Group calls for holis­tic rail view

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News -

Ama­jor pub­lic-trans­port ad­vo­cacy group has wel­comed a State Gov­ern­ment de­ci­sion to pro­vide ex­tra money to al­low The Over­land pas­sen­ger train to con­tinue.

But the Pub­lic Trans­port Users As­so­ci­a­tion has also re­newed calls for the gov­ern­ment to sup­port re­in­state­ment of reg­u­lar pas­sen­ger trains to Hor­sham.

PTUA Bal­larat Branch con­vener Ben Lever praised the gov­ern­ment for work­ing with Great South­ern Rail to en­sure The Over­land could con­tinue in 2019.

“The Over­land is the only pas­sen­ger train that runs west of Ararat, and serves as a vi­tal link for peo­ple who live in places such as Stawell, Hor­sham, Dim­boola and Nhill,” he said.

“Not only does it con­nect these towns to Mel­bourne and Ade­laide, it con­nects them to each other – and to Bor­der­town and Mur­ray Bridge in South Aus­tralia. Many peo­ple in these com­mu­ni­ties can­not drive, and some strug­gle to use high­floor coaches – it’s vi­tal to main­tain the rail link and we are de­lighted to see the State Gov­ern­ment step up to pre­serve this ser­vice.”

Mr Lever said places such as Stawell and Hor­sham still needed a higher level of ser­vice than The Over­land pro­vided.

“While it’s great that The Over­land will still run, there is still a real need to pro­vide reg­u­lar rail ser­vices to Hor­sham in the very near fu­ture,” he said.

“The Over­land pro­vides a life­line ser­vice to these com­mu­ni­ties, but years of cuts means it only runs twice a week and has a rep­u­ta­tion for slow speeds and poor punc­tu­al­ity – so it’s not an at­trac­tive op­tion for most trips.

“Hor­sham needs and de­serves a se­ri­ous pub­lic trans­port op­tion – trains that run two or three times a day, seven days a week, with a mod­i­fied ver­sion of the ex­ist­ing fast Vloc­ity trains.”

The PTUA’S Bal­larat Branch rep­re­sents Bal­larat, Moora­bool, Hep­burn, Cen­tral Gold­fields, Pyre­nees, Ararat, North­ern Grampians, South­ern Grampians, Hor­sham, Yar­ri­ambi­ack, Hind­marsh and West Wim­mera mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

It shares the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Golden Plains and Glenelg mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties with its Gee­long branch.

Vic­to­rian and South Aus­tralian gov­ern­ments had pre­vi­ously shared costs in help­ing run The Over­land, but the South Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment with­drew sup­port, putting the ser­vice in jeop­ardy.

The Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ment in­creased its fund­ing as a re­sult and Great South­ern Rail, which op­er­ates The Over­land, made up a short­fall.


Mr Lever said Great South­ern Rail had com­mit­ted to a full review of The Over­land ser­vice to de­ter­mine its fu­ture be­yond 2019.

He en­cour­aged the State Gov­ern­ment to use the op­por­tu­nity to take a holis­tic view of rail trans­port in western Vic­to­ria, and con­sider the best op­tions for run­ning V/line ser­vices be­yond Ararat.

“Great South­ern Rail is pri­mar­ily a rail tourism op­er­a­tor, run­ning the lux­ury In­dian Pa­cific and Ghan trains. They ar­guably run The Over­land on a sim­i­lar model – run­ning trains in­fre­quently and pro­vid­ing an en­joy­able ride that is more about the jour­ney than the desti­na­tion,” he said.

“But the peo­ple of western Vic­to­ria also need to be able to get from A to B ef­fi­ciently, so they need a reg­u­lar train ser­vice like the rest of the state.

“Now is the time for the Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ment to take a se­ri­ous look at the long-term fu­ture of this key rail cor­ri­dor.

“Coun­cils in western Vic­to­ria have al­ready com­mis­sioned a re­port into re­turn­ing reg­u­lar pas­sen­ger trains to Hor­sham and Hamil­ton. We urge the gov­ern­ment to take this work and flesh it out into a proper busi­ness case as soon as pos­si­ble.”

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