The North-West Rail Alliance has called for the restoration of passenger services to Mildura.
President of the Alliance, Chris Mitchell, said that smaller project such as this have a large benefit.
“There are a number of smaller projects that could benefit Victorians. The restoration of passenger rail services to Mildura, should be a high priority for the [Victorian] government. More than 100,000 people in Central and Northern Victoria would benefit from this train service.”
Passenger trains last ran to Mildura in 1993, and have been the subject of election commitments since then. Recently, the Mildura line from Maryborough was upgraded to standard gauge as part of the Murray Basin Rail Project, enabling further improvements to allow passenger services said Mitchell.
“With the completion of the Mildura to Maryborough standard gauge rail link, a shuttle service could run from Mildura every day and connect with the existing V/Line service at Maryborough. A minimal amount of work is required on the line and a number of level crossings need to be upgraded.”
Mitchell also noted that frequent passenger services would ensure the line remains in good condition for the benefit of freight services.
“Further, the restoration of passenger services on the Mildura line would ensure a higher standard of maintenance is maintained and this will guarantee producers and growers from the Mallee the maximum efficiency and best cost structure for freight services to Melbourne and the ports.”
According to a Victorian Department of Transport spokesperson, said that the state is reviewing current services.
“We continually review our public transport networks to make sure we are delivering the services to get Victorians where they need to go,” said the spokesperson.
“V/Line operates more than 50 coach services a week to or from Mildura, via either Donald and Ballarat, or Swan Hill and Bendigo. Some services also connect with other coach routes to enable onward travel for passengers between Mildura and both Albury and Geelong.”
In 2019, the Mildura Rural City Council, along with Swan Hill, Gannawarra, Buloke, Balranald, Wentworth, and Murray River councils released the Central Murray Regional Transport Strategy. The strategy proposed the North West Passenger Transport Study to provide an evidence-base for future transport needs in the region, including passenger rail. The Council expects the study to be completed by mid-2021.
Swan Hill Rural City Council Mayor Ann Young said at the time that the strategy will enable the region to lobby for further improvements.
“The projects, ideas and priorities in this new strategy will be used to advocate and plan for improved transport infrastructure and connectivity within our region.”
Mildura Rural City Council general manager community Martin Hawson said that returning passenger rail to the city was key.
“Advocating for the return of passenger rail services to the Mildura region is one of four initiatives in Council’s Mildura Future Ready (MFR) advocacy and funding strategy.”
Hawson said the early work on the strategy had already found positive from a passenger link.
“While the full Regional Passenger Transport Study is yet to be completed, early discussions with key stakeholders has identified four key overarching benefits resulting from better passenger transport services. They include: stronger community with improved social connectivity and liveability; improved economic growth and diversity of the North West; enhanced regional decentralisation through population growth and dispersal; and attraction and retention of skilled and unskilled labour force.”