A renewed push to get the dormant Barossa Wine Train back on the rails is a step closer to realising its ambition.
The prospective operators, headed by regional radio station 5MU announcer Barry Martin, have an option to buy the three Bluebird rail cars, which used to ferry passengers from Adelaide to Tanunda for winery tours.
The major sticking point has been gaining access to the track – but, after inquiries from InDaily, the track’s owner Genesee & Wyoming Australia has now expressed a willingness to consider the proposal.
The wine train operated for more than four years from 1998, but the operation ceased in 2003, and the trains were sold to tourism entrepreneur Bob Foord, and later to Chateau Tanunda owner John Geber, who has held onto them in the hope of reinstating them to the region’s tourism landscape.
Martin was part of the original operation, and is determined to see the venture reincarnated.
“There’s no problem about the money, it’s not a lot of money to get the trains up again … they can run on the smell of an oily rag,” he said.
“We have a business plan – all we need now is track access.”
Genesee & Wyoming Australia owns the broad gauge line that was most recently used to transport limestone from the Penrice quarry in Angaston to its now-defunct soda ash plant in Osborne.
It ceased operation last year.
Martin said his previous approaches to GWA had been rebuffed, and that the company “said ‘we don’t want passengers on our line’”.
“Their easiest option is to say ‘no’, but we won’t take that, because the track is owned by South Australians,” he said.
But GWA’s managing director Greg Pauline sent a statement to InDaily indicating the company was willing to talk.
“We received an approach several months ago. We haven’t had any follow up since then but assuming it’s commercially viable and their rolling-stock meets safety and maintenance standards to work on our tracks, we’d be more than happy to have further discussions with them about the concept.”
InDaily has seen a business plan that estimates regional revenue potential of $56,520 per trip.
It says the enterprise aims to target conference and cruise ship visitors – “with operators desperate for day outings to The Barossa” – with targeted day trips between $80 and $300 per person.
It will also seek to capitalise on major events such as Barossa Under the Stars, A Day on the Green, the Barossa Vintage Festival and Gourmet Week.
It lists the benefits as a “unique marketing opportunity for the region (and) an opportunity to be on par with some of the most famous rail car experiences in the world, such as the Napa Valley Wine Train”.
“No other tourism train in the world leaves from the city centre and goes directly to a major world viticultural centre,” the presentation notes.
The revamped rail cars would depart from Adelaide Railway Station, with “a relaxing 80 minute journey” ferrying passengers through “picturesque rural landscapes in luxurious comfort to the heart of the Barossa”.
Martin says the venture would run three days a week, “probably Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday … we’ve left Saturday out because Saturday’s good for weddings up there, and we can do special trips”.
Wine labels will be invited to sponsor a carriage, and “we’ll only carry your wine in that car”.
“Winemakers are absolutely braying for it,” Martin insisted.
Tourism Minister Leon Bignell told InDaily from Hong Kong: “If the private sector has the money to reinstate the Barossa Wine Train it would be a great addition to the local area.”
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