NOT AGAIN: Rattler start date faces 1000 hurdles
THE Mary Valley Rattler's already troubled and delayed return has been pushed back again with at least 1000 sleepers still needing to be replaced on the track.
While Gympie Regional Council had hoped to have trains testing the line last week, the need for more work on the line has derailed those plans.
It may also have scuttled hopes the Rattler could be up and running by mid-July, with a council spokeswoman saying no return date has been confirmed by either the council or the Rattler Railway Company.
The extra sleepers must be installed before the rail safety regulator will sign off on the track's safety.
Until that happens no trains can be run on the line, and no load testing can be done.
The council spokeswoman said the extra sleepers would not impact the Rattler's current budget which sits at $17.5 million.
"This work was budgeted for within the 2018/19 financial year, with the works now brought forward,” she said.
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"As this was programmed, it does not require additional funding.
"The work is required for compliance and will now not need to be delivered in the 2018/19 financial year.
"The testing will occur once the additional sleepers have been placed. Sleepers are due to arrive on site next week, with installation following.”
Work on the line should be the last step in getting the Rattler back on track, with the bridges and structures all completed and certified.
RRC vice-chairman Garry Davison said all track work was still the responsibility of the council and contractors CR Rail, and that the track would not be handed over to the RRC until it was "fit for purpose”.
The delay is the latest in a series of problems that have plagued the tourist train's return, which has been pushed back three times in the past year.
Originally scheduled to pull into the station on December 2 last year, the return date was first shifted to Easter 2018 and then again to Mid-June, 2018.
The delays coincided with cost blowouts on the project which drove the budget from $10.8 million to $12.5 million, then $14.5 million and finally the expected $17.5 million.
After the last blowout in April, Gympie MP Tony Perrett called for the State Government to conduct an audit into the project.
Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said Mr Perrett should direct questions over "further information on how the council intends to deliver the project” to Mayor Mick Curran.
Frustrations over the project are not restricted to the Gympie MP either.
A disgruntled customer contacted The Gympie Times office yesterday after they were unable to book a ticket on the Rattler's first return trip.
While eager for the train's return, they said they were annoyed no ticket prices were being promoted and that staff could not say when that trip would be.