Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Boat, blimp April fools' gag

This year's News April Fools' gag featured a story to fix Shepparton's public transport woes by returning to tried and tested methods.

April 1, 2014 1:20pm

A 19th century etching of the PS Melbourne on the Goulburn River at Muchrishon.

To ease Shepparton’s rail transport problems, V/Line and the Victorian Government have endorsed a plan to run a paddle-steamer service to Lake Nagambie, linking with an air balloon ‘‘blimp’’ flight to Melbourne.

Department of Transport rail project co-ordinator Casey Jones said the plan would involve leasing the PS Melbourne that operates as a tourism boat on the Murray River at Mildura.

Mr Jones said the five-hour river boat journey to Nagambie would provide a relaxing start to the journey.

‘‘A scenic river journey would be the perfect start to any business trip to Melbourne,’’ Mr Jones said.

The PS Melbourne was originally built for the Victorian Government as a work vessel and launched at Koondrook on the Murray in 1912.

It was rebuilt in 1965 for use as a tourism boat.

The 30m-long steamer can carry 300 passengers and travels at a maximum speed of 18km/h.

Mr Jones said fuel for the steamer’s wood-fired boiler could provide much-needed employment for out-of-work timber cutters.

‘‘Shepparton is a dynamic regional business centre which needs fast, reliable connections to the centre of Melbourne. We believe this bold plan will help alleviate the city’s transport problems and place it firmly at the heart of the 19th century economy,’’ Mr Jones said.

A ‘‘blimp’’ leased from California-based airship builder Zeppline would then fly passengers to central Melbourne, possibly using Albert Park Lake as a landing destination.

Zeppline pilot James Bigglesworth said airship flight safety had improved immeasurably since the disastrous 1937 flight of the Hindenburg.

‘‘Business class passengers can relax with a German continental breakfast and full wi-fi connections during their two-hour flight to Melbourne,’’ Mr Bigglesworth said.


City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Jenny Houlihan welcomed the plan.

‘‘It’s good to hear at last they are taking notice of points we’ve been making for years about our poor train service,’’ Cr Houlihan said.

‘‘It could actually be a better service than the one we have now.’’

Mr Jones said funding and lease agreements were planned to be in place by April 1 next year.

* The following gag article was included as part of The News' April Fools' Day coverage.

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