Calls for rail upgrade steam ahead

THE Newstead Rail Revival Alliance is stepping up its push to restore the rail link between Bendigo, Castlemaine, Maryborough, Ballarat and Geelong.

The group will hold a 'Walk the Line' rally at the old Newstead Railway Station at noon this Sunday, after it submitted a petition to State Parliament last month in its quest to "turn the tables for neglected country residents".

Carisbrook resident Noel Laidlaw, the group's spokesman, said the revival of the railway line would revitalise central Victorian towns.

He said many residents in Castlemaine commuted to Melbourne every day for work and if other towns had a functioning railway station their populations would be likely to increase.

"It's about developing these country towns. You've got the railway - you've got it there.

"All you need to do is invest some money to do it up.

He said the rally would be attended by public planning and railways expert Professor Bill Russell from the University of Melbourne, Mount Alexander Shire Councillor Christine Henderson and Bendigo's The Gorgeous Voices Choir, who will perform two songs.

The rally was organised by Newstead artist Karen Pierce, whose painting of the Newstead train station helped galvanize the community into action.

The group has been lobbying the state government to revive the railway line for a number of months. 

In October last year Mr Laidlaw met with state opposition members about his plan and he has also spoken to councillors across the state, including Bendigo councillors.

He said the group has the support of the Mount Alexander Shire Council and he would continue speaking to council members in other regional towns to encourage them to get on board with the idea.

The state government last year undertook an extensive study into the cost of restoring the service and found it would cost $230 million to $290 million

But Mr Laidlaw, who is an engineer, undertook his own study and found that a slower service could operate for less than $90 million.

He said many country people, including older residents, relied on public transport.

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