Lithgow’s premier tourist attraction, the Zig Zag Railway in Clarence, suddenly closed last week and could be off the rails for months after its board received a notice on June 4 to cease operations from the Independent Transport Safety Regulator (ITSR) on safety grounds.
The notice revealed earlier on-site inspections on behalf of ITSR identified more than 100 safety deficiencies in the running and maintenance of Zig Zag and the attraction was required to shut down by June 17 until regulatory requirements could be satisfactorily met and out-of-date internal management, maintenance and safety systems revised.
The tourist attraction’s management decided to close down immediately rather than wait a fortnight or appeal the decision.
An ITSR spokesperson confirmed to The Lithgow Mercury on June 7 the regulatory body did not consider there was an immediate threat to safety at the attraction but action had been forced by “systemic and management difficulties”.
Lithgow City Council was informed of the sudden closure an hour before its council meeting on June 4, with Lithgow mayor Neville Castle describing the news as a big shock.
A statement on the Zig Zag Railway’s website stressed the intensive daily running schedule of the tourist attraction’s steam and diesel trains on the heritage tracks and a shortage of skilled people were taking its toll and management is currently developing a new set of procedures to ensure the attraction returns in a position to offer a wider range of services.
NSW Transport Minister Glady Berejiklian announced on June 6 an offer to provide the Zig Zag Railway’s management with the advice, expertise and assistance it needs to update its operational systems to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.
BMLOT chairman Randall Walker told the Gazette on Wednesday the Zig Zag Railway had been an iconic attraction for our region and deserved to continue.
“We stand with Lithgow City Council, Lithgow Tourism, Destination NSW, state and federal members of parliament and the board of Zig Zag Railway under chairman Larry Zanker to do all we can to support efforts to keep Zig Zag Railway operational,” Mr Walker said.