This means that tourist and heritage rail passenger services will be confined to private railway lines for the short term with the situation to be reviewed again in 2 – 3 years.
A roundtable forum that includes representatives from TasRail, Tasmanian Tourist and Heritage Rail Societies, the Rail Safety Unit and the Department of Tourism was established in October 2010 to investigate whether access to the freight railway network can be achieved without compromise to the safety and integrity of TasRail’s assets and commercial operations.
The roundtable represents a new era in the relationship between tourist and heritage rail societies and the operator of the Tasmanian railway network. Under TasRail’s stewardship, the roundtable has to date:
completed research into the different public liability insurance models for tourist and heritage rail operations in other jurisdictions
identified and mapped which sections of the network are of interest to tourist and heritage rail operators, including the types and frequency of services they aspire to operate
In addition, TasRail has completed a due diligence review of the risks associated with tourist and heritage passenger rail services operating on the freight railway network. That review revealed significant implications for the cost and coverage of TasRail’s own insurance protection, should the single line freight railway network be used to carry passengers at present.
In a joint statement released today by each of the roundtable participants, the group agreed that the current barriers to achieving access to the railway network are substantive and complex and are expected to take several years to reach a stage where heritage train access can be progressed further.
Spokesperson for the roundtable, Philip Lange (President of the Tasmanian Transport Museum in Hobart) said the work completed over the past 14 months had been valuable.
“For the first time in many years we have clarity about the issues that need to be addressed in the short term, and we remain optimistic that we can achieve an outcome that enables the states railway societies to operate tourist and heritage rail services on the states rail network in the medium to longer term”, Mr Lange said.
“The informative study of the various interstate models for funding public liability insurance for tourist and heritage rail will be an invaluable resource to contribute to the business case for future heritage train running in Tasmania” he said.
TasRail acknowledges there is significant community interest and support for tourist and heritage rail. TasRail CEO Damien White said TasRail remains committed to working with stakeholders to investigate all options.
“TasRail is working to improve the condition of the railway track and infrastructure and this combined with investment in a more modern train control system will help to reduce the risks associated with passenger trains operating on the network”, Mr White said.
Mr. White said he was less confident that the implications for our insurance can be resolved in the short term, but that the Company would continue to monitor the situation in consultation with the heritage train operators.