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Maitland Steamfest Victim of 3801 Change of Operator?

Friends of Eveleigh have issued the following statement concerning media reports about financial troubles at Steamfest which result from the change of operator of steam locomotive 3801.

3801 Limited in the past has supported the Maitland Steamfest by charging a break even payment. Last year this price was around $35,000. Now that the locomotive 3801 has been taken by the Rail Transport Museum at Thirlmere, Maitland Steamfest has now got to be supported by $50,000 of taxpayers money approved by the Minister for Transport, Mr. John Watkins and approved just before the election and in what is a swinging seat.

Is it correct that the Rail Transport Museum has quoted Steamfest at least double the cost charged by 3801 Limited for the previous year?

Will the Rail Transport Museum be running any Steamfest services from Central Station?

If not, you can jump on a heritage 44 class diesel hauled service run by 3801 Limited to Steamfest.

With costs escalating over 100% and the extra costs to taxpayers, it shows that The Large Erecting shop at Eveleigh must be kept as a working and static museum and a base for heritage locomotive operators for this great City of Sydney.

The following article from the Maitland Mercury of Wednesday 7th March 2007 contains details of the financial problem facing Steamfest:

The Grant puts Steamfest on track

Maitland's premier festival of steam was at risk from increasing costs associated with the event, it was revealed yesterday.

Maitland City Council general manager David Evans said skyrocketing charges to bring steam engines to the city had threatened the award-winning event, held annually for the past 20 years.

But a $50,000 lifeline from the State Government will ensure this year's Steamfest, scheduled for April, will go ahead.

Transport minister John Watkins indicated he would allow the council to draw on $50,000 in interest accrued on a $1 million grant awarded to the city last year to find a long-term home for Steamfest and the Maitland Heritage Steam Park.

Retiring Maitland MP John Price said RailCorp was also prepared to forego rail access fees of $5500 for the event.

Tickets are already on sale for a range of steam-powered journeys across the Hunter, including a kids' party train and a dinner train.

"The (increasing costs of the event) principally related to the steam locomotives and passenger carriages that are a fundamental part of the Steamfest experience and had the potential of making the event unviable," Mr Evans said.

"Prior to the State Government's offer in regard to funding, the council was confronted with significant challenges in relation to its ability to deliver the event within budget and at a level the community and visitors have come to expect.

"The future of Steamfest 2007 now seems assured."

Mr Price said under normal circumstances, any interest on grant funds could not be used for any other purpose but the project for which it was intended.