern Grampians Shire, together with five other councils covering Ararat, Edenhope, Nhil and Horsham, are moving to fund a feasibility study on the condition the government also pitches in.
Southern Grampians chief executive Richard Perry was upbeat about talks on February 25 between the municipalities.
“We’re on common ground,” Mr Perry said.
“Certainly all the councils are in agreement that the return of passenger rail will be an important economic provider.”
Rural councils also argue it will better link them with essential services in Ballarat and Melbourne.
“We think the study will cost around $100,000 but it probably needs to be scoped out a bit more clearly,” Mr Perry said.
“We’re looking at all the councils matching a state government contribution towards the study.”
The councils want to examine if the existing standard gauge rail lines used by freight can also cater for passenger services that would link with the Ararat line to Ballarat and Melbourne. Mr Perry said he was encouraged by representatives from V/Line, the Department of Transport and Public Transport Victoria attending the recent meeting.
“We’re very heartened by the whole exercise.”
He said the council would raise the rail campaign with the yet-to-be-decided Nationals candidate for the state seat of Lowan.