Update Thursday 12pm: Statement from Journey Beyond Rail Expeditions
In light of recent developments regarding COVID-19, ongoing discussions between JBRE and the Victorian Government have been temporarily suspended. A decision will be made about future operations when discussions are able to recommence.
Wednesday: HORSHAM Rural City Council is seeking clarification from the state government as to how long its support for the Overland passenger train will last.
In a statement on Wednesday, Mayor Mark Radford said Public Transport Minister Melissa Horne had written to him, stating that the Victorian Government will financially support the Overland until June 30.
Journey Beyond Rail Expeditions, which operates the twice-weekly Melbourne to Adelaide service, has suspended all its trips until at least May 31 in response to COVID-19-related travel restrictions.
Prior to this, the Victorian government had fully funded the service until March 31, and across all of 2019.
All the while it has been calling on the South Australian government to chip in to keep the Overland going, as it had prior to the end of 2018.
"We need to clarify if the support is till the end of June or for three months after the train is permitted to run again," Cr Radford said.
He said the extension until the end of the financial year provided the chance for regional Victorians to continue lobbying for a long-term commitment.
The Mail-Times has sought an interview with Minister Horne for clarification. In response, a spokesman confirmed it would fund the service until the end of June.
The Overland is the only passenger train that stops at Horsham and other Victorian towns including Dimboola, Stawell and Nhill. It carries around 17,000 passengers per week.
The Mail-Times has contacted Journey Beyond for further comment.
In a statement, Member for Lowan Emma Kealy called on the state government to provide a funding commitment that would ensure the Overland could go back into service once the coronavirus threat had passed.