Lithgow councillors voted to deem bushfire damage to the heritage Zig Zag Railway, as a matter of great urgency at Council's extraordinary meeting on Monday night, January 13.
The recent Gospers Mountain mega fire caused severe damage to the Zig Zag Railway including vandalised carriages, toilet block, storage areas, communications hut, signalling equipment, water and power supplies, and damage to the main office with records from the past 45 years destroyed.
Council's decision came after former Lithgow City councillor Martin Ticehurst, spoke in public forum and put forward a recommendation that "Council make urgent representations to Bathurst MP Paul Toole to request the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, undertake negotiations with the Zig Zag Railway on an 'interim basis' to take over the whole of the Heritage Railway site."
In recent weeks Prime Minister Scott Morrison, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet announced a total of $3 billion dollars in federal and state funding for areas impacted by this season's bushfires, including railway lines.
Mr Ticehurst suggested that legal site owners, the State Government Department of Planning and Infrastructure, undertake a full restoration of the heritage site and once fully completed hand it back over to the volunteers.
"Once fully completed, it can be handed back to the volunteers to resume full rail public passenger operations," Mr Ticehurst said.
He said the job was not for volunteers and there was a need for the Government to step in and project manage the site.
"It is not for the Zig Zag Railway to replace what is there, it's owned by the Government.
"I think it's appropriate that the Council jump on this opportunity.. All the efforts that volunteers try and do will not work unless someone comes in, like the State Government and takes it over, fixes it up and hands it back to them," he said.
According to Mr Ticehurst, the Zig Zag Railway ceased its operations seven and-a-half years ago due to more than 150 safety management problems and struggles to maintain its rolling stock.
Fifteen months later it was severely damaged by the State Mine fire which commenced out of the Marrangaroo Army Base.
"We did have an extraordinary meeting seven and-a-half years ago to save the Zig Zag Railway.
"My point is, if we don't take this opportunity - seven and-a-half years or 70 years, that railway is never, ever going to return out of the volunteers of the Zig Zag Railway, sadly," Mr Ticehurst said.
He said it would also be great to see tourist numbers increase and boost the economy again.
"Prior to closing the Zig Zag Railway attracted 60,000 tourists each year. It's vital that we get this facility back on the rails for local tourism as soon as possible," he said.
Lithgow councillor Joe Smith commended Mr Ticehurst on his notion and deemed it as a matter of great urgency.
"If the NSW Government doesn't get on board with this we might never see it open again.
"They need help and they need it desperately. They don't just need money, they need labour to get it done," he said.
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