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‘Overland’ uncertain future assured for another year

Article Category  Western Victorian Railfan Guide > Articles
Date Published  Thursday, December 13 2018
Author  Simon King
\Photo"  Wangara Consulting

‘Overland’ uncertain future assured for another year

The ‘Overland’ passenger train will continue to operate next year after the Victorian government stepped in to replace funding that was withdrawn by their South Australian counterparts earlier this month.

This service which is operated by Great Southern Rail but has been subsidised by the two governments since 2000, faced an uncertain future after the South Australian government announced that it would no longer subsidise the service beyond the end of this year.

This decision was made on the basis of relatively low passenger levels for the service and the availability of alternative transport options for regional communities within that state.

The Victorian Government initially recommitted its support to the ‘Overland’ last August for an additional 15 months, but will now fund the full subsidy through to the end of 2019.

With this move, the towns of Murray Bridge and Bordertown in South Australia and Nhill, Dimboola, Horsham, Stawell, Ararat and North Shore in Geelong in Victoria will continue to see this twice weekly in each direction train service.

Although this train will now continue for another year, this move has placed a focus on public transport in western Victoria. There has been considerable discussion in recent years surrounding the options to return regular intrastate trains to this part of the state.

Originally known as the ‘Intercolonial Express’ the through service between Melbourne and Adelaide commenced on 19 January 1887, and it has been known by its current name since 1926.

Unlike other passenger trains between Australian capital cities that required a change of service mid-journey due to different track gauges (the distance between the rails) in different states, Victoria and the south east of South Australia both shared the same 1,600 mm (5’ 3") gauge which allowed the one train to travel the entire journey.

For nearly one hundred years locomotives were changed enroute for operational purposes at Serviceton, near the state border, as each state’s locomotives were not permitted to operate in the other, but the passenger coaches made the entire journey eliminating the need for passengers to change trains.

With the commencement of through-running of locomotives in the early 1980s, the same set of locomotives would haul the train for the entire journey, allowing Australian National locomotives to operate into Victorian and Victorian Railways and then V/Line motive power to haul this train all the way to Adelaide.

Pacific National is the current ‘hook and pull’ provider, with one of their NR class locomotives the staple motive power.

Initially operating an overnight service in each direction, and with more than one division when bookings dictated, but from 1998 the frequency of the service has been reduced incrementally to the current twice weekly in each direction. Since 2007 it has operated during the day.

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