Tourism and Heritage Rail Policy

With the strong increase in visitor numbers to Tasmania, new tourism experiences need to be developed to create new jobs and investment, as well as encourage visitors to continue to return to the State.

Labor has a plan to develop tourist rail experiences, in partnership with volunteer train organisations around the state.

Since the State took back the ownership and operation of the Tasmanian rail system, there has been a hope from the Tourist and Heritage rail sector that tourist trains would run once again.

The Liberal Government has allowed unique and valuable rail infrastructure to sit idle and has done nothing to promote and encourage Tourist and Heritage rail groups. In fact, volunteer groups have found operating passenger trains more difficult under State ownership of the rail system than it was under private ownership.

The Tasmanian Government operates the mainline (freight only) through Tasrail and the West Coast Wilderness Railway through the Abt Railway Ministerial Corporation.

Labor will commit $3 million over five years to fund the establishment of new  tourist rail experiences.

The plan for world-class rail experiences

A Majority Labor Government will actively engage and assist passenger trains to return to the rails.

Labor will act with the first six  months  of its terms to appoint a Tourist and Heritage Rail Manager and Stakeholder Board, to work with the sector to recommence operations.

Membership of the Board will include community based experts and representatives of heritage rail groups, appointed by the Minister for Infrastructure.

Labor will require that any potential commercial operators  would  work  in close consultation with the Manager and Stakeholder Board.

The Manager will also work with the West Coast Wilderness Railway to set up uniform operational, training, marketing and a rail safety systems across all sectors of Tourist and Heritage Rail operations.

Labor believes that consolidation of safety systems and training will allow the workforce to operate across the state.

Labor will also progress any legislative amendments required to ensure rail corridors are protected.

This policy builds on existing prospects

Labor guarantees that disused lines will not be lifted unless it is proven that there is no future use within a realistic timeframe and there is strong community support for re-use of the corridor. A Parliamentary process will be outlined in an amendment to the Rail Infrastructure Act.

Labor will ensure that the State will remain the owner and responsible entity for rail infrastructure, this responsibility will not be passed to other entities as is possible under the Strategic Infrastructure Corridor Act.

The West Coast Wilderness Railway is recognized internationally as one of the worlds “great train journeys”. It is renowned for overcoming engineering challenges and providing an incredibly scenic journey. It easily rivals Victoria’s iconic Puffing Billy.

The Hobart to New Norfolk, and National Park railway; traverses the Derwent Valley, the river and the foreshore. The line is in good condition to Boyer. The track from Hobart to Bridgewater has been set aside by Labor for return to use as a passenger line.

Labor    believes    commuter    passenger rail service can operate safely alongside tourism and heritage rail.

Labor recognises that the line beyond Bridgewater connecting the northern suburbs to the incredibly scenic Derwent Valley features great scenery year-round, significant attractions at the Redlands Estate and National Park, and the Mt Field snow fields.

In addition, work will commence to explore the possibility of an occasional passenger operation with TasRail compatible rolling stock on the following TasRail sections of railway:

  • Launceston to Georgetown allows tourism utilisation of this rail line, with the potential for return journeys on the Tamar River by existing boat operators to provide a scenic rail/ water Launceston to Relbia also offers short trips to the Relbia wine region.
  • The former Emu Bay Railway from Burnie to Rosebery or Zeehan traverses magnificent mountain rainforest remote from the highway and could easily provide an eco- friendly feeder to the West Coast, the Strahan attractions and the West Coast Wilderness

Labor recognises there is currently insufficient tourism numbers to operate all the above services continuously year-round; however, an integrated organisation with flexible rolling stock could seasonally operate the above services for short periods, by repositioning rolling stock and staff around the state as required; with the southern based service providing a core commercial operation.

Only Labor has a plan to progress tourist and heritage rail

Labor supports the establishment of mainline tourism rail operations at the earliest opportunity, utilising the existing and new infrastructure.

A Majority Labor Government will allocate $3 million over five years to fund rail infrastructure projects on existing dis-used lines across Tasmania based on those identified by the Tourist and Heritage Rail Manager (THRM) and recommended by the Stakeholder Board, to the Minister.

Labor will ensure that currently disused lines will be made available to accredited Railway Operators, on condition that the requirements of Rail Safety National Law set down by the Office of the National Rail Regulator are met.

Labor’s plan for the re-integration of Tasmania’s rail infrastructure will enable better management and cost savings. The West Coast Wilderness Railway and TAFE will provide standardized training programmes thus allowing a pool of specialist trained operational people to work across the sector and TasRail.

A larger Tourist and Heritage Rail sector will encourage rail tourism growth in Tasmania as is currently evident in New Zealand.

Cost: $3 million over five years.