Public Transport | April 15, 2020

Overland announcement a whole lot of nothing

The Nationals Member for Lowan Emma Kealy has lashed the state government for its hollow move to announce it would fund The Overland for another three months – despite the fact the passenger rail service cannot run due to coronavirus travel restrictions.

State government funding for The Overland – Western Victoria’s only passenger rail service –expired at the end of March after the Labor government refused to commit to a funding extension and yet again turned its back on extending V/Line passenger rail services to the region.

The Overland has been running for more than 130 years, and provides people in the region with critical connections to Horsham, Ballarat, Melbourne and Adelaide, as well as many other towns.

Ms Kealy said the latest announcement about The Overland was the state government’s “Emperor’s New Clothes” moment.

“They are trying to dupe the community into thinking they are helping The Overland, when really they’re not doing anything at all,” she said.

“Three months of funding for a service that cannot run is completely pointless. If Labor was serious about supporting passenger rail in our region, they would commit to funding The Overland AFTER travel restrictions have been lifted, and fully fund a regular V/Line passenger rail service to connect our region to Melbourne.

“The coronavirus has placed enormous weight on governments, and we cannot underestimate the pressure on our decision-makers at this time.

“But despite this, it is such a ‘Utopia’ moment for the government to declare they will fund a train service that isn’t even running at the moment. There is no net benefit for local people, and it just shows the Andrews Labor Government is willing to keep stringing locals along with meaningless announcements and no commitment to fund passenger rail to our region in the long term.”

Ms 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.

“The Andrews Labor Government needs to act and give the people of Western Victoria certainty that the passenger rail services they need will be there for them when they are able to resume normal activities,” she said.

“Passenger rail is an essential service for our region – it’s about time the government recognised this with meaningful action and long-term funding for trains to Melbourne.”

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