Welcome to Future Transport Tasmania

We are here to lobby for better public transport and rail infrastructure in Tasmania. We aim to find solutions to allow all Tasmanians to have environmentally responsible and affordable commuting options to get around our state and towns. A more detailed mission statement can be found in the left column or <here>.

Find our articles below, starting with the most recent ones first:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Some facts about Tasmania's railways

The current (and soon to be departed owner), Pacific National Tasmania, has owned Tasrail since 2004.

Tasmania’s main line from Hobart to Launceston was originally constructed by a private company, owned by investors in London. In an ironic twist of repeating history the Tasmanian Main Line Railway Company was purchased by the Tasmanian Government after a string of derailments and complaints.

The Tasmanian Government Railways constructed many branchlines including lines from Bellerive to Sorell (isolated from the rest of the network), Bridgewater to Kallista (near Maydena), Conara to St Marys, Launceston to Herrick, Burnie to Smithton and also a link from Zeehan to Strahan, amongst many others.

The TGR ran at a loss for its entire existence.

The last line constructed by the TGR was from Launceston to Bell Bay near George Town, completed in 1974.

The TGR was sold to the Federal Government after an offer made by the then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, who wanted to bring the entire national railway network under the control of one body, the Australian National Railways. However, only South Australia and Tasmania accepted the offer.

Ownership of the TGR passed to the Federal Government in 1975, however operational control did not take place until 1978. TGR became part of the Australian National Railways Commission, and was later renamed Tasrail.

The last new locomotive purchased for Tasmania was ordered by the TGR, and arrived in 1976. No new locomotives have been purchased by any operator or owner of the railways since.
Many second-hand or rebuilt locomotives have been purchased or transferred from elsewhere, including 81 locomotives (at different times) by Australian National, and 17 by Australian Transport Network.
Few of the 81 introduced by AN remain in service, and some never entered service at all, but were used for spare parts.

The National Rail Corporation was created in 1992 to operate the interstate rail lines on the mainland. Its creation severely dented AN’s profits and after the Howard Government took power in 1996 Australian National was sold. Australian Transport Network, a company largely owned by the Wisconsin Central Railroad of the USA, purchased the Tasrail portion of AN.
Shortly after this, ATN purchased the Emu Bay Railway from Pasminco Metals.

Under ATN, Tasrail made a profit for the first time in the history of the Tasmanian Railway system. It could be argued that this was due to the profits from the Emu Bay mineral haulage.

After Wisconsin Central was purchased by the Canadian National Rail company, investment in Tasrail stopped. ATN was then purchased by Pacific National (the current owner) in 2004.

In 2008 ownership of the track passed back to the Tasmanian Government, with the exception of the former Emu Bay line (now referred to as the Melba line), which had never been government owned.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Media Release

Wednesday June 10th


No trains in Tasmania is not an option

With today’s announcement by Pacific National that it is halting rail operations on June 30th, Future Transport Tasmania (FTT) said that it is time for the State Government to finally address the issue of Tasmania’s railway crisis and take decisive action.

FTT strongly believes that not having an operational rail freight service in Tasmania is simply not an option. If the railway is ends up being closed, the Tasmanian public will be left with the pressure and cost that additional truck movements will place on the road network.

Future Transport Tasmania Spokesperson, Toby Rowallan said: ‘The Tasmanian rail system has lurched from crisis to crisis in the past few years and this is will either be the death of the railways altogether or the moment in which they are reborn. But that rebirth can only come about from the actions of the Tasmanian Government, who now has to take over the rail operations and ensure that the trains keep running.’

‘Yes, it will cost money to buy new trains and keep operations running, but the cost of not doing anything will be much more. Heavy trucks cause exponentially far more damage to the road surface than cars. More trucks inevitably will mean a greater risk of them being involved in serious road crashes, and the tragic consequences that may result. Whilst there have been many derailments on the railways in recent times, no one has been killed and no member of the public has been at risk, for obvious reasons. Without the rail system the government will be forced to spend even more on road maintenance, which Tasmania certainly cannot afford.’

‘It is immaterial whether or not the Minister, Graeme Sturges, is correct in saying that Pacific National is playing games. Ever since Pacific National purchased Tasrail we have seen them put nothing but ultimatum after ultimatum to the State Government. This is the State Government’s chance to resolve our rail problem and be finally rid of this company that, for whatever reason, it seems to have had so much trouble dealing with.’

‘We are certain that there are a number of viable and practical solutions to this issue. These solutions may involve the State Government creating a new Government Business Enterprise, which it later sells, after taking the necessary action to reverse the loss of freight traffic,’ added Mr Rowallan.

Future Transport Tasmania wants to see a fully upgraded rail network with new locomotives and rolling stock purchased as soon as possible. Other improvements essential to a viable rail network include a realignment of the tight and twisting section of main line between Tea Tree and Rhyndaston. Further improvements should be planned for a re-build of the rail line to Smithton, and re-opening of the rail line to Scottsdale.

Future Transport Tasmania is planning to launch a public campaign to Save Tassie’s Rail very shortly.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Media Release

Tuesday June 9th

Thursday’s State Budget must include a plan for rail

Community transport lobby group Future Transport Tasmania (FTT), stated today that the upcoming State budget desperately needs to have a plan for the continuation of rail services in Tasmania. FTT believes that for Tasmania’s future economic prosperity to have a serious chance, a viable rail service is a vital and fundamental requirement. Unfortunately the significant amount of uncertainty over operator Pacific National Tasmania’s future is having an extremely detrimental effect on rail’s chances in Tasmania.

Early this year when Asciano announced that it had been unsuccessful in finding a buyer for Pacific National Tasmania (PNT) the State Government said that it would begin talks with Asciano, the owner of PNT, yet stated that taking over the operation was a ‘last resort’.

FTT believes that it is completely against the public’s interest for this hesitation and uncertainty to continue, and affirms that the State Budget is the best place to start.

In a submission to the National Transport Commission Dr Philip Laird from the University Of Wollongong noted that; ‘about one fatality in ten involves an articulated truck’. For this reason alone it is obvious that rail should receive priority, yet out of the $800 million of Federal Government infrastructure funding for Tasmania announced in April, only $200 million of that is for rail. Many other studies and reports exist to justify prioritisation of rail infrastructure development, yet in Tasmania (and Australia) the highways are still receiving far more than the lion’s share of money.

Future Transport Tasmania spokesperson Toby Rowallan said: ‘There is no doubt that we are still in the midst of a rail crisis. The north-south line has still not reopened, and Pacific National has made it quite clear that it wants out. We need to know what the Government’s plan is. If they will not take over the operations of Pacific National, then who are they hoping to get to run the trains?’

‘The State and Federal Governments have committed over $200 million dollars to upgrade the rail network –but this is for the track, not the trains or services. There is still no guarantee that there will be anyone operating trains in Tasmania next year.'

‘Already the effects of the north-south line closure (caused by a derailment) may be extremely difficult to redress. Intermodal freight users currently have no choice but to use trucks, and when the line is finally re-opened, it will be understandable if their confidence and business is correspondingly slow to return,’ added Mr Rowallan.

‘Thursday’s State Budget must have a plan and a strong commitment from the Government to ensure our rail network operates. It must be aimed at taking heavy trucks off our roads and thereby increasing the use of rail. This will improve road safety, decrease road maintenance costs, improve overall economic efficiency and also decrease carbon emissions. It is true that this will cost the state money and there is little to spare. However we firmly believe it will cost Tasmania far more in the long run, if we do not invest in our rail network now,’ finished Mr Rowallan.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Media Release

Wednesday June 3rd
Train operator Pacific National cuts costs again.

Community lobby group Future Transport Tasmania (FTT) today expressed astonishment that Pacific National Tasmania (PNT) has offered its locomotive drivers no alternative other than to work on helping to repair the railway line or be put on leave without pay

FTT wholeheartedly agrees with locomotive driver Greg Brandis’ comments in Wednesday’s Mercury Newspaper that “Tasmania should have the best railway freight service in the country”. However, it is clear that currently it is one of the worst rail freight services in the country, with a recent spate of derailments, the last of which has closed the main north-south line.

It is concerning that the State Government currently has contractors working to upgrade the tracks, yet Pacific National Tasmania still has responsibility for the maintenance of the tracks. The fact that Pacific National has put drivers on leave without pay, then offered them work repairing the tracks, is reminiscent of the Tasmanian Main Line Railway Company (TMLR) which originally built the main line to Launceston in the 1870’s. The TMLR was infamous for doing things as cheaply as possible, which resulted in numerous derailments, and involved some fatalities.

It has already been announced that Federal Government money has been allocated for upgrading this antiquated infrastructure. FTT is questioning exactly where and how all of this money is actually going to be spent. It has been acknowledged by rail experts, that the section between Tea Tree and Rhyndaston urgently needs significant improvements to the track alignment. FTT is extremely concerned that no plan has been made publicly available by the State Government for this section in particular, especially given that this is the location in which the recent derailment occurred

Future Transport Tasmania spokesperson Toby Rowallan said: ‘It is simply outrageous that Pacific National (PN) is able to invest millions of dollars in coal operations in Queensland (including purchasing dozens of new electric and diesel locomotives), yet here in Tasmania they are unable to afford to pay their drivers who are not needed whilst the railway line is repaired.’

‘It looks as though history is repeating itself with PN spending as little as it can get away with to maintain operations. There were so many derailments after the line was first constructed in the 1870’s that the company’s acronym was said to stand for: ‘Too Many Loose Rails’. Perhaps PNT should stand for: ‘Probably No Trains.’

‘Our biggest concern is that even with the millions of dollars in Federal funding being made available to upgrade the track, there is still no clear indication from the State Government on what they are intending to do in order to ensure that there will still be trains running in this state in the future,’ added Mr Rowallan.

‘The reality we are facing in the near future is one of having shiny new tracks, but no trains to run on them, and no drivers to operate them. We want heavy trucks off our roads, and onto rail. The current rail upgrade is clearly insufficient in meeting this demand.’

For comment: Toby Rowallan 0418 997 069

Contacting Future Transport Tasmania

For further information:
Toby Rowallan (secretary) 0418 997 069

Mailing address:
Future Transport Tasmania
Bathurst St. Post Office
PO Box 4515
Hobart 7000