MILDURA’S lack of a passenger train is an “indictment”, according to councillors calling on the Victorian Government to reinstate services after 29 years.

Council last week unanimously voted to adopt the North West Victoria Regional Passenger Transport Study, which included a passenger train service among eight priority actions.

Councillor Mark Eckel said the region not having a train was an indictment “in modern day transport terms”.

Cr Eckel said the study, which stemmed from passenger rail being a priority of the 2017 Mildura Future Ready strategy, was not a business case and the best the council could hope for was that it might lead to one.

“I believe it is necessary to note, once again, council’s advocacy for passenger transport, which can be added to the many approaches, deputations and parliamentary statements,” he said.

“I hope (the vote to adopt the study) goes through, but once again we are looking at advocacy, and it doesn’t read that we’re going to necessarily achieve anything with this … we must have state and federal government support.”

Councillor Ian Arney, who was pleased the study advocated the Murray Basin Rail Project, also pressed for government support.

“I think it’s more of an indictment on the State Government for not coming to the party and helping provide us with a rail service that’s equivalent to many other areas in Victoria,” Cr Arney said.

Passenger trains to and from Mildura were axed by the Liberal Kennett government in 1993 and Labor under Daniel Andrews have given no indication of supporting reinstatement, or even a business case.

The transport study was funded by Mildura Rural City Council and also encompassed the Buloke, Northern Grampians, Yarriambiack and Central Goldfields shires.

Deputy Mayor Jason Modica said the study had detailed “clear points of disadvantage”.

“On the back of the acknowledgement that we are one of the wealthiest farming and horticultural and agricultural areas in the entire country, to think that we are without a broad public transport system – interstate, to Melbourne and even throughout the region – is very interesting and this report will go a long way to rectify that,” Cr Modica said.

Councillor Jodi Reynolds said there were many problems with public transport being faced in the region, including a bus system that wasn’t taking people where they needed to go when they needed to go there.

Cr Reynolds said the lack of connection to capital cities meant people were making trade-offs.

“We’ve got people who have to weigh up whether they go to Melbourne or Adelaide for health appointments (or) to visit their family, because they simply can’t afford the options that are available or they have health issues that prevent them from using a bus system which just isn’t up to standard,” she said.

Identified in the study were five key factors contributing to north west Victoria’s transport isolation: no passenger rail services, limited inter and intra-regional bus services, expensive air services, high demand for community transport, and long wait times for taxi services.

The study found these factors were contributing to challenges such as limited access to services such as health, increased transport costs, limited education choices and employment, a poor demographic profile, and reduced regional competitiveness.

Its eight priority actions were focussed on passenger rail, improved bus and coach connections, local town bus services, on-demand transport, rideshare services such as Uber, station and stop upgrades, education about transport options, and technology and innovation.

Following the study’s endorsement, a dedicated Project Control Group was set to be established. It will look at how the priority actions can be implemented.

The group will also look at funding opportunities and how best to advocate for these actions, including advocacy for development of a business case by the Victorian Department of Transport.

– MICHAEL DIFABRIZIO