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THE Derwent Valley Council will consider leasing disused railway tracks in an effort to resurrect a tourist train in the region.
At a special council meeting on Monday night, the council ramped up its support for the Derwent Valley Railway by voting unanimously in favour of a raft of recommendations.
DVR secretary Owen Andrews, who attended the meeting, described the decision as a “real turning point”.
“For them to reaffirm their support with a unanimous vote, they’ve made it very clear that they are 100 per cent behind this project,” he said.
The DVR wants to re-establish 42km of disused tracks for a tourist railway between New Norfolk and Mt Field National Park.
The railway has been struggling for more than a decade to gain permission to run on the Derwent Valley Line, which is only used by freight trains between Boyer and Bridgewater.
Mr Andrews believes the railway will bring thousands of tourists to the region and give them a reason to stay longer.
A volunteer guards the Valleyfield level crossing as a Derwent Valley Railway locomotive heads to Hayes in 2000.“We’re talking about revitalising the valley at the end of the day, we’re talking about creating jobs and economic prosperity, drawing people to the region,” he said.
“The council also voted to give us some support in overcoming the ongoing issue of access to the Derwent Valley Line, which has been probably our biggest hurdle.
“With their support, and working with the State Government, we believe there’s a real chance of overcoming that issue and moving that along quickly now.”
A train warning sign near Westerway, just outside of Mt Field National Park.The council also decided to consider setting aside $75,000 in its 2017-18 budget for the purposes of negotiating the lease.
It will work with DVR to pursue funding from the state and federal governments, and advise Infrastructure Minister Rene Hidding that it is prepared to consider entering into a lease with the crown for the purposes of tourism railway.
Derwent Valley Mayor Martyn Evans said the council’s decision would allow it to investigate the finer points of getting the project off the ground.
“This gives us an opportunity now to actually seek the information and clarity around what a lease could mean, what the implications in cost [are], what sort of buy-in it would have to be, or what sort of negotiation could we do with the State Government,” he said.
“It’s going to be a world-class experience if we can get through this phase, so we just need to understand what the implications are.”
The council resolved in 2015 to support a request from DVR to help it obtain a licence or lease from the State Government and Tasrail for the railway line from Boyer to National Park.
Derek Jones, of Derwent Valley Railway, with the group’s business plan back in 2015. Picture: ROGER LOVELL
This article first appeared on www.themercury.com.au
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