|During a brief visit to the Wimmera today, the Victorian Minister for Public Transport & Minister for Ports and Freight announced a $50,000 investment for the Wimmera Southern Mallee Transport Program to continue for another two years.
The program, which is run by the Centre for Participation in Horsham in partnership with West Wimmera Shire, delivers a return door-to-door community transport program between Kaniva and Horsham.
Volunteer drivers pick up passengers from their homes in Kaniva, Nhill, Dimboola and Pimpinio on the way to Horsham every Wednesday, transporting them to designated pickup points along the Western Highway to connect with bus services to Horsham. Saturday services are also provided once a month.
The program allows residents from these communities to access medical appointments, educational opportunities and recreation activities in Horsham. The service is made possible with the use of the West Wimmera Shire minibus and the Centre for Participation’s own vehicle.
The Victorian Government’s support has been provided through the Flexible Local Transport Solutions Program, which was established in 2018 to support small-scale local transport initiatives and innovative transport solutions across the state.
Minister Horne said, “We’re proud to be working with the Centre for Participation, West Wimmera Shire Council and their volunteer drivers to help reduce feelings of isolation and exclusion and promote positive community connections.”
Above - Julie Pettett from the Centre for Participation (left), Minister Melissa Horne and Horsham City Mayor Mark Radford.
Earlier in the day the Minister viewed the new Horsham bus network in action after the city’s seven bus routes were recently been consolidated into four higher-frequency routes, which will operate for longer each day than previous services.
It was hoped that the Minister may have had some announcements concerning other Wimmera based projects that fall under her portfolios, including the future of the Overland passenger train service, the return of intra-state passenger services to the Wimmera, and the future of the Dimboola to Rainbow railway line, but there was no further good news revealed today.
The Overland train, which operates between Adelaide and Melbourne twice per week in each direction, is the only passenger rail service in the Wimmera and its long term future has been in doubt since the South Australian government withdrew their commitment to co-fund it with the Victorian government in late 2018, and the current funding arrangement has only been confirmed until the end of March.
There has recently been a renewed push to reinstate a passenger rail service linking towns in the Wimmera with Melbourne, but despite agitation from the local community and Member for Lowan Emma Kealy, the government is yet to commit.
The freight only railway line north from Dimboola to Rainbow hasn’t seen a train since June last year and is currently booked out of service due to the condition of the track. It is unclear if it will be repaired in time to allow trains to load this harvest’s grain at Rainbow and Jeparit.