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THE need for rail services in Tasmania has been strongly backed by the State Government.
Infrastructure, Energy and Resources Minister Bryan Green said yesterday the Government expected the freight task to double over the next 15 years and said a rail service was needed to meet that demand.
Rail operator Pacific National has made a decision to stop Hobart-to-Burnie services unless the Commonwealth or State Government takes back the track and spends about $100 million on it. The shutdown would result in the loss of 150 jobs and bring an estimated 2000 extra trucks a week on to Tasmanian roads.
Mr Green is expected to meet Federal Minister Warren Truss this week to discuss the future of rail services.
Mr Green said he had found Pacific National's rescue plan disappointing and unreasonable.
Mr Green wants the Federal Government to buy the track via the Australian Rail Track Corporation, which owns 5681 km of track in four mainland states. This proposition was rejected by Mr Truss last week.
"Having the rails owned separate to the railway operator could well work to the benefit to customers by opening the opportunity for competition on a common rail infrastructure," Mr Green said.
Last Friday Mr Truss proposed an investigation of the railway line and its viability.
But Pacific National chief executive officer Stephen O'Donnell told The Mercury on Sunday that another study was "the last thing we need".
Mr Green said he did not know what Pacific National meant when it said that it had had endless discussions with Government.
"I have had only two previous meetings with the company," he said.
However, industry sources say five major consultancies worth $217,000 were done on railways in the 2004-05 year.
The Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry yesterday called on the Federal and State Governments to forget the blame game and address the issue.
"The State Government has been aware of this impending situation for some time now and the Commonwealth has a clear responsibility to Tasmania when it comes to transport-related issues," chief executive Damon Thomas said.
Major industries would be threatened and investment jeopardised if rail services ceased, he said.
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