Feb 24, 2013

Federal Rescue Package for Iconic Railway

The Federal Labor Government has agreed to provide up to $6 million to restore the West Coast Wilderness Railway to an appropriate and safe standard, subject to the Tasmanian Government finding an operator and underwriting its ongoing operational costs for the next four years.

Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said the national government was determined to do what it can to make sure this iconic part of Australian history had a bright and viable future.

“Following strong representations from local MP Sid Sidebottom, it was clear that without Federal intervention this vital attraction would be lost, taking with it the jobs and economic benefits it provides to the region,” said Mr Albanese.

“In fact since its re-opening in 2002, the Railway has carried over 400,000 passengers, created 33 direct jobs and injected some $10 million a year in West Coast communities.

“I look forward to working with Sid Sidebottom, the State Government and the local community to get this vital attraction and unique window into our past back onto a sustainable footing.”

“Originally built in the 1890s to transport copper from the mines at Queenstown to market, this world famous piece of railway engineering offers tourists remarkable, year round views along Tasmania’s West Coast.”

Federal Member for Braddon Sid Sidebottom welcomed the $6 million rescue package for the West Coast Wilderness Railway.

“Because of the Federal Labor Government, the West Coast Wilderness Railway is literally back on track,” said Mr Sidebottom.

“I took this to the highest level of government, and we have delivered for the people of the West Coast.  We are very fortunate that we have a Prime Minister in Julia Gillard that cares about jobs and is a great friend of Tasmania.

“Time and again, the Prime Minister has shown her support for Tasmanians and Tasmanian jobs.

“Clearly, the community campaign to save the Railway demonstrated the importance of the enterprise to our region and the State.  It quickly became apparent that without significant Federal Government intervention, the West Coast Wilderness Railway would have collapsed, taking hundreds of jobs with it.

“I was able to use this in discussions with the Prime Minister and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese and my federal colleagues, and I made it clear that our funding is about jobs – both now and into the future.

“It is a great disappointment to me that we ever got to this point.  This should never have happened and came as a great shock to this community and to myself.

“I thank the Prime Minister and Transport Minister Albanese for their consideration, concern and ultimate support for this rescue package.”