JUST what was behind the shock closure of Lithgow’s most popular tourist attraction, the Zig Zag Railway?
Two weeks after the government agency the Independent Transport Safety Regulator (ITSR) pulled the plug a veil of secrecy has been pulled tight around the situation.
And thousands of supporters of Zig Zag around the world and the million or so tourists who have ridden the heritage trains over the years are left wondering what it is all about.
ITSR is not saying.
When the shut down order came into effect after the last run of the day on June 17 ITSR’s official public notification was that operational safety concerns had forced the drastic action.
The authority said that 150 safety issues had been identified but did not elaborate on what these ‘safety issues’ were.
The Zig Zag Railway management claimed that most of the complaints related to inadequate paperwork.
“We can get plenty of volunteers to drive the trains and do the trackwork but no one wants to volunteer to spend time in the office,” acting general manager Michael Forbes told the Mercury.
This week the Mercury requested information from ITSR on specifics of the complaints.
The fact the complaints came after 35 years of safe operation at Zig Zag had led to concerns being aired in some quarters that the railway was being ‘white anted’ by disgruntled former members.
But ITSR is invoking confidentiality requirements in refusing to release any details.
Acting Media and Communications Manager Geraldine Star said the requested specific information had been provided to the Zig Zag Railway on a confidential basis.
“ITSR is therefore unable to release this level of detailed information,” she said.
Ms Star said Zig Zag has been offered assistance by Transport For NSW to address the ‘safety deficiencies’.
She said a meeting between ITSR and the independent advisor appointed to assist by that government agency was scheduled for yesterday.
Minister for Transport Gladys Berejiklian sent a shiver through local tourism interests last week when she glumly foreshadowed that ‘Zig Zag’s problems may prove to be insurmountable’.
If that were the case it would be a disaster for regional tourism.
Cr Ticehurst and Cr Joe McGinnes have called for council to hold another extraordinary meeting to resolve to hold an urgent public summit of stakeholders.
It is unlikely, however, that such a meeting would achieve a great deal until the issues are known.
And at present no one is saying just what they are.