Have your say on improved passenger rail services for Loddon

Published on 14 January 2015

Loddon Shire Council has joined forces with the northern municipalities of Swan Hill, Gannawarra, Campaspe and Greater Bendigo to progress one of its key advocacy priorities - improved passenger rail services.

Loddon Mayor, Cr Gavan Holt, said stage one of the joint ‘Railing Ahead’ advocacy strategy will kick off in January with a community survey designed to gather information on local public transport usage and what type of train service people need.

“Public transport is an important service to all rural communities, connecting people with the services they need and contributing to quality of life. However, we hold a concern that the current level of passenger rail services in northern Victoria does not adequately meet the needs of locals or visitors to the region,” Cr Holt said.

“As a case in point, the Swan Hill train line currently has only two return train services per day and the Echuca line has only one service each week day and two on weekends. By comparison, smaller communities on the Melbourne-Bendigo rail line benefit from up to 20 return train services per day.”

The Mayor said that improving passenger rail services for those who live, do business or visit northern Victoria is vitally important to the region for a wide range of social and economic reasons.

“Some of the expected benefits of improving the frequency of passenger trains include expanding employment and education opportunities, improving access to general and specialist medical services, increasing participation in recreation and social activities, and increasing tourism to the region."

For Loddon, the aim of the advocacy strategy is to achieve an increase in the frequency of passenger services to the key destinations of Dingee and Pyramid Hill, both of which already have train stations.

Stage one of the Railing Ahead advocacy strategy will involve a three-pronged approach including engaging the community to gather information, continuing discussions with Public Transport Victoria (PTV) and raising community awareness.

“As part of preparing a business case that could support government investment in enhanced rural rail services, it is important to have meaningful data and a solid understanding of public transport usage and needs in the region,” Cr Holt said.

“To achieve this understanding, a survey will be widely distributed throughout the local government areas of Swan Hill, Gannawarra, Loddon, Campaspe and Greater Bendigo, with a specific focus on the Swan Hill and Echuca lines.

“We encourage all members of the community to complete the survey so that the views of students, workers, families, business people, tourists and those who rely on public transport to get around, can be represented accurately to government decision-makers.

“We will present the findings of the survey to PTV and the Victorian Government in an effort to secure train and bus services that better align to community and visitor needs.”

The survey will examine existing passenger rail patronage levels, destination and purpose of travel, levels of satisfaction with current services and likely demand for more frequent services.

The Railing Ahead community survey is open from Monday, 12 January until Friday, 27 February 2015. It is available on Council’s website www.loddon.vic.gov.au and in hard copy from Council’s customer service centres in Wedderburn and Serpentine.

In addition to the survey, the partner councils will target input from specific individuals and groups including tourism bodies, health providers, the business sector and regular train users.

“While improved rail services has long been an advocacy priority of Council, the gathering of data over coming months provides an opportunity to initiate discussions with the new Victorian Government regarding the region’s public transport issues and needs,” the Mayor added.