Next Stop for Passenger Rail: Horsham?
Passenger rail could be reinstated along the Horsham railway line in Victoria if a Government funding commitment is made, according to Member for Lowan, Emma Kealy.
Emma joined Anita on the Country Viewpoint to discuss.
The State Member told Flow FM public transport options in Western Victoria are lacking.
"We know we've got some of the worst public transport connections in our area, and that really limits people in living their lives and getting access to services they need," she said.
With the highest cancer mortality rates in Victoria, Ms Kealy used this issue to highlight the need for better public transport in the Lowan electorate.
"If you are diagnosed with cancer, you are far more likely to have not had successful treatment after five years than if you live anywhere else, and some of that is because people can't get to their doctors appointments.
"We can get better access to health professionals...schools, can make sure people get to work easier, if we've got better connections through public transport," she said.
According to Ms Kealy, under the Andrews Labor Government, several public transport cuts have been made to the region, including the loss of a coach service through to Ouyen and Hopetoun.
"We've also seen a change to the timetable which means that it takes much longer to get from Melbourne to Horsham than it used to, so our services are actually getting worse," she said.
When previously speaking to Member for Mildura, Peter Crisp, he told Flow FM the Horsham line was in a better position to see passenger rail restored than the Mildura railway line.
"Their freight line is a little more fit for purpose than ours, so they're probably a little ahead of Mildura," he said.
Ms Kealy responded to this claim, saying Western Victoria has infrastructure problems which could slow down the process.
"The line that runs from Melbourne to Ararat is broad gauge, whereas it's standard gauge from Ararat through to the West - through Horsham and through Hamilton.
"In order to get a train service through, we need to upgrade some of those lines, and that creates a big financial barrier to bringing trains back.
"It's not as simple as buying a new carriage and a new engine, and off we go, we've got a bit of work to do," she added.
"We also need to look at the connections," Ms Kealy said.
"Many of the communities of the Lowan electorate aren't linked to a train line, so it's really difficult to get from Hamilton to Horsham for example.
"We need to look at how we better connect through some of that region, to get the best opportunities we can for our local people, but also to try and support some tourism in the region.
"There's some really good benefits of reintroducing rail and better coach services, but we do need to make sure we have a commitment from the Government to be able to deliver on that," she said.
When asked how likely we are to see these services reinstated along the Horsham line, Ms Kealy said: "I'm sure that we can get a very strong campaign going, and I would love to be part of any announcements going forward where we can finally celebrate as a community that we do have better access to public transport in Western Victoria."
Flow FM will continue to update you on the Murray Basin Rail project, and the possibility of passenger rail services returning to Horsham and Mildura.