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Cowra Lines tender fails to find private operator

13 May 2015

AUSTRALIA: The government of New South Wales has been unsuccessful in its attempt to find a private operator to revive the dormant Cowra Lines for freight services, New South Wales Minister for Roads, Maritime & Freight Duncan Gay has announced.

The 200 km Cowra Lines running from Blayney to Harden with a branch from Koorawatha to Greenethorpe were closed in 2007-09, owing to safety concerns and low freight volumes.

In March 2014 the state launched an open tender for a fixed-term concession to rehabilitate, operate and maintain the lines. Bids were received from Australian Rail Partners and Cowra Rail Co, and a preferred bidder was selected. However, the tender panel and independent experts undertook a detailed review of the two bidders’ business cases, technical ability, financial backing and capacity to manage operational risks, and concluded that neither bidder was able to ‘sufficiently demonstrate they could manage the lines on a commercially sustainable basis’ within an acceptable level of risk.

An estimated A$30m would be needed to rehabilitate the lines, with ongoing maintenance costs of A$2m a year.

‘The tender process revealed there was too much uncertainty in the ability of the tenderers to return the lines to full service and run a commercially sustainable business without significant taxpayer support’, said Gay on May 8. However, the process ‘generated market interest and provided valuable information that may assist in bringing the lines back into operation at some point in the future’.