New Timetables For Regional Nsw

 
  jdennis Junior Train Controller

The New South Wales state government is in a situation where it would be politically unacceptable to eliminate the grossly under-performing regional rail services due to the domineering influence of country whingers.
"Watson374"

I am sure this discussion has been had before, and while it is true that the service is under-performing, slow and very unreliable at times, a stereotypical description of users of the service as 'country whingers' is not correct. While I understand that it is not possible to run a train direct to the door of every resident of the state, nor should the government be expected to provide a first-class service for little or no cost to the passenger, the use of trains over coaches does have its advantages to many passengers.
I personally know of a number of elderly people whose preferred mode of travel is by train, simply because in their old age they are not suited to coach travel. For families travelling with young children, I can only imagine the horror of travel sickness and boredom that would arise out of a long coach journey, whereas by train it is very rare to be sick and much easier to keep kids entertained with more space to move around. For those with disabilities or mobility issues, a coach can be a very difficult way to travel as it is much more difficult to board and alight from a coach than a train when your movement is not at its best. The toilets on coaches are very often not available for use and when they are they can create a stench that permeates through the entire vehicle. While the buffet on XPTs and Xplorers is not exactly a dining car of days gone by, I for one would rather be served a hot meal on board a train than dumped at a motorway service station during a coach trip with the choice of McDonalds or an over-priced 'cafe' for lunch.
I am not advocating that going a billion dollars into the red to provide a transport service is no worse than going one dollar into the red. But there has to be a balance between cost-effectiveness and service effectiveness made. For some, government public transport services are the only option for travel.

By the way, when my local train (Armidale Xplorer) is replaced by a coach, the coach is invariably very late while the train is quite often on time.

I don't want to derail this thread, but I just wanted to politely point out the challenges that face many users of our country trains and hence why they are a necessary thing for many.

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  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
I personally know of a number of elderly people whose preferred mode of travel is by train, simply because in their old age they are not suited to coach travel. For families travelling with young children, I can only imagine the horror of travel sickness and boredom that would arise out of a long coach journey, whereas by train it is very rare to be sick and much easier to keep kids entertained with more space to move around. For those with disabilities or mobility issues, a coach can be a very difficult way to travel as it is much more difficult to board and alight from a coach than a train when your movement is not at its best. The toilets on coaches are very often not available for use and when they are they can create a stench that permeates through the entire vehicle. While the buffet on XPTs and Xplorers is not exactly a dining car of days gone by, I for one would rather be served a hot meal on board a train than dumped at a motorway service station during a coach trip with the choice of McDonalds or an over-priced 'cafe' for lunch.
jdennis

That's all fine - but I think we need to be a little realistic about what it actually is that people "prefer".  If the service was offered anywhere near the price that it actually cost to provide (or anywhere near the price that it should cost to provide... which is a different number) then I think you'd find most people's preference would change.  

(There is a access-to-social-services equity issue that needs to be considered to some extent, but it is unrealistic to expect a mainline public transport service, such as an XPT train, to be provided "mostly" for the relative small minority that have some sort of unfortunate mobility issue or similar - you provide that level of service because it might appeal to the masses - trains are for moving lots of people, not a few dozen.  Or to look at it another way - there are plenty of places in NSW that don't get a train service - how do those with a mobility issue of some sort cope in that instance?)

Greyhound are currently selling discount bus tickets for Sydney to Brisbane for $105.  The equivalent "full" economy fare on the train (i.e. a more flexible ticket) is ... $110.  Based on that people are willing to pay just $5 more for a service that is more comfortable, faster and more flexibly ticketed!  That's inconsequential - and that's before we get into the domain of concession fares.  

Sydney to Armidale, one month in advance?  NSW TrainLink full fare economy - $80.35.  Greyhound restricted fare $79.  That's a whopping $1.35 worth of preference!!  If people really prefer the train, they should be willing to pay much more.  (QantasLink discount fare is well more than double that - at $210 - but they still get enough demand to sufficiently fill their planes to mostly cover their costs.)
  Watson374 Chief Commissioner

Location: Fully reclined at the pointy end.
I am sure this discussion has been had before, and while it is true that the service is under-performing, slow and very unreliable at times, a stereotypical description of users of the service as 'country whingers' is not correct.
"jdennis"
I am not labelling CountryLink passengers as being country whingers. Quite frankly, I don't believe enough remain to be a political force to be reckoned with. It is a political label.

While I understand that it is not possible to run a train direct to the door of every resident of the state, nor should the government be expected to provide a first-class service for little or no cost to the passenger, the use of trains over coaches does have its advantages to many passengers.
"jdennis"
There is indeed a higher level of amenity afforded to passengers aboard a train. That much is as obvious as Mikhail Gorbachev's birthmark on his head. Whether or not this additional comfort can be afforded (or is being paid for by users) is another matter.

I personally know of a number of elderly people whose preferred mode of travel is by train, simply because in their old age they are not suited to coach travel. For families travelling with young children, I can only imagine the horror of travel sickness and boredom that would arise out of a long coach journey, whereas by train it is very rare to be sick and much easier to keep kids entertained with more space to move around. For those with disabilities or mobility issues, a coach can be a very difficult way to travel as it is much more difficult to board and alight from a coach than a train when your movement is not at its best. The toilets on coaches are very often not available for use and when they are they can create a stench that permeates through the entire vehicle. While the buffet on XPTs and Xplorers is not exactly a dining car of days gone by, I for one would rather be served a hot meal on board a train than dumped at a motorway service station during a coach trip with the choice of McDonalds or an over-priced 'cafe' for lunch.
"jdennis"
Once again, the level of amenity on board a train is indeed superior to that of a coach. This does not require much in-depth analysis anymore.

However, the staggering cost of operating these heavily-subsidised regional trains is impossible to avoid. We are running deeply in the red here, and the position is unsustainable. The fleet is ageing and will need replacement soon. We cannot continue "business as usual". Something has to give.

I am not advocating that going a billion dollars into the red to provide a transport service is no worse than going one dollar into the red. But there has to be a balance between cost-effectiveness and service effectiveness made. For some, government public transport services are the only option for travel.
"jdennis"
Forgive me, but I am going to turn that logic on its head as an experiment. What if I told you that because we are their only option for travel, we can screw them over however hard we want and they will still come back and ride with us?

I just wanted to politely point out the challenges that face many users of our country trains and hence why they are a necessary thing for many.
"jdennis"
You merely pointed out why they are the preferred option - perfectly valid, but these are preferences, not necessities. If it was necessary, a wheelchair-bound elderly passenger could be conveyed by a lift-equipped coach. It's just a lot nicer on a train, and I'm not denying that. I'm merely stating that these are wants, not needs.

Also, Armidale is currently on a QantasLink sale that ends later today. $69 one-way.
  PClark Chief Commissioner

Once again all of these arguments about trains being better than coaches.

Why is it not possible for governments to offer concessional fares to pensioners, seniors, etc. on regional and interstate airlines and to reimburse the airlines for any extra costs incurred.

If the alternative of concessional air travel was available it would be very interesting to see how many of these folk would continue to “prefer” rail.

A coach network could concentrate on passengers making intermediate journeys or travelling to and from smaller towns.
  boromisa Junior Train Controller

Once again all of these arguments about trains being better than coaches.

Why is it not possible for governments to offer concessional fares to pensioners, seniors, etc. on regional and interstate airlines and to reimburse the airlines for any extra costs incurred.

If the alternative of concessional air travel was available it would be very interesting to see how many of these folk would continue to “prefer” rail.

A coach network could concentrate on passengers making intermediate journeys or travelling to and from smaller towns.
PClark

I don't think that anyone in their right mind can argue that a coach is more comfortable that train. Especially if you provide compartment type outfits on trains rather than cattle/bus configuration.

The issue with current CountryLink model is that it does not offer either comfort nor speed. It is basically a mixed bag of uncomfortable train on painfully slow tracks.

The trains that we now have are bearable up to say Taree max up in North, Dubbo out West (or Orange for XPL) and Wagga in South region. Anywhere further than that you would require comfortable carriages with compartments for more privacy and ability to rest properly, sliding seats, entartainment screens, proper restaurant instead of pie and Coke type of buffet. If you have been on DB CityNightLine you will know what I am talking about. OBB also has some most of comfortable trains in the world.

Under those conditions there may be sufficient market for such travel that does not consist mostly of free loaders. The other option is to upgrade tracks to 160-200km/h running which we all know will not happen.

I am against free travel vouchers. Whilst concession should be made to penssioners and alike the state does not have obligation to fund their free travel accross the state.
  Roadmaster Locomotive Driver


Greyhound are currently selling discount bus tickets for Sydney to Brisbane for $105.  The equivalent "full" economy fare on the train (i.e. a more flexible ticket) is ... $110.  Based on that people are willing to pay just $5 more for a service that is more comfortable, faster and more flexibly ticketed!  That's inconsequential - and that's before we get into the domain of concession fares.  

Sydney to Armidale, one month in advance?  NSW TrainLink full fare economy - $80.35.  Greyhound restricted fare $79.  That's a whopping $1.35 worth of preference!!  If people really prefer the train, they should be willing to pay much more.  (QantasLink discount fare is well more than double that - at $210 - but they still get enough demand to sufficiently fill their planes to mostly cover their costs.)
donttellmywife
A study in the 1990s found that passengers would be willing to pay a premium of up to 100% for train over bus (ie they would pay double the fare to be able to catch a train instead of a bus). Since then buses have improved - although I still think they are generally uncomfortable compared with a train - but trains NSW have arguably not improved. Even so, I expect that most people would have a clear preference for a train if that option is available, but maybe not to the extent of 20 years ago?
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
Once again all of these arguments about trains being better than coaches.

Why is it not possible for governments to offer concessional fares to pensioners, seniors, etc. on regional and interstate airlines and to reimburse the airlines for any extra costs incurred.
PClark
There's no reason.  They do that, in some other states, in some specific cases (but not as a general scheme).

I suspect a more widespread roll-out may trigger questions about whether the concession is actually a valid use of taxpayer funds.  I think the general population has been rather conditioned to accept that heavy concessions exist on trains.  I'm not sure that sentiment applies to air travel.

You may also find that concession recipients would rather just have the equivalent money in their pocket.  Rather than giving me cheaper air travel - just bump up the pension, etc.  This also lets concessions be more targeted towards those that actually need them.  

For an example of where I think concessions are poorly targeted - historically "seniors" in general were given heavy discounts because there was no (pre aged pension) or limited (post aged pension) social support for them.  Going forward, you can expect that most seniors should have a reasonable level of income provided through superannuation and the like - the historical context is no longer generally valid.  Exceptions will always exist - but the current concession arrangement isn't targeted at exceptions.

General regional disadvantage in terms of access to services can be handled through things like the zone rebate system.

And I don't buy the "I've paid tax all my life, I deserve something back" argument.  That's not how it works.  Given the state of regional rail infrastructure, there's actually a pretty strong argument that you should have been paying more tax than you did anyway!

But I'd prefer to take what I think is a slightly more positive path, though perhaps one that is unlikely to occur.  First - break the general expectation that exists out there that train travel is something that should be ultra-cheap - this is independent of concession levels.  In terms of those that want the service - it is "put up, or shut up" time.  Begin charging fares that are closer (to some extent) to the cost of providing the service.  This will have an impact on demand, and I'm sure that the more marginal parts of the system will close, that's a shame - but the current arrangement is patently unsustainable and threatens the entire regional rail system - not just the marginal extents.  Hopefully higher fares over the retained, lower cost, reasonable demand routes result in a better cost recovery situation that is tolerable.
  PClark Chief Commissioner

Surely a more cost-effective means of providing concessional travel is to use a medium that is currently being widely used by the broader community (i.e. air) rather than providing it on a segregated, outmoded medium that has been  largely abandoned by the general public (i.e. long-distance rail)

Air travel in 2013 is no longer the status symbol that it was in my younger days.  Today it is mass transportation!

Obviously, concessional air travel would be restricted on peak-period flights but it would still be more convenient than a once-daily (or less) train.

It is also possible, with concessional passengers occupying otherwise vacant seats, that the availability of very cheap flights to the GP might be reduced, but that is already happening as recently released figures reveal.

I do agree with donttellmywife that, in an ideal world, it would be preferable to increase welfare payments to a level whereby concessions were no longer necessary but that ain’t going to happen any time soon!

As I think I've said before I think that the current low status of LD rail is due to decisions made thirty or more years ago.
  jdennis Junior Train Controller

...trains are for moving lots of people, not a few dozen.  Or to look at it another way - there are plenty of places in NSW that don't get a train service - how do those with a mobility issue of some sort cope in that instance?)
donttellmywife
There are plenty of places in NSW that I'm sure would like a train service - IIRC this is what happened with Griffith? And the Bathurst Bullet as well. Usually the coaches converge on a hub where passengers connect to a train, like Casino and its multitude of coach services that connect to the XPTs. In this way the trains are used for the segments of the trip where lots of people are transported, and coaches make up the part of the network with less demand. It would be ludicrous to expect the government to provide a train to every town in the state!

If people really prefer the train, they should be willing to pay much more.
donttellmywife
That is actually a good point that I had not considered. It would be interesting to see what the demand for rail travel would be if the price was reflective of the cost of running the service. However there is an argument to be made that, while probably not to the extent currently subsidised by the government, public transport fares should be reasonable in order to provide a public service to the population. There is probably a middle ground to be found. I'm not aware of the figures exactly as to what a ticket should cost though so I'm not going to make any exact propositions.

QantasLink discount fare is well more than double that - at $210 - but they still get enough demand to sufficiently fill their planes to mostly cover their costs.
donttellmywife
QantasLink essentially has a monopoly on the air travel market in Armidale, and those that need to fly have no choice but to pay the fare or spend a whole day travelling by car or train.


You merely pointed out why they are the preferred option - perfectly valid, but these are preferences, not necessities. If it was necessary, a wheelchair-bound elderly passenger could be conveyed by a lift-equipped coach. It's just a lot nicer on a train, and I'm not denying that. I'm merely stating that these are wants, not needs.Also, Armidale is currently on a QantasLink sale that ends later today. $69 one-way.
Watson374
I suspect many passengers would re-assess their need to travel if a bus was the only option, you are right about that - but to those who cannot drive or don't own a car, and are not within proximity of an airport with a reasonably priced service, the government is relied on to provide a transport service, and hopefully that is done in a way that is not being shoved in a cattle trailer with 100 other people! Obviously that's an extreme example, but again there must be a balance between reality and an ideal service somewhere.
If we are going to use sales as examples for prices then we are going to end up with some very unreliable figures. The normal one-way airfare in my experience is anywhere between $150 and $300 for the cheapest ticket type, depending on time of day, how far in advance one is booking and availability.

I think the chances of getting funding for regional rail upgrades is zero. But as fuel prices keep going up I wonder what the effect will be on the cost of running coaches as opposed to trains. That might be something that will change the parameters of this debate in the future.
  Watson374 Chief Commissioner

Location: Fully reclined at the pointy end.
We've covered this before - in fact, we cover it every time there's news about regional rail - but essentially the current position is untenable. Something has to give. Whether it is the primary mode, the extent of the rail service or the fares, something has to give.

I will note that Qantas has been putting on a lot of sales recently, and if you're keeping good track of them you can snag some very good deals. Under the right circumstances, flying can be both cheaper and much faster.

I will agree with donttellmywife that the scope exists for fare increases and trimming of concessions, which could be tied in with product upgrades. I'm opposed to the pensioner travel vouchers, but I think the first step is to move pensioner redemptions to a non-upgradable fare class.
  Newcastle Express Chief Commissioner

I thought this thread was about how a train will have a very early arrival and departing time, especially from Roma St, and related issues, not criticising what type of passengers are on the train.

It's timed to arrive Roma St now at 6.30 (5:30 AEDT). Are they trying to get the return of the current 7:30/6:30 AEDT out of the way?

Or would this be correct, that the XPT quite often arrives very late in Roma St, and thus getting too close to Brisbane's peak rail hours? Sometimes it's terminated at Casino, but when it's been late by the same time or so, I have noticed on what was the Countrylink site, that its return was late from Roma St, not Casino.
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
It's timed to arrive Roma St now at 6.30 (5:30 AEDT). Are they trying to get the return of the current 7:30/6:30 AEDT out of the way?
Newcastle Express
Yes.
  Newcastle Express Chief Commissioner

I thought this thread was about how a train will have a very early arrival and departing time, especially from Roma St, and related issues, not criticising what type of passengers are on the train.

Newcastle Express
Sorry about that, I thought I posted in the thread dedicated to the very early times of the XPT.

But still, I don't see what type of passenger has to do with the changes.

At the moment, I can see only one positive, and that is that the Canberra Xplorers are back to three services daily, with the weekend and/or Sunday ones slightly altered for the Griffith Xplorer attached to one of the Canberra Xplorers.

By the way, how are they going to provide for this extra Moss Vale to Campbelltown Endeavour service?
  bjwh86 Chief Train Controller

In regards to the Brisbane XPT, is there any sites where you can see what the patronage is like between Casino and Brisbane?
  Newcastle Express Chief Commissioner

Their WERE stats (mainly about the overall lateness) for Countrylink trains I think. (yes we know it's not called that anymore) when they had the dedicated Countrylink site, but that information doesn't seem to exist anymore? I wonder why??

Nuhh, surely it's not to hide our late those trains are overall? No, the "gummint" wouldn't do that, would theeey now?!
  boromisa Junior Train Controller

Just to give an impression of how much un-subsidized service would cost: GSR is selling seats between Sydney and Bathurst for 146.00 for a seater.
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
Their WERE stats (mainly about the overall lateness) for Countrylink trains I think. (yes we know it's not called that anymore) when they had the dedicated Countrylink site, but that information doesn't seem to exist anymore? I wonder why??...
Newcastle Express

There were stats for CountryLink trains.  They are (or they're) available for the new organisation from their website...

http://www.nswtrainlink.info/about/performance
  Newcastle Express Chief Commissioner

first off, dtmw, I have an illness at the moment, and didn't think important enough or have the energy to change any spelling errors. I didn't see a link for that.
  bowralcommuter Chief Commissioner

Location: Asleep on a Manly Ferry
Sorry about that, I thought I posted in the thread dedicated to the very early times of the XPT.

But still, I don't see what type of passenger has to do with the changes.

At the moment, I can see only one positive, and that is that the Canberra Xplorers are back to three services daily, with the weekend and/or Sunday ones slightly altered for the Griffith Xplorer attached to one of the Canberra Xplorers.

By the way, how are they going to provide for this extra Moss Vale to Campbelltown Endeavour service?
Newcastle Express
There are a few extra services. Please specify.
  Watson374 Chief Commissioner

Location: Fully reclined at the pointy end.
At the moment, I can see only one positive, and that is that the Canberra Xplorers are back to three services daily, with the weekend and/or Sunday ones slightly altered for the Griffith Xplorer attached to one of the Canberra Xplorers.
"Newcastle Express"
This has been repeated by just about every resident NSW member who sits on the Regional Railways Consultancy Board (Armchair), but basically the problem is that no major improvement will be forthcoming until we fix the perway that is, pardon my French, f**ked.
  Black Hoppers Chief Train Controller

Location: Banned
This has been repeated by just about every resident NSW member who sits on the Regional Railways Consultancy Board (Armchair), but basically the problem is that no major improvement will be forthcoming until we fix the perway that is, pardon my French, f**ked.
"Watson374"


So all the track work that has just been done on the Canberra line is a mirage is it?

Must tell my mates that were working the infrastructure trains on the line that they were not there then.
  Rad Locomotive Fireman

Location: Gerringong NSW
By the way, how are they going to provide for this extra Moss Vale to Campbelltown Endeavour service?
Newcastle Express
Kiama / Bomaderry shuttles are being reduced by two daily services so the service can be run by one 2 car Endeavour set. Maybe this is where the second Wollongong based set is going.
  Watson374 Chief Commissioner

Location: Fully reclined at the pointy end.
So all the track work that has just been done on the Canberra line is a mirage is it?

Must tell my mates that were working the infrastructure trains on the line that they were not there then.
"Black Hoppers"
Go to sleep, and when you wake up in a better mood shout them at the pub for doing their bit to get rail back on its feet.
  djf01 Chief Commissioner

There's no reason.  They do that, in some other states, in some specific cases (but not as a general scheme).

I suspect a more widespread roll-out may trigger questions about whether the concession is actually a valid use of taxpayer funds.  I think the general population has been rather conditioned to accept that heavy concessions exist on trains.  I'm not sure that sentiment applies to air travel.

You may also find that concession recipients would rather just have the equivalent money in their pocket.  Rather than giving me cheaper air travel - just bump up the pension, etc.  This also lets concessions be more targeted towards those that actually need them.  

For an example of where I think concessions are poorly targeted - historically "seniors" in general were given heavy discounts because there was no (pre aged pension) or limited (post aged pension) social support for them.  Going forward, you can expect that most seniors should have a reasonable level of income provided through superannuation and the like - the historical context is no longer generally valid.  Exceptions will always exist - but the current concession arrangement isn't targeted at exceptions.

General regional disadvantage in terms of access to services can be handled through things like the zone rebate system.

And I don't buy the "I've paid tax all my life, I deserve something back" argument.  That's not how it works.  Given the state of regional rail infrastructure, there's actually a pretty strong argument that you should have been paying more tax than you did anyway!

But I'd prefer to take what I think is a slightly more positive path, though perhaps one that is unlikely to occur.  First - break the general expectation that exists out there that train travel is something that should be ultra-cheap - this is independent of concession levels.  In terms of those that want the service - it is "put up, or shut up" time.  Begin charging fares that are closer (to some extent) to the cost of providing the service.  This will have an impact on demand, and I'm sure that the more marginal parts of the system will close, that's a shame - but the current arrangement is patently unsustainable and threatens the entire regional rail system - not just the marginal extents.  Hopefully higher fares over the retained, lower cost, reasonable demand routes result in a better cost recovery situation that is tolerable.
donttellmywife

I'm a great believer in Public Transport.  While I know many don't share my views on this (and they are way to the left of most of my other views) I think it is something of an essential service that should be provided (or more accurately the existence of ensured) by the government universally (as reasonably as possible).

It's not just about affordability - but I firmly believe such services do need to be affordable to just about everyone, but about allowing people to travel freely (as in free speech not free beer).  For the same reason the government provides public roads: so we don't have to negotiate individually with each intervening land holder for permission to get from A to B, a similar capability needs to be available to those who don't, can't or (a bigger group than many appreciate) shouldn't drive a car.  People with their own cars *and* are able to drive them tend to take for granted the freedom of movement they enjoy, and to the extent that is provided by the state.

As a rail fan I like the fact we have trains to provide such services in NSW but am all too aware of how absurdly inefficiently rail delivers these services.

As with all things government provided, allocating resources becomes politicized, and this becomes a problem with whatever transport mode is used.

I'm deeply opposed to subsidizing some seats for some pax on regional commercial airlines.  Giving some bureaucrats and politicians the right to decide who is and is not worthy of enjoying freedom of movement rather defeats the purpose of having such freedoms in the first place IMHO.  I'm sure it would be "cheaper", but I doubt it would deliver true public transport services.  More likely it would end up a new revenue stream to be harvested by regional airlines  without necessarily delivering the desired universal PT.

Rail is used widely around the world to deliver public transport.  Not all of it could be argued as economically rational.  But in a lot of places it is.  China's HSR network is not some State Owned Enterprise glamour project to show off how great the PRC's leaders are.  In China HSR is the cheapest form of transport bar none.
  Watson374 Chief Commissioner

Location: Fully reclined at the pointy end.
In the worst case, contract a coach?

Rail is used widely around the world to deliver public transport.  Not all of it could be argued as economically rational.  But in a lot of places it is.  China's HSR network is not some State Owned Enterprise glamour project to show off how great the PRC's leaders are.  In China HSR is the cheapest form of transport bar none.
"djf01"
Not exactly. The cheapest are still the ordinary trains. The kind that get stuffed to overflowing, have chicken bones and beer bottles and tea leaves on the floor. The kind that feature incessant droning from propaganda speakers, have little to no padding and are hauled by the worst locomotives in the country.

HSR is only the cream of China Railways. The ordinary trains will make any Aussie gunzel want to hold hands with his mates and sing kumbaya.

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