THE federal government won't throw money at the West Coast Wilderness Railway only to watch it fail again, Federal Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson has said.
The future of the heritage railway hinges on the state and local governments convincing the federal government to fork out $5.8 million needed in urgent repairs.
In Hobart yesterday, Mr Ferguson said he would not contribute the money without a persuasive business case.
"You have got to examine why, despite previous state and commonwealth investment, the railway is still challenged from a business perspective," he said.
"There has got to be a business case, which effectively means if you prop it up now it's self-sustaining within a very short period."
Mr Ferguson said the Abt railway had disappointed as the solution to the West Coast's tourism woes, and "no one" was prepared to write a cheque to fix it without a guarantee.
"Taxpayer's money is scarce, it has got to be well- spent," he said.
West Coast Mayor Darryl Gerrity said Mr Ferguson should stop talking about the business case and actually travel on the railway before making his decision.
"It is a cop out [to talk about a business case]," Cr Gerrity said.
Cr Gerrity said the railway had attracted 40,000 visitors a year in the past, and was vital to the West Cost economy.
Coalition tourism spokesman Bob Baldwin urged the federal government to commit the $5.8 million.
"I want to see it stay and grow," Mr Baldwin said.
State Tourism Minister Scott Bacon said the state government would not contribute to the up-front capital costs, but was "willing to make our contribution" to ongoing costs.