THE state government is scrambling to find the money needed to save the West Coast's heritage railway, with warnings yesterday that its future must be secured in days, not months.
The tourism sector is pushing for the federal government to pay $5.8 million in upfront capital works, and the state to fund up to $4 million over the next two years to run the Abt railway while a long-term plan is worked out.
"There is a way forward here," Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania chairman Simon Currant said.
Businesses in the region are already fielding cancellations since Federal Group announced on Monday that it would cease operations on April 30.
One motel owner told a public meeting in Queenstown yesterday that he had lost $16,000 worth of business in four days.
Infrastructure Minister David O'Byrne said the government was prepared to stump up cash to save the state-owned railway, but not how much.
"There's no doubt time is of the essence," Mr O'Byrne said.
"(However), I don't want to come up with a model where again in six or nine months we're back at square one and there's the argument about the closure."
Ultimately, he said every tier of government would need to chip in and a desire from all three [tiers] to save the railway should give the region some comfort.
Braddon Labor MHR Sid Sidebottom said he couldn't make a financial commitment as any request for funding must be assessed.
"But, of course, it's important that people know [the railway] has got a future beyond that initial capital infrastructure to give people the certainty they need."
Railway workshop supervisor Chris Hibble said if key staff left, the attraction would lose safety accreditation, which could take months to get back.
"[If we leave] you are going to struggle to find someone to do what we do," he warned state ministers at the meeting.
Mr Hibble also criticised the time the government had taken to act when it should have been aware for several years that the operation was losing money.
West Coast Mayor Darryl Gerrity said the 240-strong crowd had made it clear that the region was "not something you muck about with".
He put up a motion, passed unanimously, that the state and federal governments find the emergency funds necessary to save the railway - and that a working group help figure out a long-term plan.