As the Victorian and South Australian governments work to determine the future of the Overland passenger train, new figures show the service has had relatively steady patronage over past three years.
Journey Beyond said in the 12 months to June 30, 2019, 17,254 people travelled on the twice-weekly service connecting Adelaide and Melbourne. This compares to 17,965 guests for the previous 12 month period, and 16,771 for the 12 months ending June 30 2017.
A spokeswoman said: "We've received solid bookings for the next three months following (tickets) going on sale in late December and we continue to work with the Victorian Government on determining what will happen after March 31."
The train stops in the Wimmera centres of Nhill, Dimboola, Horsham, Stawell and Ararat. Journey Beyond relies on state government subsidies to run the service at an affordable cost.
On December 27, the Victorian government provided funding to allow the Overland to keep running until March 31.
It had previously unilaterally funded the service for all of 2019, after the South Australian government pulled out of a joint funding arrangement.
On Monday January 6, aspokesman told the Murray Valley Standard that the South Australian government remained disinterested in subsidising the train. The spokesman said the Overland's patronage had dropped as passengers chose more convenient services.
"The Overland is a privately-owned and operated tourism service and therefore its continuity is a matter for Journey Beyond," he said.
Journey Beyond was unable to provide a breakdown of the proportion of guests that came from Victoria compared to South Australia.
The Victorian government has previously said the Overland is primarily used by South Australians. A spokeswoman said the majority of Overland journeys were interstate trips, "with only around 1000 passengers travelling solely within Victoria".
"We are continuing our discussions with the South Australian Government about a future funding model for the service," she said.
The Victorian government did not indicate whether it would consider funding the Overland unilaterally again if no agreement was reached by March 31.
Should the state government continue to fund the Overland by itself?