The Overland has been saved - what comes next?

The passenger service through Murray Bridge to Adelaide and Melbourne will continue thanks to the Victorian government.

This story was originally published behind Murray Bridge News’ paywall. Paywalled stories are unlocked four weeks after publication. Can’t wait that long? Subscribe here.

The Overland passenger train will keep operating until at least 2023 after receiving a lifeline from the Victorian government.

Victorian Public Transport Minister Ben Carroll has reportedly committed $3.8 million to keep the service, which passes through Murray Bridge, going for the next three years.

Operator Journey Beyond Rail had previously indicated it would end the service on March 31, though it wound up being suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic anyway.

It is not known when the Adelaide-Melbourne train will be able to resume running.

Still, campaigners Mat O’Brien, a Murray Bridge councillor, and John Wilson, an Adelaide author, were ecstatic at today’s news.

“We’re lucky the Victorian government listened to their people, because they need that service in the Wimmera, and luckily we get the flow-on effects,” Cr O’Brien said.

“Three years gives us enough time to do some deeper thinking about what the possibilities are.

“I don’t think we’ve really realised our potential (as a tourism destination).”

Mr Wilson said he and other supporters of the railway would now look at establishing a Friends of the Overland group which could advocate on behalf of passengers right along the line.

“Three years gives us a window to get stuck into it,” he said.

He hoped to be on board the first service to cross the state border after it reopened, whenever that might be.

Victoria has subsidised the cost of travel on the Overland since December 2018, when South Australia withdrew $330,000 in annual funding.

The present South Australian government has made it clear it has no intention of providing any further subsidies.

But Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas today said Labor would be willing to negotiate for a long-term solution if it won government in 2022.

“We know that once train services cease to operate, they often never return," he said in a statement.

“This is a vital service, particularly for older South Australians who prefer train travel, and for country South Australians who do not live close to airports.”

Photo of John Wilson and Mat O’Brien at Murray Bridge Railway Station: Peri Strathearn.