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Friday, February 03, 2006

Pressure on to fix rail woes

The Mercury: Pressure on to fix rail woes [04feb06]

NEGOTIATIONS aimed at resolving a problem surrounding the future of Tasmanian rail operations will continue in Melbourne over the weekend.

Pacific National, State Government officials and the Australian Rail Track Corporation began negotiations yesterday.

The ARTC has been called upon by the State Government to recommend the fees Pacific National should pay for access to the state's rail lines, if PN hands back its 45-year lease on the track.

The resolution of the access fees would enable Pacific National Tasmania managers to make a recommendation to the next PN board meeting scheduled for February 21.

The Federal and State Government's have pledged about $80 million over 10 years for track maintenance, if PN invests $38 million in locomotives and rolling stock.

"At present, ARTC is negotiating with Pacific National all weekend on behalf of the Tasmanian Government," ARTC chief executive David Marchant said.

"They are in negotiation on the total of the package, including maintenance and capital contribution."

PN Tasmania chief executive Neil MacKinnon said it was hoped a resolution could be reached by the middle of next week.

The negotiations have come against a background of corporate turmoil between PN 's joint-venture partners Toll Holdings and Patrick Corporation.

Patrick has applied to the Federal Court to break up the joint venture.

Meanwhile, Toll Holdings has been in a standoff with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission over legal aspects of its $4.6 billion takeover bid for Patrick.

The negotiations come during a week in which PN told staff it would have to cancel two trains because of problems with traction motors in locomotives.


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