My apologies for the delays in getting back to RP responses (a friend pointed out last week that he missed my updates and that it is over two months since I last updated RP). I have been both away on holidays (touring Queensland) and on some work for ZZR which has kept me busy and away from my desk and giving an update.
There is a lot happening in the background but very little of it is obvious on the surface, and yes, things move very slowly when dealing with insurance companies and governments. Progress has been slow but sure.
We have been visited by or contacted directly by many of those who move in political circles.
Our Local Federal member for the seat of Calare, John Cobb (we sit right on its eastern boundary) visited the site and undertook to address our issues into relevant areas, even telling Federal parliament about our predicament on November 20 last year;One business which had a particularly tough time was the iconic Zig Zag Railway, which was hard hit by the bushfire that started at Marrangaroo. I visited the site recently and saw firsthand the damage they are facing, which is particularly devastating as they were not far away from relaunching what is really the only major tourist attraction in the area. The damage has ruined any hope the tourist railway had of restarting in the near future. To put the iconic Zig Zag Railway back on track will take a lot of hard work. They will need the help of others to recover from their losses, and they would love to hear from anyone who could help with equipment and heavy machinery.
He went on to state that "regional tourism suffered losses of up to $2 million a day during and in the wake of the bushfires......and visitor expenditure levels of four million visitors and $550 million a year"
These are substantial losses in the tourism industry of the Blue Mountains and the value of losses which are still being experienced to the present. Easter is not looking any brighter!
Since I last reported here, we were visited by the Mayor of Lithgow, Maree Statham and senior local officials. This resulted in our local Lithgow council providing very appreciable assistance in kind (and the kind that we need).
Our local state member: Paul Toole (State Member for Bathurst) has visited and taken a keen interest in our situation.
Michael Duffy, the Chief of Staff for the State Minister for Environment and Heritage (Robyn Parker) who was very diligent in gaining an understanding of the issues we face in getting running again.
So politically speaking, the wheels are getting a real 'oiling' but, like anything in politics, just how much of this lubrication eventuates into real wheel turning remains to be seen.
Earlier in this thread I reported upon work that we had done to overhaul our two way radio system to meet the latest ACMA requirements. All this work came undone in the October bushfire, when the wooden pole of our radio tower fell victim to the flames.
We are now engaging with suppliers for a complete new radio system and this time will use a steel tower as wooden towers are too vulnerable.
Our private insurance assessors have estimated that to repair the damage to the shed and repair its contents to be approximatley $1.2 million, but of course that is not the amount that they have settled with us.
This has concluded direct negotiations with our private insurer and now we begin the process of recovering the difference, but, also, in the meantime it allows us to begin the task of engaging the services of the appropriate companies that can make good the shed damage. We have had offers of donations of second hand machine tools and workshop equipment, as well as persuing second hand equipment sales.
The ADF have appointed an assessor and negotiations with that assessor are now under way
An assessment of the full length of the track has revealed that the total number of sleepers damaged in some way by the bushfire is a total of some 1,050 sleepers. We are getting quotes from rail contractors for the rehabilitation of the track. We are able to replace fire damaged sleepers in the Edgecombe siding with some good second hand sleepers that will be delivered shortly.
RAAF Glenbrook will then be turning up at the end of the month to help repair this siding. Getting the RAAF to lay railway track is going to be an interesting sight!!!!
Scrap theives have revisited the railway in January and some pro-active strategies and processes that we had previously put in place kicked in, progressing to a police matter, and one to which I cannot comment any further. Suffice to say that we are still an accredited railway and interference, or damage to rail safety infrastructure is a breach of the Rail Safety Act which can incurr large fines and possible jail terms. Again, take note.
But, just as it is depressing to hear of looting from our misfortunes, there are many more stories of heartwarming generosity.
Just as we were disappointed to find that individual lever name plates were missing from our Top Points Signal frame, a member of the public read of our plight and donated some that his deceased father had been given on the simultaneous retirement from the railways of both his father and one of the signal boxes he worked. Also donated was the pulling diagram of that frame.
Thank you to that donor.
Similarly, we have have had some generous offers of personal and financial help, some that we cannot disclose as yet, but I would like to make particular mention of appreciable amounts raised by:
Perthville’s Bridge Hotel who kicked off a fundraising function (thanks boys).
The ATRQ (Association of Tourist Railways Queensland) who took up a (not insignificant) collection at their meeting last year.
The slogan on their webpage reads "Rail Heritage for All". Their donation for us down in NSW adds real meaning to this catch-cry! So a special thanks to our Queensland brothers.
Help comes along in interesting ways and from some interesting circles. Recently I was contacted by the Bathurst Historic Car Club, offering their services in any way that we could use them. This very generous offer from a neighbouring town from an unrelated interest group had us thinking how could they help us. It wasn't long before we realised that the answer was right in front of us. We offered them the overhaul/repair of one of our fire damaged (petrol powered)Comeng Section cars and when one of their respresentatives turned up to do some "tyre kicking" (his words not mine) to check it out, I had to point out that a very sore foot could ensue from such activities. They are very enthusiastic at this stage and we await their decision on whether to permit such a foreign wheeled vehicle into their hallowed workshop.
There are also some individual offers of help and we are assessing these and contacting the individuals as we reach those processing points.
A particular group that has been formed and one to which we are grateful for is assistance provided by volunteers from within the Railway Signalling industry that have offered to help us rebuild our damaged signalling infrastructure.
I am very pleased with the skill level that has been assembled and the emphaisis here is on teamwork and I am very positive about getting our signalling infrastructure back up on a solid footing in the immediate future.
Sydney trains have put in a ballast crossing which enabled them to clear the rubble from the Bottom Points drains. This crossing will also enable us to now have the depot area cleared of the damaged, bent and buckled vehicle frames within the next month or so.
Then begins the next task of recovering space in our depot.
As I said, not a lot of visible activity, but lot going on in the background.
Now that I am back at my desk, I will provide more frequent updates.