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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>.

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Media Release

Wednesday June 3rd
HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF
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

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

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