Future prospects for CountryLink ?

 
  Watson374 Chief Commissioner

Location: Fully reclined at the pointy end.
What cootanee said.

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  BDA Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney
New whispers circulating about an uncertain future for CLs long distance passenger trains . Vine suspects the State Government wants more cost savings in the pass rail scene and may be looking at the easiest branches to trim .
  MD Chief Commissioner

Location: Canbera
Id like to see the running costs for the Broken Hill and Griffith trains.
Theres really no justification to run a once a week service to anywhere.
Anyone know how the Broken Hill Xplorer is crewed?

On a population basis, Griffith and Broken Hill are similar sized towns to Armidale
which gets a daily service.
  Newcastle Express Chief Commissioner

MD, you don't have any more information about this?

But are they likely to cut country passenger trains near the end of the year, close to an election?

But I think you're correct.

A source as stated that the Canberra Xplorers may be the first to go.

If it is correct, I'd say they would just leave the Sydney - Brisbane & Melbourne XPTs, maybe even just have one train for Sydney to Melbourne.
  djf01 Chief Commissioner

MD, you don't have any more information about this?

But are they likely to cut country passenger trains near the end of the year, close to an election?

But I think you're correct.

A source as stated that the Canberra Xplorers may be the first to go.

If it is correct, I'd say they would just leave the Sydney - Brisbane & Melbourne XPTs, maybe even just have one train for Sydney to Melbourne.
Newcastle Express

What sort of source is that NE?  Someone who might actually know, or just speculation?

@MD, IIRC someone here on RP posted a long long time ago that the BH Xplorer's crew run out of Dubbo, and a ferried to Parks for a crew change there.
  craigfitz1 Train Controller

Ok, I'll bite.......

Just who is doing the 'whispering'?

Exactly where are the rumours coming from?

Within CountryLink (aka TrainLink) itself?  

Transport For NSW?  The Minister herself?

Or just the usual grumbles from Treasury bureaucrats preparing the next state budget?

Or is this all just a couple of ad -hoc comments made by someone with no real power?  

Or maybe just some Railpagers with much time to spare........

Or none of the above.....?


That said, I am happy to learn more from genuine sources, with specific facts to offer.
 Otherwise.........not much point......
  LegendsofSteam Junior Train Controller

New whispers circulating about an uncertain future for CLs long distance passenger trains . Heard on The Vine, suspects the State Government wants more cost savings in the pass rail scene & may be looking at the easiest branches to trim.
"BDA"

I'd like to see the running costs for the Broken Hill and Griffith trains.
Theres really no justification to run a once a week service to anywhere.
On a population basis, Griffith & Broken Hill are similar sized towns to Armidale which gets a daily service.
"MD"

BHQ XPLorer averages around 70PAX per trip, first class usually being sold out, however it must be noted the type of patronage this train caters to (predominately OAP's, Seniors & Retirees) is vastly different to the usual clientele that is usually carted around on most services.
GFF XPLorer sadly is AMEXed more then it runs... Hence most are now skeptical of booking for the fear it will be AMEXed at last minute (or as has happened two consecutive wkends in a row recently) XPL was blown out defective at G'burn & pax transferred to ST23 Daylight XPT

Anyone know how the Broken Hill Xplorer is crewed?
"MD"
MD, IIRC someone here on RP posted a long long time ago that the BHQ Xplorer's crew, run out of Dubbo, and are ferried to Parkes for a crew change there.
"djf01"

XPL is crewed by a DBO Driver SYD - PKE (this driver having travelled PASS WT28 Ex DBO Sun. Afternoon) & a SYD PSS & SPA (w/- PA being rostered if the numbers on the previous Fri. are showing 120+Pax).

The SYD Crew stays in PKE Mon. for 26Hrs, while a DBO Crew of Driver, PSS & SPA is taxied from DBO Mon. Afternoon to work XPL PKE - BHQ - PKE, Tues. a DBO Driver Is Taxied over to PKE, the DBO Crew ex BHQ returns via taxi to DBO, INCOMING DBO Driver & SYD PSS & SPA work train back to SYD, DBO Driver travels PASS WT27 Ex SYD back to DBO on Wed. morning.
MD, you don't have any more information about this?
But are they likely to cut country passenger trains near the end of the year, close to an election? But I think you're correct.
A source as stated that the Canberra Xplorers may be the first to go.
If it's correct, I'd say they would just leave the Sydney - Brisbane & Melbourne XPTs, maybe even just have one train for Sydney to Melbourne.
"Newcastle Express"

There's been a few rumors flying around:

No#1 is: The 3 Return CBR XPL's 7 Days a week are only a trial...
(& these may in the near future be converted to ENDVR Operation to save on crewing coats)

No#2 is Armidale / Moree XPL replaced with an XPT to Tamworth with coaches Armidale & Ex Werris Crk to Moree, XPT set would be taken off The West & New England XPL would be given to The West in a direct swap, this a net saving of one crew member on roster @ Dubbo Depot. The North West 2 Car XPL Set would become a spare. That could then be used on a second weekly BHQ XPL???

No#3 is trimming of Nth Coast XPT Services to a AM & PM only (mirror image timetabling) Twice Daily XPT Services to Casino, being extended to Lismore, this BNE becomes permanent coach connection Ex Casino / Lismore. With patronage declining on NT31 / 32 post OCT. 20 '13 Timetable change, prior to the timetable change, Car A Sleeper on NT31 would be always 3/4 Full, now it struggles to get 4 persons per train, meanwhile NT33 / NT34 is mostly full, even as a 5 Car Consist, especially Car A Sleeper on NT34, is usually 3/4 Full now.

No#4 is axing of The Overnight XPT Services betwn MEL & SYD (& V.V)

Such changes will be designed to maximize the longevity of The XPT & XPL Fleets, while minimising the current exhaustive running of the fleet, to get as many extra years as possible out of the current fleet

A lot will rest on the upcoming EBA as to what changes are rammed thru.

This report: http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/Prod/Parlment/committee.nsf/0/5d81a2253954ef35ca257ca000181020/%24FILE/Report%201-55%20-%20Inter-regional%20Public%20Transport.pdf should shed some more light on NSW.TL Regionals future...

Pay particular notice to Chapter 7: Page 108 & after...
  ButFli Chief Train Controller

Location: New Farm, Qld
No#3 is trimming of Nth Coast XPT Services to a AM & PM only (mirror image timetabling) Twice Daily XPT Services to Casino, being extended to Lismore...
LegendsofSteam

Lol. You're having a laugh aren't you?

Suuuure there are "rumours flying about" that there will be XPTs to Lismore. Just like there have been "rumours flying about" for the last decade that the whole line to Murwillumbah will be reopened.

By "rumours flying about" you actually mean "gunzels are foaming at the mouth". Right?
  Newcastle Express Chief Commissioner

Could people please stop using three letter codes that are not easy to decipher. What is PSS, EBA, SPA?

Axing of the overnight Sydney - Melbourne XPT?? But that gets quite a reasonable load of passengers, and unlike the Brisbane XPT, arrives at a useful time.
  djf01 Chief Commissioner

Could people please stop using three letter codes that are not easy to decipher. What is PSS, EBA, SPA?

Axing of the overnight Sydney - Melbourne XPT?? But that gets quite a reasonable load of passengers, and unlike the Brisbane XPT, arrives at a useful time.
Newcastle Express


EBA - Enterprise Bargaining Agreement
SPA - Senior Passenger Attendant
PSS - Public Sector Superannuation Scheme
XPT - WTF ?
  waxyzebu Locomotive Driver

EBA - Enterprise Bargaining Agreement
SPA - Senior Passenger Attendant
PSS - Public Sector Superannuation Scheme
XPT - WTF ?
djf01


PSS - Passenger Services Supervisor (~=Guard)

To my way of thinking, for passenger rail to secure it's future thse things need to happen;
- it really needs to find a way to deliver it's service at ~$0.035 seats/km, or about half what it costs now, less than a 60 seat bus and comparable with a 100 seat DD bus.
- the overheads need to be cut, which means addressing the IR/HR issues one way or another.
- (Longer termhttps://static.railpage.com.au/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif The viability of ARTC and to a lesser extent the CRN needs to be established. Like CountryLink, the CRN is struggling for a Raison d'?tre.

IR/HR issues? Like driver only operation/massive pay cuts/loss of conditions for crew?
  Travelling Hooker Locomotive Driver

Location: Follows the weather up and down the coast
I periodically use the sleepers out of Sydney to Mel and Brisbane. The Brisbane sleeper service leaves too early and gets into BNE too early but that's a whole nother story, but the overnight sleeper service ex Mel to Syd or ex Syd to Mel is a lost opportunity for CountryLink.

It could be the perfect travelling option for businesspeople. They both leave circa 8.00pm from the CBD of their respective cities and both get in around 7.30am the next morning, again the CBD. You get on with a bottle of wine in your overnight back, sink it to lull yourself to sleep, wake up the next morning with enough time for a shower and breakfast before being deposited in the city centre.

If I ran CountryLink, I'd be installing cars of single sleepers and charging a realistic price (Say $150) each way and getting a Euro train style advertising campaign running on Sky News. The timing for businesspeople is perfect, the product needs tweeking, but isn't too bad. Pricing is too high but that can be sorted. I sometimes bounce off the train at Southern Cross in the morning, showered, dressed, feed, in the middle of the city, and it sure as hell beats the 6.00am morning flight and peak hour on the Tulla freeway.

I've never understood why CountryLink marketing never got on the business traveller bandwagon. There is so much potential there
  craigfitz1 Train Controller

Well, for a start, the reliability of the overnight Sydney-Melbourne trains would have to be vastly improved if you want to attract business types.

In addition, for a substantial number of days each year it is considered necessary to terminate the Syd-Mel run at Albury (due to never-ending trackwork on both sides of the border, 'operational issues', breakdowns, signal failures etc etc).

No self-respecting business type would pay a premium to put up with being turfed out of bed at some ungodly hour in the morning. Or to bounce up and down the Hume Hwy and pulling over to a service station for a microwaved pie.

I am a big advocate of train travel, but even I am hesitant to ever go by train to Melbourne as I am well aware of the very real possibility of bustitution and the disappointment that follows. For the same reason, I am hesitant to recommend the trip to my family and friends.

As for the Brisbane run, perhaps we should be running a book on just how long the current arrangements will last.
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
Because $150 per single sleeper comes nothing near the cost of providing the service.  It would probably need to be five times that, and maybe more.

Each sleeper sleeps 18.  My random pick of a fare Sydney to Melbourne was $271.  Full, that means that the sleeper earns about $4800 worth of revenue.

Each first class sitter sits 56.  My random pick of a fare (same day as above) Sydney to Melbourne was $183.  Full, that means that the sitter earns about $10250 worth of revenue.

Each economy class sitter sits 68.  My random pick of a fare (same day as above) Sydney to Melbourne was $130.  Full, that means that the sitter earns about $8840 worth of revenue.

It will take roughly about the same amount of fuel to drag those three cars from Sydney to Melbourne.  The driver up the front gets paid the same regardless of what the XP is pulling.  Onboard staff wise, the sleeper might require less because there are less people to look after, but then you have additional the cost associated with linen, etc.  So, to a first approximation - the costs are the same.

So financially - what you propose makes no sense from the providers point of view.

With those fares, the former CountryLink services, on average, lose lots of money (if they were full all the time, perhaps they wouldn't (or would lose less), but you can't expect to run a people transport service with 100% load factor).  So they receive a substantial subsidy from the states.  That subsidy is justified on the basis of regional access to services, which doesn't apply to someone travelling from capital to capital, and social equity, which doesn't apply to your typical business traveller.  

Plus people quite happily pay their own money to sit in relatively uncomfortable economy plane seats for similar sorts of durations when flying overseas, why should the heavily state subsidised service then be expected to provide a sleeper over a seat for a service of similar duration?
  Travelling Hooker Locomotive Driver

Location: Follows the weather up and down the coast
I respectfully suggest that both Craigfitz and Dontellmywife miss the point.

My 300 words was not a business case, but an articulation of a thought that keeps recurring to me every time I use that service.

For sure, no-one is going to pay $183 to sit up all night when you can sit up for an hour on Jetstar for half the price. But a decent sleeper service would enable CountryLink to differentiate itself from the airlines and Greyhound and as I mentioned, the CBD to CBD service is a strong sales point. It's called differentiation and the opportunity seems to have passed CountryLink by.

Yes, the service does need upgrading and I don't know how much refurbishing a carriage and converting it into singles costs but product development is rarely free, and no-one is going to cop offloading at Albury at 4.00am onto a bus, and yes, the economics have to be worked into a viable proposition, but I stand by my earlier point that CountryLink has consistently missed a potentially profitable market segment and their failure to pick off such easy pickings is perhaps indicative of why CountryLink is up the creek without a paddle.
  MD Chief Commissioner

Location: Canbera
Ive often wondered why everyone expects the NSW Govt to have to run interstate passenger services
when no other State does so.
  cityrail-rulez Chief Train Controller

Ive often wondered why everyone expects the NSW Govt to have to run interstate passenger services
when no other State does so.
MD

? V/Line runs interstate to Albury, personally it should be cancelled out because the XPT runs to Melbourne and now stops at Seymour and Broadmeadows and cancelled stopping at Strathfield

From my personal view the XPT services shouldn't even stop at Wangaratta, Benalla, Seymour or Broadmeadows these stations have like 10 services a day, the NSW government could reopen stations on the Main South line instead they give in to stop at more Victorian stations which has more services than the entire NSW network altogether
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
I respectfully suggest that both Craigfitz and Dontellmywife miss the point.

My 300 words was not a business case, but an articulation of a thought that keeps recurring to me every time I use that service.

For sure, no-one is going to pay $183 to sit up all night when you can sit up for an hour on Jetstar for half the price. But a decent sleeper service would enable CountryLink to differentiate itself from the airlines and Greyhound and as I mentioned, the CBD to CBD service is a strong sales point. It's called differentiation and the opportunity seems to have passed CountryLink by.

Yes, the service does need upgrading and I don't know how much refurbishing a carriage and converting it into singles costs but product development is rarely free, and no-one is going to cop offloading at Albury at 4.00am onto a bus, and yes, the economics have to be worked into a viable proposition, but I stand by my earlier point that CountryLink has consistently missed a potentially profitable market segment and their failure to pick off such easy pickings is perhaps indicative of why CountryLink is up the creek without a paddle.
Travelling Hooker

The potential for that market segment that you are discussing (Melbourne to Sydney distances, CountryLink sort of speeds, sleepers, appealing to business travellers) to be profitable is extremely remote.  The reason the former CountryLink services are up a creek without a paddle is because of technology - conventional rail cannot compete with air over that sort of distance.

It doesn't matter that the train is amazing and can drop you in the CBD feeling refreshed or whatever, if people aren't willing to pay for that.  Even you suggested reduced fares...

Over that sort of distance, with conventional rail, the only model that has a chance of making enough money to carry a train is the travelling hotel on wheels style train (e.g. Indian Pacific), where people pay for the experience and not for the transport nature of the service.  That's been tried in modern times on the east coast, and failed.  Perhaps one day it will be tried again, and will work - who knows.

I think there are market opportunities for CountryLink (or NSWTrainLink regional or whatever they want to call it tomorrow) - but they are over distances where air lacks a competitive advantage - shorter distances.  Over shorter distances sleeper accommodation is mostly irrelevant.
  boromisa Junior Train Controller

I respectfully suggest that both Craigfitz and Dontellmywife miss the point.

My 300 words was not a business case, but an articulation of a thought that keeps recurring to me every time I use that service.

For sure, no-one is going to pay $183 to sit up all night when you can sit up for an hour on Jetstar for half the price. But a decent sleeper service would enable CountryLink to differentiate itself from the airlines and Greyhound and as I mentioned, the CBD to CBD service is a strong sales point. It's called differentiation and the opportunity seems to have passed CountryLink by.

Yes, the service does need upgrading and I don't know how much refurbishing a carriage and converting it into singles costs but product development is rarely free, and no-one is going to cop offloading at Albury at 4.00am onto a bus, and yes, the economics have to be worked into a viable proposition, but I stand by my earlier point that CountryLink has consistently missed a potentially profitable market segment and their failure to pick off such easy pickings is perhaps indicative of why CountryLink is up the creek without a paddle.
Travelling Hooker


I agree with you. CountryLink model is neither budget airline nor comfortable rail service.

You would be surprised how many people do not even know that there is a passenger service between Sydney and Melbourne. I think that if a decent service was provided (such as compartment based carriages, restaurant+ bistro car, sleeper and couchette) combined with some advertising fair few full fare paying passengers would switch. A lot of people are fed up with airlines.  

I find it disappointing that some members of the Railpage Australia™ argue that because service is not economically viable we should not have it. Rail brings other benefits that  are not necessarily directly economical. That's why even most economically conservative governments such as USA invest in passenger rail.

It is obvious that neo-liberalism has managed to get under the bone of many people out there.
  MD Chief Commissioner

Location: Canbera
Countrylink doesnt have a monopoly on passenger train services between Sydney and Melbourne.
Anyone is free to run passenger trains.
Vline could if they wanted, so could GSR.
Even the federal Govt could if they wanted too.
The fact that none do, indicates that they dont think its economically viable.
Its reasonable that Countrylink run passenger trains in NSW at a loss, but not anywhere else.
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
Off you go then, list and value all those "not directly economic" benefits that arise from subsidising inter-capital "business" travel.
  djf01 Chief Commissioner

Each first class sitter sits 56. My random pick of a fare (same day as above) Sydney to Melbourne was $183. Full, that means that the sitter earns about $10250 worth of revenue.
donttellmywife


I think the Hooker might actually be onto something as a potential for profit business.  

As always, the key to it is getting enough bums in beds though.  Marketing this concept to business travellers is tough as most business travel is paid for by someone else.  But I think there is the potential to keep fares comparable with cost to business of commuting someone between Sydney and Melbourne by air.

The concept I have in mind is the overnight coaches only run overnight.  The rooms are serviced & laundered during the day under contract (as are a lot of hotel rooms).  The cost of servicing rooms is typically $30-70 a room.  This should address the issue of terminations at Albury and dealing with reliability.  The train has a leisurely 14 hours to make the trip, leaving the business traveller 10 hrs in Sydney or Melbourne, and 9 hours available to actually work.

But to make the numbers work, the number of in-flight staff is held at 1.  And their primary responsibility is to serve drinks at the bar.  To do this, haulage is outsourced.  WTF?  

Well, by means yet to be determined, the set makes it's own way from Southern Cross the Dynan, where it's coupled to an appropriate IM interstate service.  It's dropped off at either Chullora or Sydenham and makes it's own way into ST.

My numbers work out ...

Operating Costs:
Room Servicing (24@$75): $1800
Staff: $800
Train Maintenance ($.50/km): $400
Haulage (250t @~$15/gkt km): $3000
Total Costs: $6000 per trip.

Potential Revenue (20@$400+4@$500) : $10000 per trip.

So operating break even is a 60% occupancy rate.

This does rather assume the bar tender is allowed to operate the train unassisted in NSW, possibly from a makeshift cab at the end of a rake of XAMs Smile.
  MD Chief Commissioner

Location: Canbera
How did you get the haulage cost, and where are the carriages getting power from?
Where are the carriages coming from?
If they are new then allow at least $3 - $4 million per carriage.
  djf01 Chief Commissioner

How did you get the haulage cost, and where are the carriages getting power from?
MD

http://www.artc.com.au/library/IRAS_Appendix_G.pdf


Where are the carriages coming from?
MD

Good question.  XAFs may become available if the rumours posted above about ditching the overnight trains comes to pass.  But ideally they'd be some sort of EMU (with batteries) which could roll itself between the freight and passenger terminals.


If they are new then allow at least $3 - $4 million per carriage.
MD

Capex was left for the back of the second envelope.  It depends on a lot of things, but picking a suitable number for fitout is not trivial because of the custom ablutions needed for each cabin.
  MD Chief Commissioner

Location: Canbera
Countrylink or NSW trains whatever isnt a private company.
It doesnt have the ability to simply decide to run extra trains and subsidise the costs
of running them.
If you have a look at GSRs sleeper fares, which are indicative of full cost recovery
then a single sleeper from Sydney to Perth is $2100, which works out at $0.49 per km.
A similar service from Sydney to Melbourne would therefore cost at least $460 per sleeper.
In fact it would cost a bit more because GSRs fares are based on running very long trains
which are unlikley to be able to be duplicated between Sydney and Melbourme.
To get an indicative fare of $150 , would need a subsidy of $300 a sleeper.
No way possible for Countrylink to do this.

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