Overland train service will return to Murray Bridge on January 3

The railway linking Murray Bridge to Melbourne and Adelaide is about to reopen after nine months of uncertainty.

The Overland train service linking Murray Bridge to Melbourne and Adelaide is about to resume at last.

The first train since March will depart Adelaide for Melbourne, stopping at Murray Bridge on the way, on January 2.

Tickets sold out within hours of the Victorian government announcing it on Thursday morning.

The first return service will be on January 3.

The future of the 133-year-old service had been in doubt ever since the South Australian government withdrew funding for it two years ago.

Its final journey was originally scheduled for March 31, but that date was abruptly brought forward when COVID-19 forced the closure of the state border two weeks earlier.

However, by June a popular outcry had led Victoria's government to announce a $3.8 million lifeline for the rail service which would keep it operating until 2023.

Victorian Public Transport Minister Ben Carroll said funding the Overland was a signal of that state government’s support for “jobs, tourism and travel”.

Victorian MP Jaala Pulford said she looked forward to the Overland’s return in the new year.

“We know there is demand for the service and that people are eager to book,” she said.

“The resumption of this service is a big boost for communities throughout western Victoria and will draw thousands of tourists to towns along the route.”

Those towns include Geelong, Ararat, Stawell, Horsham, Dimboola and Nhill on the eastern side of the border, plus Bordertown and Murray Bridge on the South Australian side.

South Australian Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas welcomed the news.

“Today’s announcement is a much-needed shot in the arm for our tourism sector, which has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

“This is also great news for the thousands of South Australians who rely on this service as a vital link with regional towns and Melbourne.”

Labor MP Clare Scriven, long a campaigner for the service, described it as “an important link … that regional residents can’t afford to lose”.

Ticket prices will start at $114 per person.

Operators Journey Beyond Rail have also announced a partnership with Qantas which will allow passengers to earn one Frequent Flyer point per dollar spent on eligible journeys.

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