This Report is required under Section 31 of the Abt Railway Development Act 1999
The Abt Railway Development Act 1999 (the Act) established the Abt Railway Ministerial Corporation (ARMC).
Section 6 of the Act sets out the functions of the ARMC as follows:
a) to arrange for any necessary approval to undertake the railway development; and
b) to construct or arrange for the construction of the railway development; and
c) to arrange for a person to operate the railway development; and
d) to facilitate associated developments in the vicinity of the railway.
Section 31 of the Act requires the Minister to make a report to Parliament on the activities of the ARMC within four months of the end of each financial year. Section 31 also provides that the report may be by statement in an annual report from an agency for which the Minister is responsible.
The Abt Railway Steering Committee was established at the outset of the project to coordinate input from a number of Agencies and to oversee the implementation of the Abt Railway reconstruction project.
Specific responsibility for administration of the principal siteworks construction contract, the locomotive restoration contract and the construction management contract was delegated to DIER.
Following the successful execution of the planning and construction phases, the Steering Committee was disbanded and by Administrative Order No. 2 of 2004 the Minister for Infrastructure, Energy and Resources assumed responsibility for the ARMC. Administration of the ARMC has been delegated to DIER.
The project involves the reconstruction of the Abt Railway. The railway was first constructed by the private sector in the 1890s to transport ores from Queenstown mines to Macquarie Harbour for export from the State by ship. It was constructed and owned by the Mt Lyell Mining and Railway Company Limited until its closure in 1963. Its closure was largely due to improved road transport to the North-West of the State, which became more cost effective, while the costs of maintaining the railway were very significant.
The move to begin reconstruction of the railway was made possible by the decision of the Commonwealth Government to provide $20.45 million from the Federation Fund. Before a start was made on the project, a number of construction and development milestones were developed in conjunction with the Federal Government and embodied in a formal Grant Deed.
On-site work began in February 2000, after some 18 months of planning, investigation and tender preparation. The siteworks contract was awarded to Tasmanian contractor Hazell Bros Civil Contracting and the locomotive refurbishment contract to the Kingston-based firm of Saunders & Ward. Consulting engineers Sinclair Knight Merz were appointed to provide contract management services.
All bridgework, track formation and substantive track laying was completed by the end of financial year 2002. However, remedial track work on particular sections was required and this continued during the second half of calendar year 2002, with practical completion being issued at the end of December 2002.
In early August 2002 the Federal Group of companies purchased the rights to operate the Abt Wilderness Railway from the inaugural operator, Mr Roger Smith.
The Federal Group, following market research, renamed the railway the West Coast Wilderness Railway.
Train services over the full length of the West Coast Wilderness Railway began on 27 December 2002, with four train services running daily - two from each of Queenstown and Regatta Point, with changeover at Dubbil Barril station. The train services are cut back to one service in each direction over the winter months.
1.3. Highlights 2003/04
During the financial year to 30 June 2004, a further 61,040 passengers travelled on the railway.
The ARMC and the Federal Group signed an agreement to purchase a third Abt locomotive (Abt No. 5) and a guard's van from the Puffing Billy Railway and contracted with Saunders & Ward for the locomotive to be refurbished ahead of operation on the Railway early in 2005. The Government’s contribution to this exercise is capped at $427,000, with the remainder being made up by the Federal Group. The locomotive and the guard's van will be part of the ARMC assets leased to the West Coast Wilderness Railway.
Restoration of the locomotive shed at Regatta Point has been another cooperative effort between the ARMC and the Federal Group, with some $120,000 of the $130,000 costs being contributed by Government with some additional enhancement work paid for by the Federal Group. The facility is owned by ARMC and leased to the Operator. The work that has significantly enhanced the appearance of the building and its surroundings was completed in February 2004 and the facility has been in use since that time.
Construction of the railway made vehicle access to the Teepookana Plateau reliant upon the West Coast Wilderness Railway. Previously a number of “licensed” operators, including apiarists, Forestry Tasmania and logging contractors and some tourist operators, accessed the Plateau. The primary focus to date has been on satisfying the apiarist and Huon pine harvesting requirements. Special "roll on/roll off" ramp facilities at Lowana and Lower Landing have been completed, rail wagons modified to transport plant and equipment and satisfactory testing of the transport processes achieved during 2003/04. This work has been successful because of the cooperative approach of many, including DIER, Forestry Tasmania, West Coast Wilderness Railway and the logging and apiarist interests. Final accreditation by the Rail Safety Regulator for the freight transportation is anticipated soon.
As a result of heavy rains in August 2003 and again in June 2004, there have been a number of landslides and washouts along the length of the railway with the more serious events occurring in the steep terrain in the vicinity of Dubbil Barril.
DIER is required to manage the ARMC’s affairs and the Railway assets, including auditing of the Operator’s compliance with the terms of the lease, the asset maintenance operations and reporting to Government. There may be opportunities from to time to time for the Lessee and the Lessor to jointly contribute towards asset improvement.
The ARMC receives rental income from the lease of its assets and from a percentage of the gross revenue generated. It is estimated that this annual income could be of the order of $200,000. It is intended that any surplus funds, after deduction for management and administration costs, will be put towards the future benefit of the asset.
With the transfer of the responsibility of the ARMC to DIER, a full review of the Abt Railway assets owned by the ARMC, their condition state and valuation, began towards the end of the financial year and will continue into 2004/05. It is expected this review will be completed by the end of September 2004.
The Federal Government, through Centenary of Federation funding, has allocated a total of $20.45 million to the project and the final payment under the Grant Deed was made in January 2003.
The State Government has committed additional funding to ensure the project's completion. As at 30 June 2004 the Tasmanian Government had contributed approximately $17.412 million to the West Coast Wilderness Railway project.