STAWELL - A complete overhaul of facilities at the Stawell Railway Station and fully funded bus services to Concongella Primary School have been listed in a new transport strategy as top priorities for the Northern Grampians Shire Council.
Council has joned a united voice across the Wimmera and Western Victoria to fight for improved passenger rail services to all towns and cities, but will also advocate strongly for the station upgrade and for the bus service that is currently funded by Concongella Primary School itself, to be funded by government.
Shire chief executive officer, Justine Linley, said councils had really started to step up the campaign to pressure for improved services.
"Over a number of years and more recently, councils and communities in the Wimmera, Mallee and Western Victoria have been advocating for a core standard of public transport and rail freight services to support business and community growth and retention," Ms Linley said.
Ms Linley presented five related issues to council for consideration relating to the provision of passenger rail and transport services and rail freight services.
As a result, Cr Karen Hyslop moved a motion in five parts. These are that council:
Joins with the eight councils in the Wimmera/South Western Victoria area to advocate for and develop a feasibility study for the re-instatement of passenger rail services in the region via a shuttle service inclusive of the Wimmera and South West and contributes $4000 towards a Wimmera/South Western Victoria passenger rail feasibility study.
Supports the proposal from Sandlant Bus Services for an extension to the public transport bus routes in Stawell and district.
Joins with the Loddon-Mallee group of councils to advocate to the State Government for the improvement of the main Mildura freight line to enable safe transport of goods and grain.
Works with V-Line to ensure that the Stawell Railway Station is open and maintained to provide passenger comfort facilities.
Advocates for the inclusion of the Concongella Primary School on a state-funded school bus route.
Cr Hyslop said she had been involved in conducting a survey last year, the results of which clearly showed interest and a need for more rail services.
"People want it back in the country if they can get it," she said.
"The return of more passenger rail services to areas like Stawell would be great and would open up so many doors.
"The additional services would also tie in with Sandlant's Bus Services which would be very important for travellers."
Cr Hyslop said the condition and lack of availability of the Stawell station was also a major concern.
"We discussed the station with Vic Track a month and a half ago and we toild them back then that access to toilets was essential," Cr Hyslop said.
"If we can help in providing passenger comfort facilities, then this will be very worthwhile and the $4000 money well spent.
"With regards to Concongella Primary School gaining access to a government funded bus service, I think it is essential. if we can advocate for this service on their behalf I think it would be a great outcome."
Cr Murray Emerson agreed that contributing $4000 towards the Wimmera/South Western Victoria passenger rail feasibility study would be money well spent.
"I am always wary about spending public money on studies, but I think the $4000 comitted here will be money well spent as time goes on," he said.
Mayor, Cr Kevin Erwin agreed that all five points within the motion were vital to the future of Stawell and district.
He paid particular attention to the Concongella Primary School and said they deserve access to government funded bus services.
"The Concongellas Primary School funds this bus service themselves, at a cost of $12,000 per annum," Cr Erwin said.
"The school has indicated that it will struggle to find this funding to enable the service to continue.
"We should advocate strongly on their behalf. Whether or not it gets up, we can't be sure, but at least we will know we've tried."