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Author Topic: West Coast Wilderness Railway  (Read 3191 times)

Offline ozbob

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West Coast Wilderness Railway
« on: February 04, 2013, 06:47:31 PM »
David O'Byrne
Minister for Infrastructure

Monday 04th Feb 2013
   
West Coast Wilderness Railway

The Infrastructure Minister, David O'Byrne, today expressed disappointment at the imminent closure of the West Coast Wilderness Railway from April 30th.

The Federal Group has announced it will stop operating the service because of rising maintenance costs, the financial costs of operating in rugged isolated terrain, and the tourism downturn affecting most of regional Australia.

"This is a disappointing outcome which is largely beyond ours or the Federal Group's control," Mr O'Byrne said.

"The West Coast Wilderness Railway has been a valuable tourism asset for the past decade.

"Unfortunately, the operation isn't viable for the foreseeable future, and the Federal Group has decided to withdraw," he said.

The track has been damaged by severe weather in recent years, which has contributed significantly to escalating costs. The Federal Group has advised these and other ongoing maintenance and upgrade costs are too high for the operation to remain viable.

To maintain the operation would require additional investment of between $15-20 million over the next five years.

The ideal scenario would be for the West Coast Wilderness Railway to continue operating, effectively under a different owner.  However, that level of investment is not something the State Government could manage on its own.

The post-GFC downturn affecting tourism spending, and the high Australian dollar attracting Australians to holiday overseas instead of at home, has also reduced passenger numbers from 45,000 a year five years ago, to 30,000 in the past year.

"The Tasmanian Government appreciates the efforts of the Federal Group to maintain the service, and we'll look to support affected workers wherever possible, at this uncertain time," Mr O'Byrne said.

"I'm pleased to see the Federal Group will look to redeploy those workers to other internal positions, wherever possible," he said.

www.premier.tas.gov.au
« Last Edit: November 23, 2014, 06:29:08 AM by ozbob »
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Offline ozbob

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West Coast Wilderness Railway
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2013, 06:49:40 PM »
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Offline ozbob

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« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2013, 06:56:26 PM »
Half baked projects, have long term consequences ...
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Offline ozbob

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« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2013, 07:07:37 PM »
From 7 News click here!

End of the line for heritage railway

Quote
End of the line for heritage railway
ABC Updated February 4, 2013, 4:19 pm

There are calls for Tasmania's state-owned rail company to take over a heritage railway that is closing to tourists after more than a decade.

The Federal Group has announced the West Coast Wilderness Railway will stop running at the end of April.

The company has run tours between Queenstown and Strahan for the past 10 years.

Federal Group spokesman Daniel Hanna says the business is no longer viable.

"There was a critical need to invest in infrastructure and the second, of course, has been reduced demand and a downturn in visitor numbers and passenger numbers," he said.

Five years ago the railway carried 45,000 passengers but in the past year the figure had dropped to just over 30,000.

Forty-eight workers will lose their jobs.

"We'll be endeavouring to find alternative positions for them within the company."

Mr Hanna says damage from a severe thunderstorm and a landslip in the past two years had added to escalating maintenance costs.

Federal is halfway through a lease with the State Government which owns the track and locomotives.

It is unclear what will happen to the railway which was built in the 1890s to transport ore from Queenstown to Strahan.

West Coast Mayor Daryl Gerrity says it will be a huge loss for the region.

"It's a feeder route that brings 40-50,000 people to Tasmania."

Mr Gerrity believes it could survive if TasRail took over its management and spent up to $10 million on repairs.

"When you consider what Government has thrown copious amounts of money at, to me this is a high priority."

Luke Martin from the Tourism Industry Council agrees it is up to the State Government to find a new operator.

"I think it's going to be a challenge for them, ultimately they're going to have to make a decision about the broader economic importance of that asset to Tasmania and to the broader west coast tourism industry," Mr Martin said.
"You can't remove a product like that from the market and not expect to have a significant flow-on impact to the entire economy."

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Offline mufreight

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West Coast Wilderness Railway
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2013, 07:48:12 PM »
A better option perhaps would be to pass it over to the Don River group to manage.

Offline ozbob

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« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2013, 03:43:55 AM »
From The Examiner click here!

Plenty of steam ahead in  fight for railway

Quote
Plenty of steam ahead in  fight for railway
By DINAH ARNDT
Feb. 9, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

THE West Coast Wilderness Railway won't be closing without a fight.

In Queenstown last week, the community made it clear just how important the tourist attraction is.

Police estimate that 240 turned up to a public meeting on Thursday to discuss how to save the railway.

All were of the same mind - it wouldn't be a debate about whether or not the railway should be saved, but a crisis meeting to work out how it would be saved.

To those who live and work in the region it isn't just a railway.

Chris Hibble is one of the 48 people who stand to lose their jobs if the trains stop running.

But that is not what is upsetting him most. "This is just too unique to let go,'' Mr Hibble said.

Everyone seems to feel an attachment to the railway.

Sandra Campbell, of Zeehan, only started working as a cleaner on the trains in December.

"But in the short time I've been here I've fallen in love with the place,'' Ms Campbell said.

As West Coast Tourism vice-chairwoman Carolyn Nissen summed up: It's more than a train, it's part of our story.''

The community's passion was evident at the public meeting and so many people have so much to lose.

Joy Chappell took on a three-year lease to run the Tracks Cafe in September.

She shudders to think of the time and money that she will lose if the trains stop pulling into Queenstown station, and 40 per cent of her customers disappear.

Then there are the eight people she employs. Plus, the bed and breakfast that Ms Chappell has invested another $1 million in.

"It's just unfathomable that they will let it go,'' Ms Chappell said.

West Coast Mayor Darryl Gerrity aptly described the railway as the region's umbilical cord.

The whistle can be heard loud and clear when a train chugs into the station.

People, businesses and towns along the rail corridor rely on it.
See your ad here

That's why passions are running high, and why the region won't be giving up on it without a fight.

Cr Gerrity has pointed out that a federal election is nigh. The state election will follow soon after.

As he put it: the West Coast is "not something you muck about with''.

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colinw

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West Coast Wilderness Railway
« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2013, 09:24:07 AM »
The Mercury -> The last train pulls out

Quote

The operator of Tracks Cafe at Queenstown Joy Chappell and, inset, railway workshop supervisor Chris Hibble
ponder a bleak future without the Abt Railway.


February 9, 2013

APRIL 30, 2013. The coal is shovelled into the firey furnace. The steam rises. The whistle blows for the final time. The brakes are released, and a train creaks along the long and winding track, slowly at first before building momentum. This is the last journey of the Abt Railway.

The story of the pioneers who built the original track more than 100 years ago will only be told in history books.

The hand-hewn rock cuttings and ancient rainforests never again seen by international tourists.

It's a $35 million investment in regional tourism that's run out of steam. Fallen off the tracks. Lost its puff. Been derailed.

It's predicted the already fragile railway infrastructure will fall into ruin in no time.

Left unmanaged, the 35km track will give in to slippage and rot, and troublesome weed will overtake the rail corridor, threatening the pristine wilderness it intersects.

The best case scenario, says Tourism Industry Council Tasmania chairman Simon Currant, is a short-term shutdown until October so that long over-due repairs can be done.

But that's only if someone coughs up the $5.8 million needed for upgrades.

It's a big "if" and it doesn't give much hope to the 48 people employed on the railway, from steam train drivers to office managers and tour guides.

There are also the businesses that will be indirectly affected. The hotels will have no tourists to stay in them. Coach companies will have no one to transfer. Coffee shops will have no diners.

Many staff at these businesses have already been put on notice and are looking for work elsewhere.

With them will go their families.

It's a hefty loss for a town of just 2500 people.

"Queenstown will become nothing more than a drive-in, drive-out mining town if this continues," one local lamented.

The community has forged an identity on the success of the railway attraction in recent years.

There's the Railway Express general store, the West Coaster Hotel, Tracks Cafe and the Railway Hotel Motel.

A Queenstown without the railway is like a Port Arthur without an historic site.

There's been much debate this week about the importance of regional tourism to the state economy and outright criticism of Premier Lara Giddings and Tourism Minister Scott Bacon.

They took centre stage as accolades from Lonely Planet and Trip Adviser rolled in last year on the back of MONA's impact in the national market.

They were patting themselves on the back when Tiger Airways returned to Tasmanian skies and Qantas and Virgin increased flights.

But at a crisis community meeting in Queenstown there were calls for Ms Giddings to make an appearance, and Mr Bacon found himself defending slashes to tourism marketing in past budgets.

After the meeting, it was Infrastructure Minister David O'Byrne who fronted waiting media as Mr Bacon drove past the throng in his chauffeur-driven car.

But locals and tourism groups were asking how long the State Government could lean on the likes of MONA.

Mr Bacon told the Mercury he was committed to "supporting the regional tourism sector".

"This financial year, we're spending more than $10 million marketing Tasmania as a world-class destination to potential visitors interstate and overseas, with an additional $1 million for marketing activities announced towards the end of last year," he said.

"[Tourism Tasmania] are also promoting the West Coast's tourism industry through funding to the Cradle Coast Authority for co-operative marketing activities with local operators to promote the area's tourism activities and experiences, and stimulate the bookings."

But there is little sign of stimulated bookings in Queenstown.

West Coaster Hotel owner Brett Cannon said the railway's uncertain future was already having an impact on businesses in the area.

He put renovation work on hold after taking a $16,000 hit in bookings and cancellations in just four days after news of the railway's closure.

Debate rages about who should take responsibility for the $5.8 million repair bill -- the State Government or gambling and tourism juggernaut the Federal Group, which had a 20-year government lease to run it.

But pointing the finger after the event won't help.

The Federal Group has wiped its hands of the venture and was given approval to do so.

The struggle now is to find the cash to fix the railway and a new operator to run the attraction.

The tourism council wants the Federal Government to put up $5.8 million to repair the track, with the State Government to fund operating costs and losses for two years while it tries to secure a long-term operator.

ABT RAILWAY'S WILD RIDE

The Abt Railway may once again disappear into the ancient forests of the West Coast.

• Carved into the harsh landscape more than 100 years ago, the original track quickly succumbs to the rugged wilderness when it closes in 1963.

• It costs more than $35 million to restore the railway in the late 1990s, with contributions from Federal and State Governments and private developer Roger Smith.

• In 2001 the partly completed Abt Railway opens as a tourist attraction, but trains suffer several derailments. The full 35km line is completed in August 2002 with funds from the State Government. It crosses 40 bridges, wild rivers and climbs over 200 metres on its journey from Queenstown to Strahan.

• Four months later Smith sells his interest back to the State Government for $10.2 million -- enough to recover his investment. Eighteen months later he receives a payout of $836,000 from the State Government for the loss of revenue caused by construction delays.

• In late 2002 Federal Group signs a 20-year lease to run the attraction as the West Coast Wilderness Railway. More than 39,300 people ride the railway in 2002-03.

• The Tourism and Transport Forum says the attraction increases the amount of time people spend in the region from an average of 1.3 to 1.8 nights per person.

• Two of the original five Abt locomotives that operate on the railway are believed to be the oldest, fully restored working locomotives in the world.

Offline ozbob

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West Coast Wilderness Railway
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2013, 03:41:57 PM »
Twitter

Anthony Albanese ‏@AlboMP

Have announced rescue package for West Coast Wilderness Railway in Tasmania with Sid Sidebottom - critical for jobs and tourism
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colinw

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West Coast Wilderness Railway
« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2013, 12:54:25 PM »
The Mercury -> Now it's full steam ahead

 :lo :clp:

Quote
February 25, 2013



THE race is on to find new operators for the West Coast Wilderness Railway in just nine weeks.

The Federal Government has promised $6 million to fix the infrastructure and the State Government said it would give up to $1.5 million a year for four years to underwrite the operation.

The pledges have been welcomed by the West Coast, but will come to nought without someone taking on the job, possibly a public-private partnership.

The Federal Group said it had made clear its April 30 deadline for pulling out of the Abt heritage railway.

Braddon MP Sid Sidebottom, who helped secure the funding he announced yesterday, said: "Now we need others to do their bit.

"We need the State Government and the tourism industry and tourism council," he said.

"They've had plenty to say, let's see what they can do now.

"People had already been negotiating their redundancies."

Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania chief executive Luke Martin said the rescue package was just in time and was generous.

"If we'd have lost those [expert staff] it would have been game over. Now we've got significant commitments," Mr Martin said.

He said the current model - of a single private operator - was rarely successful, and that many well-known trains, including Puffing Billy, had a government partnering with a not-for-profit community group.

"We have to look at all options, and we have to grow visitor numbers to the West Coast," he said.

Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said the railway had carried more than 400,000 passengers, created 33 direct jobs and injected $10 million a year into the West Coast economy and needed every chance to thrive.

Tasmanian counterpart David O'Byrne said the search was on for an operator.

"The private sector has a vital role in ensuring the railway has a long-term future," Mr O'Byrne said.

Tasrail said it would consider the partnership, but its present task of rebuilding the freight railway was too onerous.

The Tasmanian Association of Tourist Railways said this was the chance to secure a long-term vibrant tourist railway sector.

"It would be difficult for a volunteer organisation solely set up to run the West Coast Wilderness Railway," president Chris Martin said.

But he said once Tasrail fixed the main lines so that tourist railways could again use them, that would mean an attractive proposition for railway operators who could run more tourist services and build up a volunteer network. "This would be a fantastic opportunity."

He said it was hoped those lines would be available in two years.

Liberal leader Will Hodgman said the railway was too good to lose.

"Needless to say, if the Government had acted when they first knew about these problems ... a new operator could already have been secured by now," Mr Hodgman said.

Offline ozbob

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« Reply #9 on: November 22, 2014, 07:53:51 PM »
Mercury --> Historic West Coast Wilderness Railway restores full journey

Quote
THE West Coast Wilderness Railway will next month begin running the full journey from Strahan to Queenstown for the first time since April last year.

The historic railway, being run by a government corporation after Federal Group walked away from its contract, is moving full steam ahead, launching two new itineraries in time for the holiday season.

The full-day Queenstown Explorer will run from December 15.

Departing Mondays and Tuesdays from Strahan’s original harbourside Regatta Point Station, the tour takes in the King River Gorge, the “rack” section of the railway track, rainforest and all stations. There is also a new half day ‘River and Rainforest’ experience. The afternoon journey runs Wednesday to Friday, from Strahan.

The Government is continuing its search for a private operator to run the railway.

A spokesman for Infrastructure Minister Rene Hidding said the Abt Railway Ministerial Corporation took over the railway last year (under the previous government).

West Coast Wilderness Railway general manager Michael Saville said the new experiences followed an extensive upgrade of the track.

 :lo 8) :-t
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Offline Stillwater

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West Coast Wilderness Railway
« Reply #10 on: November 23, 2014, 05:54:17 AM »

The West Coast Wilderness Railway is a magnificent journey, people should grab a chance to travel on this icon.

With sections of the mainline being upgraded and, given the nature of Tasmania’s geography and scenery, return of an up-market ‘Tasman Limited’ under private ownership could be feasible.
 




http://www.railtasmania.com/photos/

https://au.totaltravel.yahoo.com/listing/849262/australia/tas/hobart/huonchannel/10111389/


 

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