The State Government today welcomed the Federal Government’s funding of infrastructure upgrades critical to the future of the West Coast Wilderness Railway.

Minister for Infrastructure David O’Byrne and Minister for Tourism Scott Bacon announced the State Government would provide up to $1.5 million a year for four years to underwrite the railway’s operation now the Federal funding was secured.

“This has been a critical issue for the West Coast community, and I am extremely pleased that the State and Federal governments have been able to work together to provide a solution and keep the railway going,” Mr O’Byrne said.

“We said from the outset that the long-term future of the West Coast Wilderness Railway rested on a partnership approach between all tiers of government and the private sector, and I am pleased we have been able to deliver on our commitment”

Mr Bacon said the announcement was an important step for other tourism operators who relied on the West Coast Wilderness Railway

“Without doubt, the railway is a major tourist drawcard for the West Coast.

“I have heard first-hand the concerns of those operators fearful of what the loss of this attraction could mean for their own business, and I hope today’s announcements give them some optimism.”

Mr O’Byrne said while the funding was now in place, the search would continue for an operator for the railway.

“The private sector has a vital role in ensuring the railway has a long-term future.

“As I said at the public meeting at Queenstown, I do not believe anyone thinks it is an acceptable situation that an attraction such as this should be potentially facing exactly the same financial hurdles in a few years’ time - we must make sure there is a viable long-term business model with the private sector on board.”

Mr Bacon said he hoped the announcements also gave some comfort to the railway’s employees.

“Apart from the millions of dollars this railway generates in tourism spending on the West Coast, it also provides jobs to more than 30 people - with some of those employees possessing extremely unique and rare skills.”

“Workers and their community wanted assurances on this issue as soon as possible, and today’s announcements reflect that this was a high-priority for both governments.”

Mr O’Byrne said both governments had been focused on finding a solution.

“On behalf of the State Government, I would like to thank the Federal Government, particularly Labor Member for Braddon Sid Sidebottom, for working with us non-stop on resolving the funding situation,” Mr O’Byrne said.

John Lawrence earlier:

Federal Hotels: The Turning Point?

Something had to give