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Overland extension

Overland extension

Overland extension but clarity needed

The State Government will extend its Overland passenger train funding for another three months.

Public Transport Minister Melissa Horne has written to Horsham Rural City Council mayor Mark Radford, stating the government will financially support the Overland until June 30.

However, with the service suspended due to COVID-19, it is unclear whether the lifeline will allow the 133-year-old service to run again.

Overland operator Journey Beyond suspended services last month following the closure of the South Australian border.
Cr Radford welcomed the news, but said it remained unclear what impact the COVID-19 restrictions would mean.

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“We need to clarify if the support is till the end of June or for three months after the train is permitted to run again,” Cr Radford said.

He said the extension until the end of the financial year at least provided the chance for regional Victorians to continue lobbying for a long-term commitment.
The Overland is the only passenger train that stops at Horsham and other Victorian towns including Dimboola, Stawell and Nhill.
“Supporters and advocates of the service need to use this time to work with current operator Journey Beyond and the State and Federal Governments to look at a long-term solution to, not just keep the train, but promote it properly and increase the patronage,” Cr Radford said.
The Minister also had a clear message regarding South Australia’s support for the Melbourne-to-Adelaide train.

“Without a fair contribution from South Australia, it will be difficult for Victoria to continue funding the privately operated service in the long term,” Ms Horne wrote.

“I encourage those wanting to support the continuation of the Overland to urge the South Australian Government to commit to pay its fair share.”

The Horsham council is among other groups and individuals keenly advocating for the service to continue since 2018 when the South Australian Government withdrew the subsidy it paid to former private operator Great Southern.

After the SA Government withdrew its funding, Journey Beyond Rail Expeditions and the State Government increased their own contributions for 12 months. They then agreed to a three-month extension to keep the train running from January 1, 2020, to March 31 while considering the service’s future.

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