THE Wimmera could be without a long-running passenger rail service with uncertainty surrounding the future of The Overland.
The twice-weekly passenger rail service between Adelaide and Melbourne has catered to Nhill, Dimboola, Horsham, Stawell and Ararat. A total of 24,000 passengers use the service each year.
Great Southern Rail relies on support from the Victorian and South Australian governments to continue The Overland service. However, funding is in doubt, with the South Australian government nearing the end of its three-year pledge.
The South Australian government committed to a $1 million, three-year package towards The Overland passenger rail service in 2015.
Meanwhile, the Victorian government funds the majority of the subsidy when it committed to a $10.3 million, three-year package in 2016.
A Victorian government spokeswoman said Great Southern Rail agreed to a contract extension for The Overland service until March next year.
The spokeswoman said the government would continue to work with its South Australian counterpart and Great Southern Rail on future service models.
“The government has always wanted to renegotiation the contract and to see how Victoria can get the best return,” she said.
Horsham Rural City mayor Pam Clarke said losing the long-running service would be a disappointment.
She said The Overland served as a tourist connection between Melbourne and Adelaide that people in the Wimmera used.
“When these transport connections are taken out, it just weakens each community,” she said.
“There are people from Horsham who use the train service to go to Adelaide, Melbourne and Geelong to visit family and friends.”
However, Cr Clarke said The Overland’s twice-weekly service was “grossly inadequate” to be recognised as a passenger rail service. She said the Western Rail Project’s representatives would continue its push for passenger rail services.
The Western Rail Project is led by eight councils across Western Victoria that deem the return of passenger rail as vital to the region. The group are seeking $4 million from the state and federal governments to develop a business case.
The South Australian government did not respond before deadline.
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