RESIDENTS of South Gippsland and Bass Coast who want a better public transport system should stand up, be counted and get on board the South West Gippsland Transport Group campaign.
The group is campaigning on two fronts; firstly to improve bus services, both to and from Melbourne, secondly across the region including services to small towns.
In the longer term, it wants to see the return of passenger rail to South Gippsland.
The group has two Facebook pages, the first titled simply ‘South West Gippsland Transport Group, and the second, ‘Victorian Government: Return The Leongatha Pass/South Gippsland Train’.
Combined, they have more than 2700 followers, and if that tally can reach 5000, SWGTG chair and South Gippsland Shire councillor Andrew McEwen said the State Government must take notice.
“Bass Coast particularly and South Gippsland as well don’t have the frequency of services to and from Melbourne we require,” Cr McEwen said.
He said the poor service has resulted in fewer passengers.
“In the final year the trains ran (1993), there were 120,000 passengers that used the service.
“Now there are only 80,000 or 90,000 who use the bus services each year.”
He said the three or four services from the Bass Coast to Melbourne each day was “appalling”, and that cross regional buses from Wonthaggi to Traralgon were inadequate, given the region’s major hospitals are at either ends of the line.
“Bass Coast has a good system for its smaller towns with six routes and 26 buses and connecting Inverloch to Cowes and Corinella.
“On the other hand, South Gippsland has many small towns with no services at all. It’s badly disadvantaged compared to other towns.
“The transport minister Jacinta Allan released the Connecting Regional Victoria report which stated we need to have more local and cross regional services, but to date there’s been nothing for South Gippsland.”
Cr McEwen said if more people joined the campaign, there’d be a better chance of action.
“We need to get people engaged, otherwise the governments will continue to renege on promises and we’ll never get anything.”
He said the airport proposal between Lang Lang and Koo Wee Rup was a golden opportunity for the region to act.
“It will be a godsend for Gippsland. The beauty of an airport is that it will push the political parties into committing to a rail loop through to Pakenham which take pressure off the Monash, which is getting slower every year and won’t cope with the forecast growth in the Casey and Cardinia shires.”
Cr McEwen said the last time a cost/benefit study was completed on the potential return of rail to South Gippsland, the price of a barrel of oil was half what it is today.
With more vegetable growers likely to set up in South Gippsland, he said the return of rail will become essential.