Rail report on track

A Gippsland Rail Advocacy Committee is set to be created after Latrobe City Council adopted the Gippsland Local Government Network’s ‘Rail Needs Study’ plan in-principle at Monday night’s regular meeting.

The collaborative 15-year plan for the region’s rail needs calls for a range of improvements to bring infrastructure in line with other regional centres.

It will act as the cornerstone of local government rail advocacy with the capacity to adapt and evolve as necessary.

Latrobe City mayor Kellie O’Callaghan said appointing the advocacy committee, including community members, was the next step.

“The main aim of the committee will be to keep our rail issues front and centre with the State Government,” Cr O’Callaghan said.

“This will be a highly visible committee (and) needs to have key people from across Gippsland and State Government to ensure it offers a good representation of the needs of the community.”

Councillor Sharon Gibson lobbied for the document to be adopted ‘in-principle’ to allow re-examination of some minor elements.

“In principle it is a good report, but it can be an even better report to get a better outcome for our Valley,” Cr Gibson said.

“There are parts of the plan that need more work.”

Cr Gibson said Gippsland rail advocacy was imperative and supported the core of the plan.

She noted the $4 billion State Government spend on the Regional Rail Link for Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong – as highlighted by the report – in calling for Gippsland equivalency.

Travel times from the Latrobe Valley to Melbourne are currently about half an hour longer than Bendigo despite being about 20 kilometres closer.

“Be fair, bring us up to speed,” she said.

“Government has been pushing for people to shift out into regional areas but they need to give us the infrastructure.”

Council will also write to the State Government to support the implementation of the Gippsland Regional Rail Link.