The significant point surely is that, when the Kennett government withdrew the Mildura rail service, the ALP kicked up one helluva fuss and indicated that a Labor government would restore the service yet, after gaining power and ruling for a decade, they did nothing to restore it.
Now Peter, let's not rewrite history...
Our infamous Premier of the time and occasional traveller on the Vinelander, Mr Jeff Kennett axed the Vinelander due to low passenger numbers.
With hindsight, the early 90's were a low ebb in all of Australia's state railways, and Victoria was no exception. Patronage on all
V/Line services has increased exponentially since that time, and even exceeded my prediction in these pages some years ago of a renaissance in travellers using Victoria's regional railways.
When the Kennett Liberal/Coalition government axed the Vinelander, truncated other regional railways and attempted to close others, that government also privatised the freight operation of V/Line.
When Pacific National (PN) picked up the freight operation on the Mildura line, although it was obliged to maintain the standard of the track to the same as it inherited, it did not.
Moving along a few years to 1999, the election of the Bracks Labor Government, and the election of Independent MP for the seat of Mildura, Mr Russell Savage who promised to support the Bracks government if that government supported the reintroduction of the Vinelander train.
The Bracks government had an extensive review to ascertain the cost of reinstating a passenger train to Mildura. The Vinelander's sleeping cars by this time were 52 years old and I was told the stainless steel fluting that was part of those ex Overland cars had harboured damp and had caused severe corrosion behind the fluting, consequently the opportunity to reintroduce an overnight passenger train including constructing new cars was going to be expensive.
Meanwhile PN who had run the 450+ Km line from Ballarat to Mildura into the ground which by now had MANY speed restrictions imposed, as low as 50 KPH in parts and over many lengthy sections.
Moreover, PN who had sole operating rights over the now much degraded track, could name its own price if the Bracks government wanted to buy it back from them. The Bracks government backed away due to the cost of re-acquisition, however in later years PN bailed out of sole use due in part to the expense of upgrading the track.
I believe V/Line & VicTrack now have the line back under government control which explains the maintenance on some of the northern freight lines after the Fisher review, however since the Kerang disaster and the line of sight(read more expense) concerns for train drivers with over 60 crossings between Maryborough and Mildura, in addition to somewhat improved but not to the degree it was before 1993 condition of the track; it's now a very expensive proposition as per the most recent report which was undertaken in the dying days of the former Brumby Labor government.
The report and its attachments is enclosed below...http://ptv.vic.gov.au/projects/rail-projects/mildura-rail-feasibility-study/
The list of submissions from Mildura Rural City Council and the general public, I'll add as another link...http://ptv.vic.gov.au/assets/PTV/PTV%20docs/Mildura/Mildura-Rail-Feasibility-Study-Final-Report.pdf
Meanwhile community and local government support in the still growing Sunraysia region of north west Victoria continues for the return of the train service.
It may be my 'one trick pony', however despite the investment expense, the economic development of a substantial part of Victoria will be enhanced by the inevitable track upgrade and return of passenger trains to Mildura. That's something aeroplanes cannot achieve for the region as a whole.