• Australian Rail Travel Thoughts (From One Who Has Never Been)

  • Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of North America.
Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of North America.

Moderators: Komachi, David Benton

  by Gilbert B Norman
 
First, allow me to note, I've never been to Australia in this life, and approaching age 79, and with COVID placing life as most of us know it on hold for easily another year and maybe even two, it is not likely I ever will. This even considering I have a Niece who resides permanently in Sydney NSW.

But when I was considering a trip down there, I did look at the NSW Train Link and a possible side trip to Melbourne. It appeared that the State Operated service appeared as excited to promote their intercity services to both Brisbane and Melbourne as Amtrak is to promote their LD's.

Reviewing YouTube videos of these trains, they don't look like anything on which to enjoy an experiential journey. If you want such in Australia, you need go to the private sector "Luxotrains" - and their AU$1200 a day fares. I further understand that the Sydney to Brisbane "Night Train" arrives somewhere out of town at 3AM - and it's "all out" and on to a bus to get to Downtown Brisbane.

While there is Sleeping Car service, you cannot book such on-line, and it's back to the old way of just pick up the phone and maybe you get lucky.

So any comment, anyone - especially from those for whom Australian rail travel is a "been there done that"?
  by RRspatch
 
Like you I've never been to Australia but as a railfan/retired railroader I try to keep up on news and information from around the world. One of the forums I visit is Railpage Australia. I visit this site once a week to keep up on news from down under.

https://www.railpage.com.au/

Railpage is basically the Australian version of Railroad Net.

The site is divided by states with separate sections for Sydney and Melbourne commuter areas. There is a link section that shows information about the various state operators (there is no "national" operator like Amtrak or VIA). However most of the links show a last update in 2014. There is a search function for the site or you could create an account (free) and start asking questions. Hopefully someone at RPA can answer your questions.

Since I'm only 62 I do hope to get down there one of these days. All I have to do is convince my wife to get on a plane for a 14 hour flight down there. Perhaps a stop over in Hawaii for a day or two each way ....
  by David Benton
 
Mr Norman, The NSW XPT (HST125's dpwngraded to 100 mph)are pushing 40 years old. I can well believe they are looking a bit ragged , and were never "flash".I believe replacements are on order , and they will probably up grade service on their arrival . Queensland tilt trains do have a more luxurious feel to them , and are more tourist orientated. The lieflat beds are probably not your cup of tea , but they are popular with the tourists who compare them to the cost and service aboard a long distance aeroplane. Even my fussy sister enjoyed the experience , and found nothing to complain about.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Quite the article appearing in the Manchester Guardian reporting on a Melbourne to Sydney rail journey taken by a "can't drive" reporter.
I get invited to give a talk at the Opera House, which I say yes to, before wondering how the hell I’m going to get from Melbourne to Sydney during the pandemic.....The virus – in the way that it operates on so many levels by unspooling time, taking us back to another age – meant that the trip would have to be taken an old-fashioned way. By rail.
I doubt if this lady is "coming back for more". She didn't hate it; just an "I've done it" experience.

As I noted, it seems as if the State owned NSW Trainlink is about as excited over operating LD's as is Amtrak.

Two final notes; first it appears that Australia is not as COVID free as is our Moderator's homeland. Second is that the Australian states can close their borders with others. Sounds like, for better or worse, the USA is unique where state borders cannot be closed.
  by johnthefireman
 
I haven't been to Australia since 2004, and the only long distance train journey I made was from Brisbane to Sydney, about 14 hours on the XPT (which, as David says, is basically an HS125) and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. Not super luxury, of course, but a comfortable and clean "standard class" experience.

I used local trains in Perth and Sydney, and found them also be a good experience.
  by Pakenhamtrain
 
I've done both the daylight and overnight runs and daylight is the better option between Melbourne and Sydney. Realistically all the XPT does is connect the small towns throughout NSW. It's not the worst trip scenery wise.
It would be comparable to a few Amtrak trains.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
From your comments, Mr. Parkenham, it would appear that NSW Trainlink is all about offering Sydney commuter transport and to one desiring to travel from Junee to Sydney, and not necessarily Melbourne to Sydney. This is the argument that the Amtrak advocates are always dragging out over here of "how is Aunt Maude, who can't drive and is afraid to fly, to get from Hastings to Chicago for a Doctor's appointment"?
  by RRspatch
 
Mr Norman I wouldn't plan on going to Australia any time soon. After getting the virus under control it now appears it's spinning out of control again. Boarders between the various states have been closed. Victoria which has been hard hit is considering going back into stage 4 lockdown. It's also important to remember that it's now winter down under and this might be what we will face in four months. I would plan on Australia being closed for the rest of this year and possibly a good part of next year

There's a nice long 61 page thread concerning Covid-19 over at Railpage Australia. I've linked to the last page and you can read back from there. NOT looking good.

https://www.railpage.com.au/f-t11400841-0-asc-s1500.htm

BTW - it's funny and sad to see the "Karen" meme about people refusing to wear masks (and making a BIG scene about it) has reached Australia.
  by Pakenhamtrain
 
Gilbert B Norman wrote: Tue Jul 21, 2020 9:09 am From your comments, Mr. Parkenham, it would appear that NSW Trainlink is all about offering Sydney commuter transport and to one desiring to travel from Junee to Sydney, and not necessarily Melbourne to Sydney. This is the argument that the Amtrak advocates are always dragging out over here of "how is Aunt Maude, who can't drive and is afraid to fly, to get from Hastings to Chicago for a Doctor's appointment"?
NSW trainlink may as well be two divisions. The commuter work and the regional work. Pre restructuring of RailCorp the commuter trains were part of CityRail and the regional trains were CountryLink.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
I hope Mr. Benton will choose to allow this admittedly off topic, off-rail posting, but it indirectly relates to the discussion here as it is developing.

A quote within a rail unrelated article appearing in The Times today, really struck home to me, and I would think same for "any of us getting on":
“It’s been quiet as anything,” said Barry Sheridan, a retired doctor who lives nearby. “It’s very sad.” Losing a year of activity when you’re younger is one thing, he added, but at his age, 85, time is more precious: “You’re not sure if there will be a next year.”..
I don't envision any change through the end of '21 (17 months from now); talk of an effective vaccine notwithstanding. For myself since March 10th, not having been twenty miles away from home, driving only 900 miles since that date, no restaurants (did go out for outdoor Dinner once for which my Primary Care "read me the Riot Act"), no concerts, and no commercial transportation or lodging, has become "new normal".

I don't know how much more straight up I can be when, at days away from 79, I say "I'm running out of time".

Finally, regarding Mr. Spatch's immediate, it is interesting to note how "Colonies" who, shall we say, bid the Crown farewell more amicably (some of whom still recognize Her Majesty as Head of State) than did we Americans, have political subdivisions, States, Provinces, whatever, that can close their borders with one another , whereas we here, from which any powers granted to a Federal government have originated from our several States, have given up such power.
  by David Benton
 
Well , Mr Norman , you may be heartened by the 94 yr old that drove his RV into my business today. Many off my customers are over 80 , and still active. Some of them would put us younger fellas to Shame. Another mid eighties was complaining to me, they called a helicopter , when he fell off his (electric)bike on a remote mountain trail , he thought a seperated kneecap (had me wincing at the mere thought of it) was no cause for alarm. But the thing I get from them is to do it while you can , until you can't.

As far as New South Wales goes , Iwould say 90 % of the population lives in Sydney , Newcastle , Hunter valley , and Wollongong coast areas. Outside of that , its pretty low population density. The regional trains are probably a political necessity , rather than a practical one. Pakenham Train would know better than me .
  by Pakenhamtrain
 
David Benton wrote: Fri Jul 24, 2020 2:08 am

As far as New South Wales goes , Iwould say 90 % of the population lives in Sydney , Newcastle , Hunter valley , and Wollongong coast areas. Outside of that , its pretty low population density. The regional trains are probably a political necessity , rather than a practical one. Pakenham Train would know better than me .
Most do live in Sydney. Followed by Newcastle, the central coast(Gosford/Wyong), Wollongong which is one big strip of the coast.
Getting rid of a regional line would be political suicide. Most of the passengers in my experience seem to be older people who get a discount on thier fare.
Most places don't really warrant anything more than a daily/twice daily service as is and can't really have any more given how stretched the fleet is. In theory can only make 9 XPT sets up and 8 Xplorer sets.
Similar sorts of service exist within Victoria with V/Line with the long distance trains. Most of those destinations are served by 1-3 trains a day depending on the line.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Mr. Parkenham, I read your immediate comment that Australia, even within the most "hard core" of your advocates, there is no initiative for a publicly funded interstate national system. Such a system, like Amtrak has been "stuck with" and the advocates want expansion of, would enable one to travel from, say, Melbourne to Adelaide, or an intermediate point on such line - and in accommodations hardly commanding AU$1200 for the trip (don't know what NSW Trainlink wants for a Sydney-Melbourne journey, but I doubt if that).
  by Pakenhamtrain
 
Gilbert B Norman wrote: Sat Jul 25, 2020 8:10 am Mr. Parkenham, I read your immediate comment that Australia, even within the most "hard core" of your advocates, there is no initiative for a publicly funded interstate national system. Such a system, like Amtrak has been "stuck with" and the advocates want expansion of, would enable one to travel from, say, Melbourne to Adelaide, or an intermediate point on such line - and in accommodations hardly commanding AU$1200 for the trip (don't know what NSW Trainlink wants for a Sydney-Melbourne journey, but I doubt if that).
There's always been a somewhat push for a high speed train between Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane but outside of plans nothing has really come of it.
The states are generally run thier own trains but there is and has been co-operation between states. The Overland rolling stock was jointly owned by the VR and SAR with locos often being from one state or the other the standard gauge trains between Melbourne to Sydney pre XPT were often a colorful mix of NSW SRA/VR cars with a mix of locos from both states.
The federal government has very little interest in passenger transport. They run the ARTC(Australian Rail Track Corporation) which manages the maintenance of the major routes throughout Australia(Which is leased from the states). If there was any sort of improvement to be made they will just give the money to the states and let them build it.

Melbourne to Adelaide wise there is advocates trying to get The Overland increased. The first fight is to save the train first. If is wasn't for public funding from Victoria(South Australia has stopped funding it) there wouldn't be a train between Melbourne and Adelaide. Even realistically you could can the train and have V/Line run a train from Melbourne to Horsham.

NSW trainlink charge 117 for an economy fare between Melbourne and Sydney and 164 for first class.