Overland future in doubt
The Melbourne to Adelaide Overland passenger train service is in doubt, after the South Australian government withdrew funding for the 130 year old service.
In March 2016 the Victorian government invested $10.35 million into the Overland to secure its operation until the end of 2018.
The SA government had decided not to fund the $330,000 contribution after the Victorian Government back in August had re-committed nearly $1 million for the following year of operations.
The 10.5 hour trip from Adelaide to Melbourne stops at Murray Bridge, Bordertown, Nhill, Dimboola, Horsham, Stawell, Ararat and Geelong providing the only passenger rail service in the Wimmera between the capital cities.
Great Southern Rail managing director, Steve Kernaghan told the ABC that it is unlikely the service would operate beyond December 31.
SA Transport Minister Stephan Knoll said the money was needed elsewhere.
"We've seen fewer and fewer people use it and we need to make sure we're doing what we can to put the budget back in the black," Mr Knoll said.
The bi-weekly service carries about 17,000 passengers a year, however Mr Knoll MP, said there were only about 300 passengers who boarded the train at Bordertown and Murray Bridge.
"It's quite clearly a service that regional South Australia is not seeking to use," Mr Knoll said.
The Victorian State government has begun negotiations with the SA government on the future of the service.
Great Southern Rail released a statement saying, “the Overland has consistently required support from both South Australian and Victorian governments for its long-term commercial viability.
This support has heavily subsidised significant operational costs to ensure affordability for commuters.
Dimboola train drivers take the train through to Melbourne from Dimboola, while drivers from South Australia rest in Dimboola before the train returns from Melbourne for them to take it back to Adelaide.
Apparently local train drivers do not seem to think there will be any job losses as a result of the service ending.
The Victorian government recommitted its support to The Overland in August for an additional 15 months.
Our intention is to advise regular patrons what is happening with the service, so they can make informed travel decisions for the future.
Having now received the South Australian government’s advice, Great Southern Rail has started to explore any opportunities available to provide a short-term transitional travel phase beyond December 2018.
The Overland began life as the Intercolonial Express in October 1887 when the Victorian and South Australian rail lines were joined at the state border. The train travelled between the Victorian capital city of Melbourne and the South Australian capital city of Adelaide, stopping at a number of regional townships along the route.
Originally, the Intercolonial Express operated a luxury overnight service complete with dining cars. The train became known as The Overland in 1926. Following World War II, The Overland moved into the modern era, introducing air-conditioned carriages and earning the unusual honour of being the first train in the world to generally offer showers in its sleeper cabins.
In the 1950s, the traditional steam engines were replaced with diesel locos. Today, The Overland operates twice-weekly daytime journeys between Adelaide and Melbourne.
Red and Red Premium Services make it the easiest and most relaxing way to embark on your interstate adventure.
With comfortable, semi-reclining seats, generous legroom, 60 kilograms of luggage allowance and dedicated hospitality attendants to tend to every need, The Overland offers service that really is in a class of its own, but unless a solution to funding the service magically appears, the service will end in the near future.