Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


Open letter to Chris Griffin and Luke Martin …

Dear Luke Martin* and Chris Griffin*,

In your respective capacities at TICT* and TNT*, I am well aware of your love of cycling and naturally, your promotion of a rail trail replacing the north east line.

No doubt the economic analysis will look carefully at all aspects, including the NTD* report of February 2014 upon which the successful proposal by Dorset Council for $1.47 Million funding for the cycle trail was based.

But let’s have a look at the figures: estimated 65 cyclists per day? That’s 455 cyclists per week, which is more than 10% of cyclists in Tasmania over the age of 15! Probably a bit much.

As for estimated spend, Providence Vineyards, Lilydale IGA, Lilydale Take-away and Bridestowe Lavender Farm would dispute this.

And riding road bike tyres over 5mm crushed blue metal would be akin to riding over crushed glass! But, that’s the plan. Add to that, following the Reachtel survey of Dorset on 4 October, 70% of residents do not want a cycle trail.

All but four of the residents and farmers along the line don’t want a cycle trail and at Coldwater creek there is no access and the private landowners embracing that junction won’t grant it.

I would appreciate it if you two took off your cleats and had an open look at the rail option.

On tourist and heritage rail in Victoria, run by volunteers, over 800,000 fare-paying passengers were carried last year and the growth is over 10% pa.

Why can’t Tasmania have this? And why should the iconic Denison Gorge be limited to cyclists and those fit enough to walk the distance?

*Luke Martin is CEO of Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania and *Chris Griffin is CEO of Tourism Northern Tasmania.

*NTD used to be Northern Tasmania Development

Rebecca White at Northern Suburbs Rail Action Group annual meeting

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Verdun Schmerl

    November 16, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    The independent report says L&NER; has no working capital, but you say it has $2 million. I look forward to you proving it to Treasury when it compare the benefits of each proposal. Keep in mind the bike option has already been promised $1.5m from the feds.

  2. Stuart Bryce

    November 15, 2017 at 11:01 pm

    Dear Oh Dear! So many comments in the negative. So many comments referring to government monies eventually being sought. There is not one cycle option ever presented or constructed that wasn’t done so with 100% of government or ratepayers money. So let’s get real! Thus far, In Dorset, there has been expenditure in excess of $7 Million on cyclists. And how much money have their organisations contributed? Not one cent! Zip! Zilch!

    Launceston and North East Railway has garnered over $2 Million. And where did this come from? Private enterprise, that’s where! Yes, with some government money the railway would be completely refurbished earlier than L&NER; will do it within their own resources, But they are having a go! If the railway fails, then let’s see how much the cycle path will cost and how much it will return. I hope that never happens. 450 cyclists a day reaching Scottsdale every week – every week – that’s the proposal we want scrutinised (for the first time).

  3. Leonard Colquhoun

    November 6, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    Comment #8’s observation about using “Puffing Billy on the outskirts of metropolitan Melbourne as a template for a start-up heritage rail proposition in regional Tasmania is drawing a very, very long bow” – to continue the image, it would have a broken string halfway through the first draw. Here’s why:

    ~ Belgrave mainline station, which is 41km from Melbourne’s CBD, is a train length’s walk from the adjoining PB station; the two permanent ways are NOT connected because, like, y’know, they have different gauges;

    ~ Launceston is not Melbourne, and neither is Hobart (for the West Coast Tourist Railway) – felt that that had to be made very clear for the nescient and inexperienced: a megapolis v two minnows.

    The notion that a NE TasRail line from Launceston is economically viable for passenger and / or goods carriage is so la-la stuff.

  4. Brian P. Khan

    November 1, 2017 at 5:04 pm

    Re #19 … The proposal by the Vice Chancellor of the University, David Adams, to set up a “Skills Workshop ” in Scottsdale that would provide 25 jobs i.e as he states “Virtual Reality “shows his vision and the University relationship with T.A.F.E.

    As a prominent north east business man said to me last week, Scottsdale is attracting young people who would rather be on the dole instead of working .

    Blind Freddy would be aware that needs to change.

    The Scottsdale Golf Club and tree plantations were work schemes by the Ogilvie and Cosgrove government during the 1929 Great Depression and the council has reaped the profits over the years from these plantations.

    Scottsdale never thought it would lose its “Food Manufacturing Plant” – but it did.

    “Put not your faith in Princes” our Maritime College is under threat from Adelaide, so could be the ” Army Food Research Plant ” if we do not have the basic infrastructure to support it in a fuel crisis.

    But then again we could revert to “Draught Horses and Rickshaws “

  5. Verdun Schmerl

    November 1, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    Looks like the author hasn’t elicited quite the response he hoped for.

    Mark my words, if the LNER group is actually given an opportunity to run its train set we won’t have to wait long until they hold their hands out for taxpayer assistance. Why should everyone else have to pay for their hobby?

    As the reports point out, LNER has zero working capital, and they propose to rely on Work for the Dole volunteers – a program not supported by the federal Opposition and barely supported by the Coalition.

  6. John Wade

    November 1, 2017 at 10:54 am

    “… you do not build for today – you build for the future eg 100 years”

    It is going to be a very different world in 100 years. Once a country has been laid waste by cyberwarfare, exhibit Iraq and Syria, then the troops can move in to demolish and rebuild.

    BUT the need for cities and towns to be self-sufficient in essential services is a factor that should be created.

    Nothing like being prepared! – http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-16536598

  7. Stuart Bryce

    November 1, 2017 at 9:50 am

    And on it goes! Dunno where to start.

    Perhaps I can refer the no sayers to the Linqage International report on the Dept Infrastructure website which clearly demonstrates that the plans by Launceston and North East Railway are indeed viable in all aspects. The so-called ‘contrary’ report by Raylink was taken into account in the Linqage International report, and why it needs to be revisited I have no idea.

    Re comments about the profitability of tourist and heritage railways on the mainland: nearly all of them are profitable and without government support. They are all “not for profit commercial operations” hence profits are returned to the organisations to improve operations.

    Our model is not “Puffing Billy” but rather it is the Yarra Valley railway which is making money as they actually lay track! We are most fortunate in that the north east line has been assessed as “95% fit for purpose”. Yes, there is work to do but it is certainly not beyond our own resources and there are no applications for either state or federal government support.

    The big difference with the West Coast Wilderness Railway is that it is operated by paid employees, all on remote area allowances. That’s what makes that expensive – but what a fabulous draw-card for the west coast!

  8. Tony Stone

    November 1, 2017 at 9:46 am

    #!5 … No it wasn’t directed at you, I know your background and how the bureaucracy of tourism Tas operate. The ABT loses money because it has a bad business plan and always has.

    The people put in tens of millions into the ABT. Federal got it for virtually nothing, put almost nothing into it and walked away when it needed investment, leaving the state with a big bill and heavy investment loses.

  9. Luke Martin

    October 31, 2017 at 10:40 pm

    Sorry Tony, but if you think the Abt Railway made a profit for Federals or anyone else you are very incorrect. The Abt has always been loss-making. It was subsidised for many years by Federals and now these losses are covered by the State Government. Don’t take my word for it. Have a look at the State Budget Papers.

    Also, if your digs about “tourism tas” bureaucrats are directed at me you’re also wrong. I don’t work for the government.

    Do your research before you rant.

  10. Brian P. Khan

    October 31, 2017 at 10:08 pm

    Re #13 …

    Tony, there was a gentleman who had your vision and made commentary on it during the 1930s and 40s by the name of Harwood will do some research at Library. He advocated the electrification of the Tasmanian Rail Network.

    Tasmania lost Tattersalls and its TAB because of politicians.

    I can recall the TAB had an excellent case to run Keno and thought they were the chosen entity.

    However it went to the Farrell Family. Imagine if this revenue remained with the TAB. There would not be the problems in Housing, Education or Health, and racing would still have had its TAB.

  11. Tony Stone

    October 31, 2017 at 9:07 pm

    #7… “Siting Puffing Billy in the outskirts of metropolitan Melbourne as a template for a start-up heritage rail proposition in regional Tasmania is drawing a very, very long bow. (Certainly, well beyond the limitations of my ‘conceptual brain’ or very sense of rational reason, Tony!)”

    No it’s not, the only difference is location.What counts is promotion, venture makeup, community involvement and associating local business with the venture.

    Heritage railways are great if you aren’t looking at a future scenario which precludes the use of fossil fuels. In a place like Tas we should be a leading example of future requirements in transport and tourism.

    Tas should have state of the art light electric rail encompassing the entire state, all made in Tas. The problem Tas tourism faces is that it’s all orientated to corporate vested interest players (political donors) which make our money and which ends up in just a few pockets – and they always seem to be the same pockets.

    Claiming the ABT railway is making a profit is totally false and shows a complete lack of economic and business understanding. The ABT railway provided a profit for Federal Hotels. We the people lost tens of millions and still are.

    When we get a return on the money the government and tourism bureaucracy gave to Federal for free and continues to push their vested interests to get the cream of every tourist cake in Tas, then it will be making a profit.

    As for a north east rail trail to be viable it needs to not only move tourists but also commuters and freight. To do that requires the design and building of autonomous electric rail vehicles, not with overhead cabling but with recharging points at each stop. Also using regenerative braking and solar panels. Small vehicles (4-10 people) would solve all the problems as they would be available on demand.

    What tourism Tas needs is people who actually have ideas and can create outcomes that are acceptable to proponents and communities. Not as it is now, where tourism Tas is run by bureaucrats who just walk over everyone not on their vested interest list.

    When you’ve been successful in hospitality, entertainment and tourism for over 40 years, it doesn’t take long to figure out where the problems lay and how to overcome them.

    Most of Tas tourist problems derive from “Tas tourism” which appears to have ears only for just a few and that’s where the money goes.

  12. Brian P. Khan

    October 31, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    Former Prime Ministers Ben Chifley and Robert Menzies were committed to Rail for defence purposes, like wise John Howard ensured the rail line to Darwin was vital infrastructure for the defence of the nation

    As former Defence Chief Admiral Chris Barry recently stated, Australia has not faced a major conflict since World War 2.

    Admiral Barry states this has given a fall sense of security and our essential infrastructure is being run down.

    To highlight this, Tony Foster Mayor of Brighton recently lamented that the Bridgewater bridge replacement had been shelved and previously was supposed to be a priority after completion of Brighton connection. To his dismay he revealed there was not a rail line and our government was concerned over cost.

    Then Senator Bushby last week revealed that the government had not put a submission to Infrastructure Australia { refer comments A.B.C tas mornings }

    As Mayor Foster stated correctly, you do not build for today – you build for the future eg 100 years.

  13. Cleaver

    October 31, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    Last time I checked there were around 76 tourism/heritage rail operators around Australia.

    Not one of them operates at a profit. The ones that go the closest to a profit are the Abt and Puffing Billy. Both of these get by via the provision of an operating grant from their respective state governments.

    Others scrape by on volunteer labour, but this isn’t optimal as it’s not the cost of running a train that kills you – it’s the cost of maintenance.

    Another example is the Ida Bay Railway whose operators are usually in the media every six months or so also seeking government support.

    I’m a big fan of heritage rail but the last thing we need is more rent seekers.

  14. Brian P. Khan

    October 31, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    #5 … John Wade:

    It would be interesting to be aware who John was speaking to in Scottsdale.

    He apparently has not read the ” 2016 Defence White Paper ” and how vulnerable Scottsdale is compared to other municipalities who have rail links. Dorset and its businesses would grind to a halt as they totally rely on road transport.

    Before any more ” Ostrich ” thinking, please google [i]Defence White Paper 2016[/i] and see how our politicians have failed to ensure ” Strategic Fuel Supplies ” for Australia. Four refineries have closed in the last 4 years and our aviation fuel is imported from South Korea.

    America protects its strategic fuel reserves.

    The Tasmanian Government should recommission the underground storage facilities at the Domain in Hobart which acted as a strategic reserve for Tas Rail .

  15. John Wade

    October 31, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    No, you are right #6. I never mentioned who it was, but I can tell you it was a business person who was open on a Sunday so I can imagine that this person has a fair grasp of the local situation.

    So how do you know what he has seen and what he hasn’t seen? He is undoubtedly a constituent with an opinion which appears to be offside with yours.

  16. Luke Martin

    October 31, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    For the record, I’m certainly not a great lover of cycling.

    But I do understand the significant work undertaken over many years on the North-East Rail Trail initiative and the successful examples interstate and overseas of Rail Trails generating great visitation outcomes in regional areas. I appreciate why local industry and community stakeholders have been so bullish about the opportunity in the NE.

    I am also very much across the inherent challenges around heritage tourist rail, having been acutely involved in securing the future of the Abt Railway a couple of year back, and having done copious amounts of work and research on examples interstate and overseas.

    Siting Puffing Billy in the outskirts of metropolitan Melbourne as a template for a start-up heritage rail proposition in regional Tasmania is drawing a very, very long bow. (Certainly, well beyond the limitations of my ‘conceptual brain’ or very sense of rational reason, Tony!)

    Ultimately it’s a decision to be made by the local community and stakeholders whether we do rail trail, or progress a potential heritage rail experience or indeed, try and develop both. We respond to the priorities and aspirations as determined by our industry stakeholders based on sound business cases and logical destination planning, of which rail trails seem a far surer thing than a heritage trial pipe dream.

  17. Stuart Bryce

    October 31, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    Dunno who John Wade was speaking to in Scottsdale but it certainly wasn’t one of the 70% of Dorset residents who are supporting tourist and heritage rail and he certainly hasn’t see the $50,000 viability study funded by the government and available of the Dept Infrastructure website.

    And for Mrs Smyth, Launceston and North East Railway plan to use all the track from Coldwater Creek to Scottsdale, initially starting with Karoola to Denison Gorge while we fix the bridges.

  18. John Wade

    October 30, 2017 at 7:43 pm

    I was speaking to a chap in Scottsdale on Sunday and his opinion is that with the cost of the railway, and naturally the upgrading and upkeep, the attraction would need a million people a year. Highly unlikely so the outcome would be a grand subsidisation which the government could never afford with Forestry on the teat plus the losses from enterprises that are at mate’s rates and not delivering the full return that could be expected.

    Derby and Weldborough were struggling to accommodate the enthusiastic bikers and runners that were swarming those centres for the weekend.

    There really needs to be a plan for these areas because, simply, the attractions are working.

    So, rail? Needs solid introspection. Winter is the curse.

  19. Brian P. Khan

    October 30, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    Ron Johnstone for years promoted the benefits of rail in the north east. Former popular M.L.C Colin Rattray stated that he never realised the potential of Tourist Rail until it was lost and took it for granted, as Ron often stated, that it was as scenic as the Apt rail at Strahan.

    Yes, we have seen Branxholm , Legerwood and Ringarooma lose population with only the strong Legerwood committee keeping the spirit alive.

    Bike trail enro are a boon for Derby and St.Helens. Bridport has a vibrant community being a tourist and retirement town with so many activities .

    Robert Raven Bridestowe Estate Lavender Farm attracts 75,000 visitors a year and would welcome tourist rail already.

    Bridport receives a lot of the visitors.

    Online Centre, Library, Pilates, University of 3rd Age, Bowls Club, Wednesday Activities with Alison Priestly, an Active Lions Club, Street Wise Committee who had an excellent 100 year Pier Celebration, and Golf Courses along with the Bunker Restaurant coupled with our active shopping strip

  20. Tony Stone

    October 30, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    Both ideas are good – bike trail and tourist train. They could both be implemented if everyone stopped demanding it is their proposal that should be accepted and stuff everyone else.

    The problems lie in the approach and individual concepts, neither will work in the long term. People like Martin and Griffin are way past their use by date for tourism and progress, neither has a worthwhile, conceptual thinking brain.

    We need the rail to go the entire distance to the Gladstone turnoff, as well as the bike trail – and not to use diesel trains but to build our own electric light rail tourist/freight/passenger trains and then expand it down to the coast.

    This would not take the ambiance of the trail away; non polluting and extremely cost effective as they would be powered and charged from solar.

    It would rejuvenate towns and places along the line as well as open up opportunities for small business to develop.

    No good clinging to the past when we have a future ahead of us to plan, so developing tourist trails which cater for everyone is the only way forward.

    There’s to much of this me, me, me … and bugger everyone else when we all should be thinking along the lines of how can we utilise tourism ventures so they cater for everyone and not just one section of the world community.

  21. Chris

    October 30, 2017 at 11:52 am

    Perhaps the premier could lobby the Attorney General to help out with some of the $30,000 (or is it Yu ann or something) and investment could follow in another fishy way?

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