Continued Progress on West Coast Wilderness Railway Thu 14 March 2013 David O'Byrne Minister for Infrastructure The Infrastructure Minister, David O'Byrne, today welcomed progress in discussions to help save the West Coast Wilderness Railway. "The State Government's good faith negotiations with the Federal Group are progressing well," Mr O'Byrne said. "I'm encouraged by progress, and we're hopeful of finalising a sustainable business model as soon as possible. "While there's been much focus on trains and rails, we're acutely aware of the human impact of this issue, and the livelihoods involved. "The cross-agency team's been working closely with the Federal Group. Retaining key staff has always been a priority. "The team's also making sure ownership can be transferred quickly and smoothly - to save transition time if an operator's found," he said. At this stage, the Government's hoping to release an Expression of Interest for a new railway operator after Easter. If an operator's found, all parties have agreed the service will still need to be temporarily suspended over winter, while major capital improvements are made. "We've accepted advice that a winter suspension is necessary and makes sense," Mr O'Byrne said. "That's not an unusual situation. The operation's been routinely suspended for maintenance at various times in recent history. "As we've regularly said, the railway needs about $6 million worth of initial capital upgrades to make it viable and sustainable. That's a big task. "The Federal Government has now offered that funding. If an operator and sustainable business model can be found, the upgrades need to happen as quickly as possible, to minimise disruption for staff and local businesses. "All parties to the discussions have agreed that suspending the service during this year's quieter winter months is necessary and makes sense. "West Coast businesses and the tourism industry can be assured the Government's committed to seeing the railway operating in the next tourist season. "In case a new operator can't be found immediately, the Government's continuing to investigate possible interim arrangements to ensure the railway keeps operating," he said.