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Author Topic: Article: Shunted back to the past on the XPT Melbourne to Sydney  (Read 1690 times)

Offline ozbob

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Melbourne Age --> Shunted back to the past on the XPT Melbourne to Sydney

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James Bond travelled by train, as did Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest.

Of course I knew the XPT from Melbourne to Sydney would not offer cocktails, lobster and courteous, uniformed attendants but I still thought it would be less polluting than air travel, relaxing and uncomplicated, taking us into Sydney’s heart for a simple transfer to Circular Quay.

Two weeks before our departure earlier this year we were advised by text that due to track works, the return trip would involve switching to a bus at Albury in the dead of night. We cancelled the return trip and booked plane tickets instead.

I rang Countrylink to ask if the same works would affect our journey to Sydney. Yes, said the operator. There’s a bus to Albury and it leaves at 7.30am, not 8.20am (the train departure time). How fortunate that I’d rung. We rose at 5am on departure day to eat breakfast and catch a train into Spencer Street to wait in the grimy, concrete vault from which country buses depart.

The bus left at 7.15am with us stuffed in its rear. Four hours later, having moved only to extract a sandwich from the overhead shelves, we arrived in Albury. With an hour to kill we walked up and down the southern hemisphere’s longest platform and I bought a tea bag in hot water in the station’s cafeteria, which smelt of well-used cooking oil.

Introduced in 1982, the XPT, short for express passenger train, was a modified version of the high-speed train British Rail introduced in the mid-1970s. Our XPT looked its age. Carpets were tired, walls scuffed, and a dirty aisle window opposite our cabin restricted sightseeing to the north and north-west.

Eventually, we were off, through Albury’s industrial zone into dry fields of wheat and cattle. It was exciting to be speeding towards the sparkling, roguish, harbour-side capital.

Well, we didn’t go all that fast and at Junee, one of many stops at handsome, brick stations in the Riverina, we were advised by an amiable ticket inspector that our arrival would be delayed at least an hour due to track works between Campbelltown and Sydney. The train would instead enter Sydney via the picturesque but long and winding Southern Highlands line.

We choofed off towards the coast and a walking-pace, Puffing Billy-style descent of the Illawarra escarpment. We eventually pulled into Sydney’s Central Station at 9pm, proving that the significant disparity in investment in roads ahead of rail over the past 40 years has well and truly paid off.

Nearly 160 years after rail services were introduced in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide, our journey took 14 hours, at an average speed of 70km/h, to travel between our two biggest cities by rail. The only difference between this trip and a journey I took in 1985 from Beijing to Guangzhou was the slightly cleaner toilet, I drank black rather than green tea and I didn’t get food poisoning.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/shunted-back-to-the-past-on-the-xpt-melbourne-to-sydney-20140413-zqu83.html
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Offline SurfRail

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Re: Article: Shunted back to the past on the XPT Melbourne to Sydney
« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2014, 05:28:25 PM »
28-29 hours both ways on the Sunlander over the whole route length from Thursday to earlier today.  The service did include lobster (Moreton bay bug) and uniformed attendants, although no cocktails.
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Offline ozbob

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Re: Article: Shunted back to the past on the XPT Melbourne to Sydney
« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2014, 05:46:35 PM »
I think the journey from Melb - Sydney on the Spirit of Progress took around 11 hours or so from memory, despite the overload of pies ...   :-t

[For the record, to buy cans of beer in the buffet you had to buy a meal, two cans per meal, a pie was the cheapest meal ... I can recall sitting the buffet car with some other intrepid travellers staring at half a dozen or so pies on more than one occasion ...   :o]
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“You can't understand a city without using its public transportation system.” -- Erol Ozan