Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Catching the slow train

I do have a life, truly. But I have spent the last couple of hours half watching tv while looking at our state's country railway operator, V Line. I spent quite a bit of time perusing this map which tells you all about Victoria's railway lines. What a mess. You can guess that the major freight only lines are in such poor condition that they are not fit for passenger service. There are broad gauge lines and standard gauge lines and dual gauge lines and while there is an historical logic to them, I can only repeat, what a mess.

Victoria's trains were mostly broad gauge while adjoining states New South Wales and South Australia were mostly standard gauge.

I looked at Dunolly because Jayne visits there often and does not have a train to catch to there, even though a railway line passes through Dunolly. The passenger train ceases at Maryborough. Dunolly is on the line to Mildura, however only freight trains run through. If Jayne is tempted to jump a freight train, she has the choice of standard gauge or broad gauge train.  Long have we heard politicians promise to restore the train to Mildura, but it doesn't happen and given the distance, I am not sure that money would be spent wisely on such a long rail route, as nice as it would be. If it t'were to be done, then it should be done properly with a very high speed train and so be an obvious choice for any traveller.

It takes three hours to drive from Melbourne to Albury on an excellent freeway for the whole distance. You will be speed limited at various places to 80 km/h to 100 to 120. Albury is on the main train line between Melbourne and Sydney and the border town between Victoria and New South Wales. So how long do you think the train that travels from Melbourne to Sydney to get to Albury take? It only makes two stops along the way.

Three hours and twenty minutes. This is unbelievable. It is a train on Australia's major intercapital route and stops only twice. It could surely travel at 160 km/h once clear of the city. Add to that the time it will take you to get so Southern Cross Station and the time to your destination in Albury, well, trains are clearly for people who can't afford a car or have the luxury of time.

That is if the train runs. Co-incidently Adaptive Radiation caught the train to Albury at the weekend and it was substituted by a bus. They had paid for first class tickets. Do they get a refund? (They did after requesting it)

Of course it is not Victoria's problem. Oh no, our Victorian 'high speed' train is run by New South Wales Country Link.

Over fifty years later the Geelong to Melbourne train takes much the same time as it always has, in spite of innumerable upgrades and modern trains. I'd bet steam trains did nearly as well. It seems the millions of dollars spent on the regional rail link won't speed up the Geelong train. It might even take longer, but much less likely to be delayed because it will be separated from the suburban system.

Really, our country and interstate trains are absolutely pathetic. It must be because we are a third world country and we can't afford to run decent long distance train services.


  1. After a new timetable was installed for Sydney's extensive metropolitan train network last year research uncovered the fact that most services were taking longer (point to point) than the equivalent services in the 1920s.

    What progress is that?

  2. When I lived in Bendigo, the rail links from Melbourne were brilliant. Fast, frequent, well appointed, with an excellent station and great rail links to other rural centres.

    Then came Kennett and 100+ years of brilliant services ended :(

  3. South Australia is an interesting one: while today it is mostly standard gauge, until the 1970s they had a mix of broad gauge in the urban areas and towards Victoria, narrow gauge in the country and towards New South Wales, and standard gauge towards Western Australia.

    They even managed to mix all three gauges together in some towns! More on that topic can be found over here:

  4. Victor, the same has been done here, causing trains to travel slowly at times and wait at stations for departure times, just as it is happening in Sydney. I wish I kept more old train timetables.

    Hels, but then almost as bad, the last government renewed the track but made it a single track, which everyone knows is inferior for service. Neither side of politics is innocent.

    Marcus, after skim reading, especially the first link, I am not sure whether I should laugh or cry. It is hard to believe that, when trains were the major means of transport of goods, that they really not envisage interstate trade, at the very least.

  5. One Summer, a few years back, I was a regular commuter to Albury. 3 hours became 4 or 4.5 because due to heat the train had to go slowly. Even at night. It was ridiculous but I did not have a car at that stage.

  6. Fen, the salient point being you saying you did not have a car then, so the train was your second preference. This is not how it should be.

  7. Watch Bertram Wagner on Foxtel tonight at 10 PM!

    Sorry about the urgent typing

  8. I agree that things would be better if they made taking the trains preferable to driving.

    By coincidence though I was studying the V Line website last night (before seeing your blog post) I was somewhat impressed that the ride to some places wasn't that much longer than the drive.

    I think I've seen train rides that made the journey take MUCH longer than a car ride.

    Or maybe I had looked at buses?

    Either way...

    Yeah. High speed trains would be great.

  9. Hels, we don't have pay tv. I saw something about, I think him, elsewhere a couple of days ago.

    Dina, you should be surprised that it doesn't take half the time to make a trip in a train. There is nothing that should delay a train and it should go very fast.