Apr 17, 2013

Full steam ahead for iconic railway

The Federal and Tasmanian Governments have today signed a formal funding agreement to restore and reopen the Abt Railway, one of the nation’s most iconic heritage attractions.

Under the terms set out in the agreement the Federal Government will contribute $6 million to bring the rail line back up to an appropriate and safe standard, with the Tasmanian Government charged with finding an operator and underwriting its ongoing operational costs for the next four years.

Federal Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Minister Anthony Albanese said the Railway, originally built in the 1890s to transport copper from the mines near Queenstown to market, is a world famous piece of engineering offering tourists remarkable, year round views along Tasmania’s West Coast.

“I am pleased we have been able to move so quickly to formalise the offer we first made back in February, and put in place this $10 million rescue package designed to secure a bright, viable future for this important piece of Australian history,” said Mr Albanese.

“Following strong representations from local MP Sid Sidebottom as well as the Tasmanian Government, it was clear that without Federal help this unique window into our past back would be lost forever, taking with it the jobs and economic benefits it has delivered to the region over recent years.”

Since its re-opening in 2002, the Abt Railway has carried more than 400,000 passengers, created 33 direct jobs and injected some $10 million annually into West Coast communities.

Tasmania Infrastructure Minister David O’Byrne said the State Government is committed to seeing the Abt Railway back up and running by the next summer tourist season.

“So far, we’ve provided job security for workers, and are very encouraged by the informal interest that’s already been received from potential private sector operators,” said Mr O’Byrne.

“Today’s signing guarantees the upgrades needed to give the operation a safe and sustainable rail line for years to come.

“Government’s don’t invest this sort of funding lightly.  It’s another reason for staff and tourism operators to have confidence about the railway’s future.

“We’re doing the hard yards behind the scenes to provide a strong and secure future for this railway, its workers, and west coast tourism.”

Braddon MP Sid Sidebottom said the Railway has been central to the West Coast economy and a vital source of jobs for the local community.

“I was pleased to have had the opportunity to present to Minister Albanese the case for funding this service, one which is so important for tourism not only on the West Coast but for the whole of Tasmania.

“Without Federal Government funding there’s no doubt the future of the service would have been very bleak indeed and I’m delighted to be part of today’s formal proceedings.

“I particularly want to acknowledge and thank West Coast Mayor Darryl Gerrity for championing this important project and working with the Federal Government to secure the necessary funding.”