Overland rail service should be saved, Murray Bridge councillors say

Photo: File.
Photo: File.

Murray Bridge's councillors won't let the Overland go without a fight.

The passenger rail service is likely to disappear on December 31, when a $200,000-a-year subsidy from the Victorian government will run out.

Journey Beyond Rail has already stopped taking bookings for Adelaide or Melbourne beyond that date.

But that is no reason to keep quiet about it, Cr Fred Toogood argued at the council's November meeting.

"Often this service is a means for families to keep in touch when driving is no longer an option," he said.

"Elderly residents appreciate the comfort of arriving right in the heart of Melbourne.

"I've used it from time to time, and it's a mode of transport still popular with many international travellers."

South Australia needed to do its part to make sure the iconic service continued, he said.

Cr Karen Eckermann agreed that bringing locals' concerns forward would be worthwhile, even though "it sounds like it's a losing battle".

Councillors voted to lobby state MP Adrian Pederick and the state government to make an ongoing contribution to the service.

However, they decided to stop short of lobbying the Victorian government directly.

It would be a sad day when the rail service was discontinued forever, Mayor Brenton Lewis said.

Tickets are still available on what may be the Overland's last journey to Melbourne, departing Murray Bridge at 9.50am on December 30.

The final trip back, on December 31, has sold out.

The service still runs twice per week in each direction, continuing a service which has operated since 1887.

The state opposition has campaigned to save it since the state government cut its $330,000 annual funding contribution last year.

The service's operator, formerly Great Southern Rail, said at the time that it would not be viable without government subsidies.

Transport, Infrastructure and Local Government Minister Stephan Knoll repeated that point in a letter to the council last year.

"Due to the relatively low and declining passenger levels for the service, particularly within regional South Australia, and availability of other transport options, the state government has come to the difficult conclusion that an extension to the current funding agreement is unable to be justified," he said at the time.

"In challenging times, the South Australian government needs to carefully prioritise its funding to maximise benefits for all South Australians."