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Rescue package for iconic Tasmanian railway

<span class="" id="parent-fieldname-description"> Federal and state government funding totalling $12m has been pledged in an attempt to stave of closure of Tasmanian’s heritage West Coast Wilderness Railway after its operator, casino and hotels business Federal Group, walked away earlier this month citing falling numbers and deteriorating infrastructure. </span> <p>The Federal Government has agreed to provide up to $6m to restore the West Coast Wilderness Railway (WCWR) to an appropriate and safe standard, subject to the Tasmanian Government finding an operator and underwriting its ongoing operational costs for the next four years.</p><p>Federal infrastructure and transport minister Anthony Albanese said the national government was determined to do what it can to make sure this iconic part of Australian history had a bright and viable future.</p><p>“Following strong representations from local MP Sid Sidebottom, it was clear that without federal intervention this vital attraction would be lost, taking with it the jobs and economic benefits it provides to the region,” Albanese said.</p><p>“In fact since its re-opening in 2002, the railway has carried over 400,000 passengers, created 33 direct jobs and injected some $10m a year in West Coast communities.</p><p>“I look forward to working with the state government and the local community to get this vital attraction and unique window into our past back onto a sustainable footing.”</p><p>Federal member for Braddon Sid Sidebottom said clearly, the community campaign to save the railway demonstrated the importance of the enterprise to the region and the state.</p><p>“It quickly became apparent that without significant Federal Government intervention, the West Coast Wilderness Railway would have collapsed, taking hundreds of jobs with it,” he said.</p><p>The state government has announced it will provide up to $1.5m a year for four years to underwrite the railway’s operation now the Federal funding was secured.</p><p>Tasmanian minister for infrastructure David O’Byrne said this has been a critical issue for the West Coast community.</p><p>“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,” he said.</p><p>Minister for tourism Scott Bacon said the announcement was an important step for other tourism operators who relied on the West Coast Wilderness Railway.</p><p>&quotWithout 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,&quot he said.</p><p>O’Byrne said the private sector has a vital role in ensuring the railway has a long-term future and with funding now in place, the search would continue for an operator for the railway.</p><p>A leading state bureaucrat, Dr Martin Blake has been appointed to head a cross-agency team to develop options and potential operating models to save the WCWR.</p>