Dear valued subscriber,
We have campaigned long and hard for improved passenger rail services in the south-west and after years of planning, delays and works, light is at the end of the tunnel.
New, faster trains are expected to be on the line next year, some six years after the state government promised them. A fifth daily return service between Melbourne and Warrnambool is expected to be added later this year. The upgrades will be game-changing for the region's public transport and help with tourism, business and divert vehicles from our dilapidated roads.
Unfortunately no trains will be running between Geelong and Warrnambool next week for what will be the region's biggest tourism bonanza in three years. Accommodation is all but full and hospitality venues have all available hands on deck despite the widespread worker shortages. It will be a case of all roads lead to Warrnambool for the May Racing Carnival, the first without COVID-19 restrictions since 2019.
It's disappointing, surprising that only this week it was revealed there would be no trains between Geelong and Warrnambool because of track and signalling upgrades. We understand the works are essential to the bigger picture but where was the planning? Could the shut down of trains been avoided or delayed for next week?
Patrons now face 60-minute longer journey times with buses to transport passengers.
The carnival's festive spirit will no doubt conquer the short-term train pain as the region takes yet another significant step on the road to recovery after the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Next week's carnival will mark the 150th anniversary of the first Grand Annual Steeplechase and give the community a chance to celebrate our heritage.
Volunteerism has been a hallmark of the grand annual and the carnival ever since a Warrnambool publican named Richard Lane came up with the idea of the steeplechase. He acted as starter for the inaugural event, a volunteer role. There have been plenty helping set up the massive undertaking the carnival has become. We should never take those people for granted. As we reported, many groups and organisations are crying out for volunteers, who are seemingly a dying breed these days. We need more. Our community spirit that we celebrate not only with the carnival but this weekend's Koroit Irish Festival has been fostered by volunteers - without them our region wouldn't be the same.
The federal election campaign rolls on and cost of living pressures is a hot topic. This week we revealed Warrnambool and District Foodshare had experienced a 30 per cent jump in demand for hampers in the first three months of this year compared with the same period last year. Rising food, fuel and housing costs are behind the jump in demand.
We continue to question the candidates in the race to become Wannon MP, delving into where the money for campaigns comes from. Independent Alex Dyson, who is receiving $30,000 from climate change philanthropist Simon Holmes a Court and his Climate 200 group, told us this week he remains independent of a political party. We also quizzed the candidates on vaccination mandates.
We will be running a candidates forum in conjunction with FitzMedia, which will be streamed through our Facebook page on Sunday, May 8, from 6pm. If you have a question or topic you'd like us to put to all Wannon candidates, please email it to email@example.com
Singer Jess Rudman provided a feel-good story this week, starring on television show The Voice.
Congratulations to lucky subscriber Brad McCosh, who won a VIP May Racing Carnival package from us. He and three friends will be joining us in The Standard's marquee trackside on Thursday.
Congratulations also to Vicki Waters, Leon Clark, Noeleen McArlein, Kevin Young, Debra Calvi, Mel Laird, Paul Taylor, Darrel Noske, John Bloom, Karen Thomson, Lisa Mordaunt, Noel Burleigh, Theo Hnarakis, Kim Bright and Gerard Dwyer, who picked up free general admission double passes to Thursday's final day of the carnival.
Don't forget to check out some of the other stories, below, that made headlines this week.
Until next week,
Greg Best, Editor, The Standard
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