By Michael Giles

TIME has marched on from when passenger rail services to Leongatha were discontinued in July 1993.
The service wasn’t well used, it was antiquated and you had to accept that it wasn’t economically viable.
But it’s now time to lobby hard for the return of rail services, not necessarily as far as Leongatha, but certainly as far as Lang Lang.
In fact, local shire councils and state MPs should get together to adopt this as their number one economic development priority for the whole region south and east of Cranbourne.
Why?
The reasons are manifold.
First of all, with Melbourne set to overtake Sydney as Australia’s biggest city, with a population of 8 million-plus by 2050 (if not before), we’re going to need that sort of infrastructure.
It will be simply impossible to drive to Melbourne on the freeway well before then and that includes public transport buses.
And the fastest growing area of Melbourne is the City of Casey, right on our doorstep, encompassing the towns of Clyde, Tooradin, Devon Meadows and Cranbourne; which against all projections has already exceeded the 300,000 population mark.
We’re also told that the investors, the capital and the government support is there now for the establishment of a new international airport between Koo Wee Rup and Lang Lang in the not too distant future.
The other thing that would be greatly helped by the return of good passenger rail services, like the sprinter trains which service Geelong and Bendigo, is retail in our country towns; especially in Korumburra, Leongatha, Wonthaggi and Cowes.
The fact is that with the amount of spending going on to the internet and out of town to Fountain Gate and the like, we are now being over-serviced by our local retailers and they’re struggling.
They need a bigger population.
If we had a decent commuter train service, half an hour away, you’d get more people moving out to the likes of Korumburra, Leongatha, Wonthaggi and Inverloch to enjoy the lifestyle, while realistically being able to work in Melbourne.
We’ve simply got to diversify.
As we have witnessed lately, having an economy so dominated by dairy isn’t necessarily a good thing.
The move by vegetable growers, Schreurs and Sons, to set up operations at Tarwin is the sort of thing we need, but smaller scale growers should also be encouraged into the area.
They’ll bring jobs too.
But it’s the return of passenger rail services that could really set this area alight with sustainable growth.
The campaign needs to be raised to a whole new level and we’re looking to local government in the region to lead the way.