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Fiji Time: 11:02 AM on Thursday 17 April

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Rails for hire

Felix Chaudhary
Saturday, November 24, 2012

GOVERNMENT will be presented with a proposal for the sugar industry's rail network to be used for transport and tourism purposes during the off-season.

Sugar industry stakeholders have been discussing the idea with a view to maximising the value of this infrastructure.

Fiji Sugar Corporation executive chairman Abdul Khan said the use of the rail network would generate revenue and reduce maintenance costs.

"We have the opportunity to use a delivery system that's only used six months in a year for other uses," Mr Khan said.

"The rail system could quite easily become a people mover and also provide a unique opportunity to tap into tourist transportation by adding another dimension to how offshore visitors experience the beautiful Fijian countryside,"

Mr Khan said using the rail network could also reduce congestion on the roads for six months in a year at great benefit to the country.

"Should the rail system be used for transportation, this would not only reduce congestion on our roads but also reduce the impact on the environment," he said.

Previously the FSC, under the stewardship of former CEO John Prasad, had planned to shut down significant portions of the rail network system based on recommendations from the Deloitte Report, a comprehensive study of the sugar industry conducted in 2010.

However, in an earlier interview with this newspaper, Mr Khan revealed his intentions of rehabilitating the network and increasing the percentage of cane transported by rail from next season.

"It is a well known fact that less maintenance is required if the rail system is continually used.

"During the six months that the system is idle is when issues arise and as a result a significant amount of maintenance is required prior to the start of crushing," he said.