A LIGHT is shining on the West Coast community and the future of the Abt Railway's accreditation after an announcement that 29 railway staff will retain their jobs.
Completed negotiations between the state government and the Federal Group have led to the transfer of key staff and assets to the government-owned Abt Railway Corporation.
Infrastructure minister David O'Byrne said the action was a step towards finalising a sustainable business model to attract private investors.
West Coast Mayor Darryl Gerrity was confident that it would bring comfort to the affected employees and wider West Coast community.
Staff identified as integral to the heritage railway operations will be employed temporarily by the government after Federal Group's withdrawal date of April 30.
It is understood that the employment is for six months, or until another operator is found.
A further 12 permanent and casual staff will lose their jobs after that date.
Mr O'Byrne said a business deal ``on the table'', complete with secured staff and assets, could help attract potential private operators.
He said the government would call for formal expressions of interest after Easter.
``The Labor governments, both state and federal, have worked together to make sure we can provide the community with a strong future with the railway intact,'' Mr O'Byrne said.
``We needed to go through those commercial negotiations about assets and staff so we could present something to the private sector, so they could make an informed decision.''
Mr O'Bryne said there would be some additional costs associated with the transfer of the assets.
He said these costs would be paid by the state government, but were within the budgeted $1.5 million.
Cr Gerrity said it would bring relief to the West Coast community.
``There has been some disquiet because no one knew what was happening, but the government's announcement has put to rest a lot of rumours and the staff now know that there is a future with the Abt Railway,'' Cr Gerrity said.
``When you lose that many people there is a domino effect, so you not only lose railway staff but you could lose a shop assistant, a shopkeeper, a school teacher, a nurse. There is a great relief that they are being kept on.''
Cr Gerrity said he was confident that an operator would be found.
He said that if a new private operator could not be found, there were fall-back options.
``The Abt Railway ministerial corporation could run it, TasRail could run it . . .or like Port Arthur we could have an Abt Railway authority,'' he said.
Federal Group chief executive Daniel Hanna said it was a welcome outcome.
``It keeps a lot of the skilled team on the West Coast railway together, and will make it a lot easier for a transition to the new operator,'' Mr Hanna said.