Victorian country newspaper, the Stawell Times-News, reported today the Victorian Government had signed a new funding deal with The Overland’s operator, Journey Beyond Rail Expeditions.
Public transport minister Ben Carroll Ben Carroll told the newspaper the the Overland would receive $11.4 million to continue until June 2023 – $3.8 million a year.
“We hope the company will begin to take bookings in July and be up and running again in September, the only caveat being COVID-19,” he said.
“This train is iconic, it has been going for 133 years, and if we didn’t fund it, it would be gone, and it would probably be gone forever.
“To continue it and give it three years, gives everyone a bit of flexibility they need to make it the success it can be.”
The paper reported National Party MP for Lowan Emma Kealy saying: “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.”
Save the Overland group member Margaret Millington describing the service’s funding for three years as a “fantastic outcome”.
“We are overwhelmed. A special thanks to the Victorian state government and to everyone who made the case for it to continue,” she said.
While JBRE today would not comment to InDaily on the Victorian reports, South Australian Labor leader Peter Malinauskas said he welcomed the Victorian government decision to extend funding to The Overland.
“The Victorian Government’s lifeline for The Overland train is a welcome one – it is an iconic service,” he said.
“Since launching our campaign, SA Labor has been inundated with people who rely heavily on the service, not just for interstate travel – but also for its regional stops.
“The refusal by the Marshall Government to fund The Overland almost killed the service and we know that once train services cease to operate, they often never return.”
InDaily reported on March 30 that the Overland suspended services due to measures to combat coronavirus.
But its future has been under a cloud since 2018, when the SA government withdrew the subsidy it paid to JBRE.
The 135-year-old train service stops at a number of Victorian and SA towns, including Bordertown and Murray Bridge.
After SA pulled its funding, JBRE and the Victorian Government increased their own contributions for 12 months, then agreed to a three-month extension to keep the train running from January 1, 2020, to March 31 while its long-term future was considered.
Despite the March 31 extension deadline, JBRE continued negotiations with the Victorian Government in a bid to secure The Overland’s future.
“The Overland has consistently required Government support which has heavily subsidised significant operational costs to ensure affordability for commuters,” JBRE toldInDaily in March.
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