— It's a pleasure for all of us to be back.
I don't think your night running restriction makes sense. Sleepers are an anachronism for something like NSW Trains, unless you can regularly find passengers that are willing to pay several times the current sleeper fare, you don't have them - see the situation in Queensland, plus consider the sleeper arrangements provided on any long distance flight. Considering their capital cost is therefore a little pointless.
There are enough people willing to use them, though, so while I’m not a big fan of them and think they could do with some work, I wouldn’t rule them out.
In fact, I’d try to make a push back to the roomette layout; it’s a lot more efficient to have double-deck roomettes to cram in the sleepers and then have a block of lavatories and showers at the end of the car.
As you say though, overnight running restrictions will make set utilisation terrible, so you'll need more sets to deliver the same passenger-kilometres - the capital cost implications of this would be horrendous (much, much more than what a handful of sleepers cost). Depending on how things played out you could be talking hundreds of millions of dollars more required upfront.
You are not going to save on maintenance by restricting overnight running - maintenance frequency is still driven by kilometres travelled, the only time you will have access to the sets for regular maintenance is at night, and permanent night shift maintenance is generally more expensive than a rotating or permanent day shift roster. Plus, sets that work out one day, back the next (which will be most of them) will spend that night off remote from any maintenance facility that is somewhat close to Sydney. This will mean additional stabling and perhaps maintenance facilities and remote maintenance staff will be required.
Current night running does satisfy, to some reasonable extent given circumstances are far from ideal, what some passengers want - there are a series of inbound services that deliver people to Sydney from many regions in time for a working day down there. If anything, there is a lack of corresponding outbound services that leave Sydney after the working day, and head out into the regions as night falls.
I agree with DTMW
on this, but I’m going to go one step further and argue for increased overnight running.
I, and indeed the rest of us, have been letting this issue sit out in the cold room for over a year. I still remember being unable to truly crack how to best serve the regional population, but I’ve finally hit what I think is the raison d’être
of regional rail: to bring regional people to
Sydney (and Newcastle).
I came to this realisation the other day when some random regional rag ran an article about the XPT
, quoting someone who said, “The XPT train timetables have suited the needs of the trains more than the needs of the people and Dubbo is an illustration of this - people would like a train service to Sydney in the morning that gets back in the evening.”
At first, my reaction as a superior blend flat white-sipping inner-city elitist was to scoff. “You idiot,” I snorted, “You’re six and a half hours out of Sydney, for Pete’s sake! If you leave Sydney in the evening, you’ll get back to Dubbo at midnight; if you want to arrive in the morning, you’ll leave Dubbo at one in the morning!”
Then it hit me. I ran my left hand through my slightly-too-long-hair. “The turnaround,” I muttered into my organic, ethically-sourced croissant. “The turnaround — it’s only an hour.” I stood up so suddenly my skin-tight raw denim skinny jeans nearly tore. “We can run it out in the evening and back as a redeye!” My hands shot up in the air, flying forth from my Japanese hoodie.
From this epiphany, I’ve since worked out the diagrams for all trains across the network. I need a few days to work them into a publishable timetable. But the key takeaway is this: if you run redeye trains, you can get seriously good schedules for bringing people to Sydney.
I also discovered that by passing the Albury to Melbourne leg back to V/Line, I can claw back enough daily running hours to run a third Albury train. I know this will result in a lot of people crying foul, but it’s an enhancement that actually improves regional connectivity so I believe it’s justified.
A significant part of the current timetable is due to peak "curfew" type restrictions in and out of Sydney. New trains won't change that. Restricting overnight operations may make those peak restrictions far more significant.
I’m actually of the view that some of the morning arrivals should be moved to just after curfew, i.e. around 09:15 (similar to the morning up Warrnambool and morning up Sheppaton arrivals into Southern Cross).
I've said it often enough here, but I think djf01 needs to stop smoking random plants from his garden. Checked luggage and buffets are things that can make you money, either directly or indirectly (I'll speculate (i.e. wildly guess) that the buffet makes more cash flow per metre of train floor space, than the seats do).
Absolutely, keep them.
I’ll have the timetable up before the election.