|Funding from the Victorian Government to continue the operation of the Overland passenger train service between Melbourne and Adelaide has been announced this morning.
The long-term future of this train, that also services Dimboola, Nhill, Horsham, and Stawell in the Wimmera, has been in doubt since the South Australian Government stopped contributing to funding two years ago, but this announcement gives some certainty to those who rely on it for travel.
Member for Lowan Emma Kealy, who has fought since 2015 for the Victorian Government to provide funding certainty for the vital service, said the news would come as a major relief to the many western Victorians who relied on The Overland to link them with Ballarat, Melbourne and Adelaide.
Ms Kealy said the funding was not contingent on the South Australian Government providing funding.
“This news is testament to the amazing community support for the campaign to get this crucial service funded. It has been a long, hard road to get to this point, and I am so thrilled that the people of our region will continue to have access to this much-needed rail service, as they deserve to,” she said.
“I congratulate everyone involved in this fight, particularly Marg Millington and the Save the Overland campaigners for their dogged determination to ensure this service continued.
“I am proud to stand with the communities who have campaigned so hard to ensure this railway icon, and western Victoria’s only passenger rail service continues for years to come.”
The Overland has received only short-term funding for the past few years, including an inconsequential three-month reprieve earlier this year to extend funding until June 30, despite the fact the service could not run due to coronavirus restrictions.
Ms Kealy said it was now time for the Victorian Government to recognise the need for regular passenger rail services from western Victoria to Melbourne.
“Not only does passenger rail impact on our ability to attract and retain staff, it is also an important service to make sure local residents can get to medical appointments and connect with other communities, whether that is travelling through to Horsham or further on to Ballarat and Melbourne,” she said.
“It’s high time Labor acknowledged what the people of this region have been telling them all along
and establish these crucial services.”
The Overland is currently not running, and hasn’t since March, due to the coronavirus restrictions and the closure of the South Australian border.