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The Overland back on track after Victorian Govt gets on board

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After being derailed by budget cuts and the pandemic, The Overland train service between Adelaide and Melbourne will hit the tracks again within weeks, with Victoria paying to keep it running despite the Marshall Government refusing to contribute.

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 The Victorian Government announced today that the Overland will depart Adelaide on January 3 to make the 828-kilometre trip to Melbourne for the first time since March 30.

The 133-year-old train service ran out of puff earlier this year partly due to pandemic travel and border restrictions, and because a previous funding lifeline agreement expired.

The future of the train, which stops at a number of Victorian and SA towns including Murray Bridge and Bordertown, had been under a cloud since 2018, when the Marshall Government withdrew the subsidy – worth $330,000 that year – paid to operator, Journey Beyond Rail Expeditions.

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 told InDaily in March.

 In June, the Victorian Government said it would enter into a three-year agreement with JBRE to keep the train on the tracks and servicing communities in western Victoria.

Victoria’s public transport minister Ben Carroll said the funding was worth $3.8m a year to total over $11m to keep the service running until June 2023.

“This train is iconic … and if we didn’t fund it, it would be gone, and it would probably be gone forever,” he said.

“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 SA opposition today said The Overland was a vital transport link for regional communities, carrying up to 30,000 passengers a year and connecting tourists travelling from Melbourne to the Ghan and and Indian Pacific train to Perth.

 “Today’s announcement is a much-needed shot in the arm for our tourism sector, which has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Opposition leader Peter Malinauskas said.

This is also great news for the thousands of South Australians who rely on this service as a vital link with regional towns and Melbourne.

“The Marshall Liberal Government’s decision to axe all funding for The Overland almost killed this service. I thank the Victorian Government for stepping up and saving The Overland.”

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