Law changes could close Illawarra railway museum

BLI BLI <alcogoodwin@...>

11/06/2008 3:34:00 PM
A 29-year-old tourist attraction popular with families will be forced to close if the State Government pushes ahead with new legislation on rail safety.

Volunteers from the Illawarra Light Railway Museum, who run regular steam and diesel train rides at Albion Park, say the proposed laws would mean their trains would be assessed to the same safety standards as trains on the CityRail network.

Given the Albion Park trains run on their own 500m loop at about 14km/h on a slim 610mm track, the not-for-profit organisation believes the safety standards they have applied for almost 30 years - without any major incidents - are more than adequate.

But in the wake of the Waterfall train disaster the Government is pushing ahead with tough new safety measures that - unlike the national standard - don't have a clause which provides concessions for railways "totally within a theme or amusement park which does not cross a public road".

The museum's founder and operations manager, Tony Madden, said the attraction would not be able to afford to stay open if the proposed laws were passed.

Only miniature trains have been running since March as volunteers - most of whom are retired men - work to improve the larger trains and tracks to satisfy the regulator.

The drivers would have to undergo thorough medical tests and the vehicles and tracks would have to match up to the same standards as trains which carry commuters on CityRail.

A Transport Department spokesman said:

"To protect passengers, volunteers and the general public Independent Transport Safety and Reliability Regulator safety standards already apply to the larger heritage rail operators and it is our intention for these standards to apply to all operators, regardless of size."

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