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Hello everyone from the wilds of Central Burma!
It has been the most frequently asked question from tourists in the area this summer when is the Zig Zag Railway reopening?
The world famous but beleaguered tourist attraction has faced countless trials and tribulations since operations were disrupted for regulatory upgrades in June 2012.
The closure was meant to be maintained until safety issues identified by the Independent Transport Safety Regular were addressed. But mother nature had different ideas.
Floods, fires, and multiple insurance claims later, is there now light at the end of the tunnel?
Zig Zag Railway representative James Windsor believes so.
"We have had hold-ups receiving insurance money following flood damage," he said.
Flash flooding from heavy downpours in February and March 2013 caused major damage throughout the Zig Zag reserve, including a landslip near the Clarence Tunnel.
Although there is no definitive timeframe within which the railway is set to reopen, members of the Zig Zag Railway Co-Op are working as hard as possible to ensure that the wait is minimised.
Estimates given for getting an engine back on the tracks range from six to 12 months.
A four-step plan of action has been put in place which is hoped to produce the desired end result - the resumption of passenger service. The four points are accreditation, train, track and training.
When the accreditation is restored, and work on the trains and tracks complete, training of staff can then commence.
If there is a symbol for the issues facing the Zig Zag Railway, it must surely be the total devastation of a workshop during the fire of October 2013.
Even though the Defence Department has accepted liability and promised compensation, the destruction of this central hub has meant that repair and restoration work has been severely hampered, essentially coming to a standstill as the focus shifted to the clean-up effort.
Combined with ongoing issues surrounding various compensation claims and the constant incidents of vandalism and theft, mother nature was certainly not the only foe with which the Zig Zag Railway was forced to do battle.
"People have been known to get off the train at Zig Zag Bell, do a bunch of graffiti vandalism and then catch the next train back to the Blue Mountains," said the railway's Michael Forbes.
With interest in the tourist attraction increasing every day, the question of what exactly it is the railway needs is an increasingly common one.
The simple answer is money. With almost all the revenue coming from ticket sales, the pickings are becoming incredibly slim.
Memberships and donations do provide a minimal income but the reality remains that without the money from their insurance claims there is very little that can be done.
There is good news, however, with anticipation that one of the remaining steam engines will soon be ready to test on the tracks.
To donate, visit http://www.zigzagrailway.com.au.
This article first appeared on www.bluemountainsgazette.com.au
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