THE mystery of the Great South Pacific Express was solved yesterday when carriages from the luxury train surfaced from the North Ipswich Railway Workshops and were loaded onto trucks.
The $35 million tourist train project has been parked and left in storage at North Ipswich since it was sold for an undisclosed amount in 2005 to the London-based Orient Express Hotels, now Belmond Ltd. They jointly operated the train with Queensland Rail from the project's beginnings in 1996.
The Great South Pacific Express' 21 carriages were built at QR's Townsville workshops.
The luxury tourist train ceased to operate in 2003 after running up losses of about $12 million over four years. The losses followed the downturn in international travel after September 11.
It operated between Kuranda near Cairns and Sydney from 1999.
A Queensland Rail spokeswoman said Belmond had advised the carriages of the GSPE would be transferred to Peru where Belmond operates PeruRail, 50-50 joint venture with Peruvian investors.
"This includes Belmond Hiram Bingham - the luxury day train that takes guests on the scenic journey between Cusco and Machu Picchu," she said. "Belmond have advised Queensland Rail that they are now looking at opportunities to restore the carriages and re-launch the train."
Queensland Rail has leased space at the Ipswich Workshops to Belmond, where they have remained stabled and protected.
Member for Ipswich West Jim Madden said he was pleased to see the carriages return to service.
"While this is a sad event for those familiar with the carriages, it is good to see that they will be put back into service and enjoyed by train travellers in Peru," Mr Madden said.
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