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O’Connell’s celebrate 60 years of transport service to Mount Hotham and Omeo regions

O’Connell’s celebrate 60 years of transport service to Mount Hotham and Omeo regions

After sixty years of friendly and professional service, Owners of O’Connell’s bus services Rod and his father Max are moving on, having recently sold their business to Dyson Group and ceased operating as of 1 April 2017.

The O’Connell’s bus services originally started out in 1958 as a family-owned business operating daily return school buses from the Blue Duck Hotel and later from Dinner Plain.

The bus service started operating up at Mount Hotham in 1977 for winter services when Rod O’Connell, who had been working in Melbourne, returned to the business with the idea to service the Hotham area.

At that time, Omeo was starting to progress as a base for services to Mount Hotham. Well-known Hothamites in the likes of Peter Zirky and Fritz Halbwidel came down from Mount Hotham and opened ski hire. Anne and Jack Bryant operated a shop in town and Allan “Herbie” Faithful ran the Golden Age Hotel. 

In the following years to come, the O’Connell’s ran weekend ski services and charters for school groups coming up to the snow. Generations of Omeo school students have learnt to ski and the O’Connell’s have continued to service the program ever since.

O’Connell’s also for many years transported cleaning staff from Omeo and surrounds into Mount Hotham, mainly the Arlberg and then later to Zirky’s.

The family also started a freight run into Mount Hotham in the 1980s, as well as being the first mail contractors into Dinner Plain. They also contracted garbage collection services for a number of years in Dinner Plain.

During the early 2000s, the business saw the need for a public bus link between Omeo, Mount Hotham and Bright. A few years later, the Public Transport Victoria finally allowed them to do it. In 2008, they were given a trial service which lasted four years, to connect the North East region with East Gippsland and it proved to be a worthwhile operation.    

At the end of the trial, the government put a contract out for tender which saw the O’Connell’s fight to win back their service and has since have been operating the public bus route currently known as the Alps Bus Link service.

Rod O’Connell said that the services up at Mount Hotham had been “beneficial” during the summer and winter periods.

“We had a lot of support at the beginning to get the service up and running, particularly from Jenny Molloy and Jim Atteridge from the Resort Management Board who saw a need for a bus service,” Mr O’Connell said.

“They contributed greatly, as did Jim’s wife Bonnie who worked in transport connections for the Alpine Shire.

“It links east Victoria with north Victoria over summer and in winter it provides public transport for staff at Hotham who can go to interviews and get on and off the mountain at the start and end of the season, which worked really well in that aspect.

Mr O’Connell said that his passion remains for the bus sector and he hopes to share his ideas with Dyson Group.

“I still have that passion for the public-sector transport over the mountain in terms of providing that support.

Dysons already operate in Bright and Omeo with the V/Line service, and they have taken over us in the middle bit so they will now have a full-service link.

“Hopefully, I will sit down with Dysons and tell them the ideas I have developed over the years, but haven’t had the opportunity to carry out — I reckon there is a lot of potential,” he said.

Mount Hotham appreciates the fantastic job that O’Connell’s have done over the years in providing an efficient and friendly service that operated in both the green seasons and the very busy winter season and wishes them all the best for their future endeavours.

                                                                                                                                                    

07 April 2017