Friday, 27 June 2014

By train from Sydney to Melbourne

We took the train from Sydney to Melbourne.  In hindsight, I'm not quite sure why, but I suppose I wanted to be able to say that I'd done it.  And, I admit, there was a good fare available!

Well, there were a couple of positives, but there were a whole lot of negatives.

On the positive side, departing from Central involved just a short taxi ride from our accommodation, and the taxi pulled up almost next to where the train was.   No security, no hassles, just walk on board.  On the train, the seats are comfortable with a seat pitch of a metre (and that's in economy).   You can walk around and you don't need seat belts (out of force of habit I kept trying to do one up!)

On the negative side, it's a long trip.   Yes, XPT trains “can” run at 120 km, but for a lot of the time they don't.    There are stations to stop at, speed restrictions, curves and hills.  The trip from Sydney to Melbourne (about 960 kms, according to Wikipedia) is “scheduled” to take about 11 hours, which means the average speed is less than 90 kmph.  For a while, I enjoyed the ever-changing view, but once we got about half way, I did start thinking that perhaps I could have made better use of my day!  Fortunately, I had a good book to read.

There's food (and beer and wine) available for purchase, but although it's adequate, it's pretty basic.   There's no lounge car or even a place to eat what you buy except at your seat.

I was aware when I booked that the train only ran as far as Broadmeadows because of infrastructure work interfering with the run into Southern Cross.  I guess this should have sounded warning bells, but they weren't too loud, so I thought, oh well.

On the outskirts of Sydney, our train obviously got stuck behind a suburban train, which meant slow running for a while.  Then when we ought to have been powering up the hill to Moss Vale, things weren't quite as fast as I would have expected from an XPT train.  Somewhat later, we were informed that, yes, we were behind schedule, because one of the train's power units was not operating at full capacity.   Result, by the time we reached the outskirts of Melbourne, the train was over 30 minutes late.   Then, just before Broadmeadows station, where we were to disembark, to come to a stop.   We were told that, sorry, coz the train was 35 minutes late, it had missed its “landing slot”, and there would be a further delay of 30 minutes before we could get off.   So near, yet so far.  Finally, after waiting nearly 35 minutes at a place called Roxborough Park (actually, Somerton Loop for the gunzels) we got to the Broadmeadows platform, a grand total of 75 minutes late.  The transfer to buses went smoothly, and I suspect that the time the bus took to get into the city, down the freeway, was probably on a par with the time the train would have taken negotiating Melbourne's western suburbs.  Just the same, it wasn't the best end to a long day.

Bottom line?   I've ticked the "been there, done that" box, and will leave inter-city train travel in Australia in the future to the main users of the train, who are people travelling to and from the towns along the way to the "big smoke".

1 comment:

  1. Sigh...How did Australia get so far behind Europe, UK, USA, and of course China and its marvelous Shanghai Maglev train.) Come back Tim Fisher, and give us an age of rail travel entitlement!