Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Sydney Da Trains

We only travelled off peak, the same as I do at home. Score, pretty good. Punctual. The trains are much bigger and carry more people, mostly eight carriages compared to our six and theirs are double deck. That central grab post near the doors is great. Forward/backward seating could be better or just forget about it and get the max number of seats.

I think we travelled on three different trains. One was an older non air con train, with glass windows and had good visibility. The other two were air con trains, one seemed to be older with a different air con system to the newer one. I seem to recall another non air con train from the past that also had the plastic windows. All seemed to suffer from the same problem. That awful plastic/perspex on the top deck. Viewing out was hard through the clouded and scratched plastic.

Staff were like most public transport staff, some great, some very perfunctory, but they all responded well enough when we asked something of them.

Museum Station is marvellously old but the steps!!!! No escalator nor lift in an underground railway station. Absurd. A lot is to do with the topography of course, but Sydney is much less disabled and old people friendly than Melbourne.

It is a bit annoying that the Eastern Suburbs railway did not go through Museum Station. While I can see why and that there are benefits, I don't like isolated bits. It is very good that the trains go both directions in the underground part of the train system. I wonder what Melbourne's city train loop would be like with trains in both directions? I expect a lot more could be done with it. If dual tracks are very useful it is a disgrace that our system, built comparatively not that long ago, is single track.

The train to the airport is very good, and so it should be for the price you pay. I understand that the airport station is privately owned. Not sure about the rest of the line, but if I get on a government owned train and travel from a government owned railway station using government owned infrastructure, I expect to pay normal prices. That just to go through a gate and pay such a price is wrong.

Still expensive or not, Sydney is one giant step in front of Melbourne there.

In summary, a pretty good system from my viewpoint.

What struck me every time we caught a train was the number of staff. A static guard was on every train we caught and checked by getting out of the train that all was safe for departure and on many minor stations were staff to flag the train off. Staff were plentiful at all city stations. I was very impressed. Overstaffed? Maybe, but it made for a much better system from my viewpoint.

Like Melbourne, Sydney's trains are under huge pressure by passenger numbers, although I bet, as is the case in Melbourne, they used to carry higher numbers. I can recall from my last visit to Sydney, the alarmingly crowded Town Hall Station. It looked like a disaster ready to happen and I suppose it is worse now.

While it might be different for everyday peak commuters, my experience of Sydney trains was very good.


  1. It's interesting that you only hear the occasional grumble about Sydney trains in the media yet my Bois in NSW hear about the stuff ups with Melb trains on a regular basis.
    Boot govt up their collective backside and stop the rot in the railways now.

  2. Anonymous1:40 pm

    Yes Melbourne could do with a train service to the airport.

    If two or more coming from Sydney airport, it's cheaper by cab. Train service is a major rip off from there.

  3. The five airport line stations in Sydney are being privately run for the first thirty (I think it is) years and the extra cost to the fare is supposedly to pay for the private owners to maintain those stations in their pristine condition. After that those stations will revert to Government ownership and control.

    Interestingly none of the privately run stations uses a platform guard as far as I can tell.

    My government run Edgecliff station doesn't use platform guards either. It also has no staff (ticket sellers and the like) on duty for the evening services. I don't know what would happen there in the event of an emergency in those hours.

  4. Jayne, essentially they suffer from the same problem, lack of long term investment.

    Anon, that really shows it is too expensive. Fortunately R travels concession, so it was a bit cheaper.

    Thanks Victor, I thought it was something like that. I forgot the details. The rest of system seemed pretty clean. Probably should have a guard for the airport stations at least, but then I don't think we have any in Melbourne and no on train guard either.

    This was the first time we have been to Sydney and did not go through Edgecliff Station. In an emergency, assuming it when there is a train there, it would be like here, the driver responds under direction of the train control centre. At least there is a guard on the train as well.

  5. You never hear as much about the trains in Sydney because years of complaints has got us nowhere.

    RailCorp (which runs ShittyRail) has been investigated by the ACCC seven times for corruption, and still they are brought up regularly in new scandals. I think the NSW media is kinda sick of it... old news?

    Maybe it's the "tourist" syndrome - when I went to Melbourne not too long ago and took a ride on their trains, I thought they were fairly modern and efficient compared to Sydney. Would be better if there were just a few more of them!

  6. Thanks Volacious. I am sure the 'tourist syndrome' has much to do with it. You are not under pressure and usually travel off peak. I was a bit surprised about the number of non air con trains when ours, bar about about six brought back to ease overcrowding, are all air con.

  7. Anonymous11:41 am

    'I was a bit surprised about the number of non air con trains when ours, bar about about six brought back to ease overcrowding, are all air con.'

    That's a bain of contention every summer time with the Gov't. Every train should be air con'd these days.

  8. Those scratched perspex windows on Sydney trains are awful. They just leave me with the impression that the trains are dirty and not cared about.

    I think the trains there are quite poor, but then thats compared to most of my train riding in recent years in Asian cities which have wonderful services (Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul). The dawdling along at just above a fast walking pace is not something a good rail service should be aspiring to.

    Re the airport line, my understanding was that it was taken over by the government after the private builder/operator went broke. Government kept the fare surcharge on it though.

  9. So agree about that perspex Ian. What possessed them. They are a different beast to Melbourne's trains, but thinking more about it, Melbourne's trains feel more spacious, although they have nothing like the carrying capacity of Sydney trains. Stations were quite close on the Eastern Suburbs Illawarra line. No chance to pick up speed. Decent speed on the airport line.

    Only been on Singapore trains. Brilliant. How much money could we save just by copying them.

    Now you mention it, yes, that is where I thought the airport train was up to, but not heard anything for a while, so I am not sure of present status.