Crisis talks over Asciano's future in Tasmania

Pacific National's decision to scrap Tasmanian rail services sparks angry response and paves the way for spiteful meeting with government

Pacific National’s decision to scrap rail services in Tasmania has sparked an angry response from the state’s government and paved the way for a spiteful meeting next week.

Minister for Infrastructure Graeme Sturges yesterday requested a meeting with the Asciano-owned Pacific National after it announced plans to suspend freight services on the Melba line due to a failure in negotiations with the Tasmanian Ports Corporation (TasPorts).

The company will stop carting minerals from the end of June, claiming the contract at the port cannot be renewed.

But Sturges has rejected the assertion, saying Pacific National’s claim "simply does not stack up".

"TasPorts has offered the company a 12-month extension to this lease just last week, and has yet to have any response from the company," Sturges says.

"It was only in February that Asciano wrote to the State Government flagging a smooth and orderly exit from Tasmania by June 2010."

Sturges is to meet with Pacific National representatives next week, and says the Government is committed to long-term freight rail in Tasmania.

"The State Government has received no notification from rail operator Pacific National about plans…to cease statewide services at the end of this month," Sturges says.

Sturges says the Government is continuing to work according to Pacific National's intended 2010 withdrawal date and is investing record amounts of money in Tasmania's rail lines.

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