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A "forcible foursome" fearing a silent end of the Overland train between Adelaide and Melbourne launch a summit to keep the 133-year-old service running.
The passenger railway service between Adelaide and Melbourne has been under pressure since the SA Government announced in 2018 that it would cut its annual $330,000 subsidy.
Victoria stepped in with an additional $200,000 to keep the train on track until June 30 this year, but it has not run since March 24 due to coronavirus border closures.
"Nobody knows what's going to happen to it now," said John Wilson, a railway historian and recently retired medical specialist.
"There's been no statement, no commitment, and the general opinion is if nothing is done, it's not going to run again."
Horsham Rural City Council mayor Mark Radford promotes today's summit.Train service much-lovedMr Wilson has been mustering support to keep the train running, joining forces with Murray Bridge councillor Mat O'Brien, Horsham Mayor Mark Radford and Nhill community leader Margaret Millington.
What he described as a "forcible foursome" will today be among the panellists, including Labor's Clare Scriven and federal MP Tony Zappia, at the Serviceton Summit, a virtual roundtable about how to keep the train running and the merits of establishing a Friends of the Overland group.
"I invited the operators, Journey Beyond Railway Expeditions ... but they said there are ongoing negotiations with the Victorian Government and they are unable to comment," Mr Wilson said.
Mr O'Brien said the Murray Bridge Council had written to SA Liberal MP Adrian Pederick, who reiterated the Government was not going to spend the money.
"I've taken it up now as a personal issue," Mr O'Brien said.
"The Overland is still a very highly rated service — on major trip rating sites it has around 87 per cent rating it as excellent or very good.
"We've got a bit of support politically for the summit, but I don't think we managed to get anyone from the State Government — but I'm sure they'll be watching."
'It would be terrible to see it go'Before borders were closed, the train ran twice a week, carrying about 17,000 passengers a year.
It stopped at Murray Bridge, Bordertown, Nhill, Dimboola, Horsham, Stawell, Ararat and Geelong, and was a key transport option for regional residents on both sides of the border.
For more than 20 years, however, it has relied on a funding deal between SA and Victoria to keep running, with airfares between the cities becoming cheaper.
The journey takes more than 10 hours to complete, although engineers have reported that time could be reduced to 6.5 hours using a state-of-the-art tilting train with dual-gauge capabilities.
The Overland service has been running for more than 130 years.(Supplied: Frans J)
Mr O'Brien said he considered $330,000 to be a relatively small amount to keep the only passenger railway service between SA and Victoria running as it did before the pandemic.
"It's bringing tourism directly into Adelaide and all the places it passes through, and it's doing the same for Victoria, and it would be a terrible thing to see it go, given the amount of money is not a big amount."
He said his goal was to raise awareness of the service, admitting that it could be marketed "a little better to expand its reach".
"What we really need to do, if we can get it back on track, is get people on it, experiencing it, and get the weight of numbers to support our case," Mr O'Brien said.
"We need to give it the attention it deserves and maintain a piece of SA history that still brings tourism and jobs while keeping less cars on the highways."
A link to access the summit can be found on the Facebook page for the National Railway Museum, Port Adelaide.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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