Group calls for holistic rail view
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.”