27th August 2018
This week the South Australian Opposition perpetuated claims that passengers have been prevented from booking the Great Southern Rail service between Melbourne and Adelaide from January 2019. When in power, the former state government set aside $1 million to support the iconic Overland service in 2015.
In response to the claims, Acting Premier Vickie Chapman refused to make any promises regarding the future of the service but did say the Government was considering their options and reviewing the funding model.
"[There's been] diminishing patronage of trains and the increased patronage to planes and of course car travel has had an impact in relation to that service," Ms Chapman said.
"Probably the best way to deal with that is to have a look at that long term rather than just these annual supplements."
Leader of the Opposition Peter Malinauskas argued that increased funding is required to ensure the 130-year-old service would continue to run and support key state tourism initiatives.
"Once they stop operating, they rarely come back, so it is critical to keep continuity of this service," said Mr Malinauskas.
"It is an important feeder into The Ghan, which we know is an iconic tourism destination for our state, so this is a service that needs to continue into the future for the tourism sector but also to serve regional communities as well."
Currently the service runs twice weekly, transporting 30,000 passengers between Melbourne and Adelaide annually.
Over the last two decades, the Overland rail service has operated on a joint funding agreement between the Victorian and South Australian governments.
Melanie Reed from the Great Southern Rail said the operator is "currently in productive discussions with both governments to renew these agreements".
A spokesperson for the Victorian Government said that a contract extension to March 2019 has been agreed upon.
"The Government will then work with South Australia and Great Southern Rail on future service models," the spokesperson said.