Member for Western Victoria
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party

Public Transport inequality gap between Melbourne and the Wimmera

WESTERN VICTORIA PASSENGER RAIL SERVICES Mr GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (18:06): (1404) My adjournment debate is for the Minister for Public Transport, and it relates to a new train shuttle service from Nhill to Ararat. During my time as a member for Western Victoria I have been given the opportunity to meet some amazing people, councils and businesses in rural and regional Victoria. They work hard and love their communities. People living in country Victoria understand that they will not always have access to exactly the same services as metropolitan areas, and they understand that it does take longer to travel elsewhere. But in saying this, we are seeing now more than ever a wider gap of services between the country and the city. Recently I embarked on a trip around Western Victoria meeting community groups and councils. The same issues continue to arise: there are not enough houses, areas cannot fill jobs, there is not enough funding for roads, more health services are needed and the public transport is abysmal and in some places non-existent. The current transport system in the Wimmera is horrendous at best. It is a bus-based network with horrible timetabling and extremely long and uncomfortable trips, and it is difficult for elderly residents to use. I am told that instead of using the buses to go to appointments in Melbourne, locals either go without or drive themselves to Ballarat to catch the train. For those in Nhill, that is a 3-hour drive, a train ride to Melbourne and then back again. The choice left for locals is to either pay to stay overnight in Melbourne, which many cannot afford, or drive back home, and it is barely a choice at all. What is heartbreaking about this issue is what the locals say, and I have heard this too many times to count: ‘If this was happening in metropolitan Melbourne or a marginal seat, the problem would be fixed straightaway’. Horsham, Dimboola and Nhill need a train service. Speaking with the councils, locals and businesses, everyone wants a train service. The good news is that all of the infrastructure is already there. The Overland train uses the existing track, which is in good enough condition for passenger rail, and I am told the old rolling stock from the north-east line, which matches the gauge of the track, is sitting unused in Melbourne. We do not need a dedicated service to Melbourne, just a shuttle from Nhill or Kaniva that connects with the Melbourne service at Ararat. I have also been told that the Department of Transport had begun a business case before the COVID-19 outbreak. The pieces of the puzzle are all there; we just need to put it together. There is an opportunity now for government to begin to close the gap of inequality between the city and the country in the Wimmera. There is a cost-effective, viable option that can be put into action easily. I know that the Horsham council have met with members of the government and discussed this plan. All we need now is a commitment. Therefore the action that I seek from the minister is to provide an update on the business case for this shuttle service, including when it will be finished and if it will be made public, and for the minister to meet with the Horsham Rural City Council, Hindmarsh council and the Nhill Train Alliance to discuss the return train service from Nhill to Ararat


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