Newstead rallies for train's return

LIKE The Seekers, the Regional Rail Alliance loves nothing more than the sound of a train whistle blowin'.

Yesterday members stepped up their campaign for the government to restore the rail link between Bendigo, Castlemaine, Maryborough, Ballarat and Geelong.

About 140 people rallied at the now defunct Newstead Rail Station at noon to send a message to both major parties.

The rally-goers thanked the traditional owners of the land for the station and apologised for its run-down state.

Speeches were made by Regional Rail Alliance spokesman Noel Laidlaw and University of Melbourne academic Bill Russell. 

The protesters then walked down the tracks as a sign they were taking ownership of them, with The Gorgeous Voices Choir singing as they walked.

Mr Laidlaw said he was "very pleased" with the turnout.

"It went very, very well," he said.

"We're feeling a lot more optimistic about it than the politicians."

Mr Laidlaw said he was thrilled to have the support of Mount Alexander Shire deputy mayor Christine Henderson, who attended the rally.

He said the alliance would continue to lobby politicians in the lead up to November's state election.

"Support for community-initiated ideas will determine who is sitting on the benches," Mr Laidlaw said.

As of yet the group has not received support from either Labor or the Coalition. 

The government conducted their own study into the issue last year and found a high-speed train line would cost between $230 million to $290 million, which they said was not affordable.

But Mr Laidlaw, an engineer, conducted his own report and found that a slower service could be developed for about $90 million.

Member for Northern Victoria Damian Drum said the government was considering the independent study undertaken by Mr Laidlaw.

But he said the government had concerns that a slower service would not be sufficiently used.

Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards said the Labor Party had not decided whether they would support the rail revival and had to consider the May budget.

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