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THE OVERLAND has found itself another supporter with Western Victoria MP Stuart Grimley calling on the state Government to commit long term funding to the rail service, which is set to end this month.
The Victorian Government has been subsidising the service, which has been running since 1887, for the last three months after the South Australian Government withdrew funding in 2019.
Victorian leader of Derryn Hinch's Justice Party Mr Grimley said the Overland should be jointly funded by both states but that if South Australia didn't come to the table the Victorian Government should consider guaranteeing long term funding for the service.
"I hope the Government can go behind the couch to find the pocket change required to keep this vital service operational," he said.
"I'm certainly not forgetting the benefits this train service provides to the South Australian economy and of course, the Victorian Government should have these difficult conversations with their interstate counterpart about funding their fair share too."
With limited access to airports in the Wimmera and accessibility issues with, Mr Grimley said a long term transport option should be guaranteed.
He said while there were a number of demands on the state budget in terms of rail projects, particularly in and around Melbourne, these projects should not come at the expense of rail services in the regions.
"People in country Victoria feel short-changed," Mr Grimley said. "They see huge investments in the Melbourne metro tunnel project coinciding with cost blowouts at the Westgate tunnel project, countless level crossing removals and forwarding planning on the suburban rail loop.
"No one argues these projects are not of significant importance, but we must be conscious of striking a better balance between funding for metropolitan and rural rail projects."
Mr Grimley met with Nhill residents last week including John & Margaret Millington OAM at the Nhill train station to discuss the future of the service.
A member of a group pushing for the Overland to be saved put forward a "simple, cost-effective solution" to secure train services for the region.
"A commuter train service between Nhill and Ararat, connecting on to Melbourne and Ballarat," wrote David Lennon of Jung.
This article first appeared on www.stawelltimes.com.au
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