This is a really excellent question and I'd say that the topic of the Overland train would have to have been one of the most-discussed trains on this entire board in the time that I've been posting here. It's been done to death -however I'm guessing you're a relatively new poster so you can't be blamed for not knowing the history of those threads.I am curious as to what was discussed here, but I have seriously limited monthly band-width, so am reluctant to play the whole thing. Could someone please summarize for me what was discussed/decided at this meeting?A whole lot of nostalgia and pleading, and very little in terms of constructive suggestions for how to reform the service to become more sustainable.
Do any current ideas on how The Overland could be made sustainable over a longer time include making it a night train again? If so, what form might this take? (From what I recall of previous mentions of this, opinions seemed to be divided.)
If I was going to give you a synopsis, I'd say that the possibility of a night/hotel type train has been explored but it works in very few places overseas and there's certainly no example of it having worked successfully here in Australia. You'd have to contend with a late departure from Adelaide/Melbourne to make up for the fact that the train needs to arrive at a civilized time at its destination and the existing rolling stock is certainly not fit-for-purpose as a high-end hotel type operation. Also the availability of train paths at night (the busiest time for the line) is an issue.
Break-of-gauge has hobbled the Overland since 1995 when the standard gauge track took over the Ararat-Geelong line thus removing the main west from one of the largest sources of passengers on the whole line - Ballarat. Even if a modern V/locity type daytime operation was to resume the fact that Ballarat is currently precluded from those operations is a killer in my opinion. I for one generally travel to the Ballarat district when I'm visiting Victoria which is why the train in its current form is useless to me.
Finally, the speed of the service is a substantial impediment to a successful daytime operation - at a shade under 11 hours it simply isn't competitive with driving or indeed the meandering V/line Daylink bus which diverts from Horsham to Bendigo, yet still manages to beat the train into Melbourne. In order to speed the passenger train up you'd need some major investment in the line to construct more and longer crossing loops and remove level crossings that present a potentially fatal hazard to DMU operations, and given that the Commonwealth owns the line via ARTC they are the ones who would have to invest the money.
That's pretty much all the problems in a nutshell.