I went for a trip on the XPT on Thursday, 20 March between Melbourne and Albury and was very impressed by the ride. The section between Albion and Seymour was very smooth, except for one hole we hit just north of the Donnybrook Passing Lane.
We used the East Line (the original 1962 standard gauge line) north of Seymour, and again the ride was very smooth with no apparent problems. The ride was actually smoother than my normal commute on the Melbourne suburban network! I could easily write down notes on the XPT, which is sometimes not that easy on my suburban commute.
At Benalla and Wangaratta were crossed over to the West Line to access the original broad gauge platforms, but crossed back to the East Line shortly after leaving these stations. We used the East Line on the Wodonga Rail Bypass.
We only encountered problems at the following points:
(1) We moved through Euroa at reduced speed after passing over detonators south of the station. The ARTC appeared to be doing some work on the track near the creek (Seven Creek?)on the north side of the station (A more definitive explanation of what they were doing would be appreciated).
(2) We reduced speed near Bowser. I'm note sure why.
(3) We passed over detonators on the south side of Chiltern and reduced speed. We passed the new ARTC ballast shoulder cleaner at work on the West Line at Chiltern.
(4) We also passed over detonators near Barnawartha. It appeared that a gang was doing some work on the track at this point.
As mentioned by Woodford, a large stockpile of ballast was being built up at Benalla.
We arrived at Albury only 6 minutes late (11 55 arrival as against the schedule of 11 49).
Trainplaner, I noted that there were workmen beside the track in the area of Passing Lane 1, but I was unsure if they were working on the track or Passing Lane No.1. I can't find any relevant circular on the ARTC website suggesting the date as to when this Lane will be commissioned.
One of the interesting things I noted related to the old standard gauge crossing loops. In some cases the loop track was still in position, even though the mainline turnouts had been removed. For example, the loop tracks at Longwood, Glenrowan, Alumatta and Chiltern were still in position. I'm not sure about the old loop at Violet Town as I missed it. Anyone know why these tracks have been retained and if the loop track at Violet Town is still in position?
Things worth noting about the NSW TrainLink service:
(1) A noticeable proportion of passengers in the carriage in which I was travelling (Car D - XF 2206) had their ticket on their Smart Phone. I'm not sure what the percentage was, but it seemed to be around 20%. Does anyone know what the real percentage is?
(2) The windows were cleaner than what is normal on V/Line.
(3) Passengers at Broadmeadows, Seymour, Benalla and Wangaratta, boarded and alighted through one door in Car D, i.e. all the other doors were locked. All the doors were opened at Albury. Metro Trains Melbourne had an attendant on the platform at Broadmeadows.
(4) I travelled on a special $30 one-way fare that can only be bought in person 7 days or less before travelling at either the Southern Cross or Albury booking offices. This deal is excellent value, but very poorly marketed (The marketing of this offer seems non-existent!).
(5) NSW TrainLink appears to be more active in trying to coax passengers up to the buffet than V/Line. The buffet was opened as soon as the train left Southern Cross, they promoted a special Devonshire Tea offer after breakfast and didn't close the buffet until after we had left Wangaratta. The buffet apparently re-opened after the train left Albury.