TOBY ROWALLAN, Future Transport Tasmania: Agreement complete – rejuvenation of railways must begin now

Future Transport Tasmania today welcomed Infrastructure Minister Graham Sturges announcement that a sale process had been agreed to between Pacific National Tasmania and the Tasmanian Government.
The long running saga of Pacific National’s clear unwillingness to operate a train service in Tasmania is now finally at an end. Now the work of rejuvenating Tasmania’s railways begins. To that end, Future Transport Tasmania (FTT) is committed to campaign for Tasmania’s railways to remain in State Government hands for the long term.

FTT wants Tasmania’s railways to remain in public hands because only under State Government ownership is it possible for the railways to have a certain future. FTT will also be campaigning for passenger trains to return in one form or another, which would be much more difficult to achieve if a private operator was running trains.

FTT strongly believes that attempting to find a private company or consortium to operate trains in Tasmania will not ensure a secure future for the railways. Considerable investment, probably around one hundred million dollars, is required to bring Tasrail’s locomotive and rolling-stock fleet up to a competitive standard. FTT is convinced that no private company or consortium would be willing to invest the money needed to achieve this.

Future Transport Tasmania Spokesperson, Toby Rowallan said; ‘Throughout the rest of Australia, and in certain cases internationally, but most particularly here in Tasmania, we have seen that privatisation is fraught with danger. If the State and Federal Government’s fund the investment that is required, which we strongly believe they should, it would be a significant financial risk to then sell the trains back to a private operator. We are sure that after years of putting up with an inadequate railway system Tasmanians would not like to see their taxpayer’s dollars used to help out a private operator any more.’

‘The State Government must now find the money to buy PNT, and the money needed to buy new locomotives. Our suggestion is that the Brighton Hub and the Brighton Bypass could be delayed, and funding re-directed from those projects to fund the far more urgent renewal of our railways. Alternatively money redirected from the superannuation fund could be a possibility.’

‘We note recent concerns raised by the RACT regarding the deteriorating state of the Midland Highway and consequent maintenance requirements. It is clear that this deterioration is due to increased heavy vehicle use of the highway with the recent period of closure of the north-south railway line. Suggestions were made that a four-lane highway would alleviate this problem –we completely disagree. A four lane highway would increase already skyrocketing highway maintenance costs, not to mention be extremely expensive in the first place, and encourage further heavy vehicle use, instead of discourage it. We want to see a government committed to creating a competitive rail network, and restricting heavy vehicle use. They will then save on road maintenance costs, save lives and improve Tasmania’s overall economic efficiency.’ finished Mr Rowallan.