MICHAEL STEDMAN, Mercury

THE State Government will buy back Tasmania’s ailing rail operations, taking over from November 30.
The State Government and Pacific National’s parent company Asciano had been locked in two days of crisis talks after revelations the company was pulling the plug on its operations from the end of this month.

Infrastructure Minister Graeme Sturges emerged from “very intense” negotiations at 4pm yesterday to announce the Tasmanian Government would take over the entire network by November 30, subject to agreement by the Asciano board and Cabinet.

Mr Sturges would not comment on the agreed price, saying only that the state had secured a “very good deal”.

It is believed Asciano was seeking $40 million from a commercial sale process.

“It is a great outcome for the Tasmanian community, it is a great outcome for the business community, and it is also a great outcome for the employees of Pacific National Tasmania,” Mr Sturges said.

All operations will continue until November 30, including the freight line to the West Coast mines.

Closure of that line could have put more than 100 extra trucks on the road every week.

The deal includes the profitable West Coast and Australian Cement lines, the Burnie concentrates loading facility and Launceston maintenance workshops.

“Dare I say it, we take it lock, stock, barrel and locos,” Mr Sturges said.

There was no money in the State Budget to take over rail.

But Mr Sturges said he had had preliminary discussions with the Federal Government about using funds from the existing $250 million rail infrastructure package. Read more here