Great Southern Railways Sold and what does it mean now?

 
  Gwiwer Rt Hon Gentleman and Ghost of Oliver Bulleid

Location: Loitering in darkest Somewhere
Is there any merit is the governments sitting down with GSR's new owners and discussing what passenger business is on the table from Governments?

For example, is there scope for a competitive service on the Sydney to Melbourne route to infill the XPT and Vline schedules?
x31
When you factor in the V/Line services between Melbourne and Albury and the existence of other trains between Sydney, Moss Vale, Goulburn and (albeit only weekly) Cootamundra and Junee then probably not.

The only sizeable regional centres not already served by a decent morning-in, evening-back train are Cootamundra and Wagga which are realistically both too far from either Sydney or Melbourne for day-out business to be viable anyway.

What there should be at this opportune time is frank discussion between the operator and the States to establish what level of funding those States might be prepared to front in order to retain an Overland service on the Melbourne - Adelaide corridor.

It has been run into the ground by GSR who have given the impression all along that they never wanted that route and were only running it under contractual obligation as it came with the glitzy IP and Ghan operations which can be marketed as land cruises to the wealthy.

The Melbourne - Adelaide corridor is a different market altogether and requires a different approach.  It requires something akin to the XPT service linking regional centres as a public transport option rather than as an up-market holiday experience.  

New train sets cost fancy money but are badly needed.  If a deal could be struck where each State paid a proportion of the costs along with the operator we might be able to make progress.

As it is there will continue to be incredulous faces at Melbourne's Southern Cross station when visitors turn up looking for the "next train to Adelaide" only to be told it isn't three hours but three days away.  If the service is there - and marketed well enough - it will be used.

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  bingley hall Minister for Railways

Location: Last train to Skaville
.......

What there should be at this opportune time is frank discussion between the operator and the States to establish what level of funding those States might be prepared to front in order to retain an Overland service on the Melbourne - Adelaide corridor.

.......  If the service is there - and marketed well enough - it will be used.
Gwiwer

GSR have been sitting down own with the SA and Victorian governments for the most  of the last decade and receive several million dollars in subsidies per year for the provision of the existing service. The most recent story I heard was that PN increased their hook and pull charges and GSR went to the state governments for more money, were rebuffed and therefore the service was reduced from thrice to twice weekly.

You also forget that the service used to run nightly 7 times per week and there were insufficient 'users'.
  Gwiwer Rt Hon Gentleman and Ghost of Oliver Bulleid

Location: Loitering in darkest Somewhere
Yes it did used to run seven nights  week.

That there were insufficient users I put down to a lack of marketing and awareness and the preference for a day train rather than boarding or alighting at stupid o'clock.

The latter surely affects loadings elsewhere in Australia such as on the inland Queensland lines but travel time and distance mean sometimes it cannot be avoided.

In the case of Melbourne - Adelaide it can be avoided.  Run the train in daylight every day, promote it and stop it where people live.  Then it will be better used.
  bingley hall Minister for Railways

Location: Last train to Skaville
Yes it did used to run seven nights  week.

That there were insufficient users I put down to a lack of marketing and awareness and the preference for a day train rather than boarding or alighting at stupid o'clock.

The latter surely affects loadings elsewhere in Australia such as on the inland Queensland lines but travel time and distance mean sometimes it cannot be avoided.

In the case of Melbourne - Adelaide it can be avoided.  Run the train in daylight every day, promote it and stop it where people live.  Then it will be better used.
Gwiwer
Yet quite a few of the supporters on here (not necessarily on this thread) want it to revert to a night train.

While I understand the issue of frequency, it already stops where people live.
  Aaron The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: University of Adelaide SA
Stopping the Overland where people live? Now stopping Goodwood, Unley Park, Mitcham, Torrens Park, *, Eden Hills, Coromandel, Blackwood, Glenalta, Pinera, Belair, Upper Sturt, Mt Lofty, Heathfield, Aldgate, etc? Maybe not.

* 'No one' lives at the postage stamp suburb.
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
Some good points here.  Im thinking that an intercity service to replace the 'tourist' service of the Overland would have to be just that (an extended Gahn would take the tourist traffic).  It would focus on those wanting to go between MEL and ADL, and a few spots in between.  It is a pity that the Melbourne-Ararat line was not the one converted to SG (it appears the route selected was more beneficial to freight), as this could have allowed a routing Melbourne, Ballarat, Ararat, Stawell, Horsham, Tailem Bend, Adelaide - happy to be corrected as I dont know the populations of all the towns along the route so if there is something clearly missing, let me know.  With an XPT or RTT style set perhaps it could be done in good time too.
  Gwiwer Rt Hon Gentleman and Ghost of Oliver Bulleid

Location: Loitering in darkest Somewhere
an extended Gahn would take the tourist traffic

It never did that in the days when it ran Melbourne - Alice on Wednesdays.  Single-digit passenger numbers from Melbourne on all the occasions I saw it.
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
The extension to Darwin probably changes the proposition i would think.  Melbourne to Darwin is probably better value for money than Adelaide Darwin.
  bingley hall Minister for Railways

Location: Last train to Skaville
Will the Melbourne to Darwin services stop at Tailem Bend Razz
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
Depends on whether it is tourist worthy!
  Pressman Spirit of the Vine

Location: Wherever the Tin Chook or Qantas takes me
Depends on whether it is tourist worthy!
jamesbushell.au
I can almost see it now ......... a 4 hour stop over in Tailem Bend to see the local sights! Shocked
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Attractions-g499732-Activities-Tailem_Bend_South_Australia.html

4 hours might be a little more than needed....
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
There was a poster on almost every station platform with a thirty degree wedge cut out of a pictured penny, with the slogan 'Less than a Penny a Mile'. It was cheap.

Daily and sometimes twice daily trains ran to and from almost every sizeable town in the state. That included Quorn and Hawker, and Wilmington.

Please tell me, now that I haven't a car, how I can easily visit Quorn to take a ride on the Pichi Richi. I can use my pension card to get to Port Augusta, but how do I reach Quorn from there? The only direct connection from Adelaide runs to Copley once a week on Wednesdays, returning on Thursday.
SAR526
If that poster was in Great Depression times and it was relevant to Adelaide to Melbourne fares, then given it is 500 miles or so Adelaide to Melbourne, that 0.7 pennies per mile implies a fare of around 350 pence per person - £1 10s 2d or £1.46 as a decimal.  (Perhaps these assumptions are off - If someone actually has fares from that period, I would be interested to know what they were.)

In 1933, average weekly earnings were £3.02 per week, so a single Adelaide to Melbourne fare required an average someone to work 48% of a week, compared with 10.5% as described above today.

Beyond possible error in the 1933 fare, there are undoubtedly flaws in this comparison, but I suspect the conclusion is still valid - rail fares are far more affordable for the average individual today.

Relative to the cost of things other than wages, that rail fare has barely moved - that assumed £1 10s 2d fare after inflation is worth $122 today - which is pretty much spot on what GSR currently offers.

The frequency and extent of service that you saw back then and the frequency of service that you see now merely reflect demand.  In the 1930's there was limited choice, so if you had to travel, you caught the train.  Today for most people, there very much is choice, hence demand fell away, hence services became unviable.
  steam4ian Chief Commissioner

G'day 526.

Most here would morn the passing of the rail services to places like Quorn. Unfortunately people voted with their feet in the 1960s. It was a case then of use it or lose it. The services that struggled into the 60s often only had a handful of passengers and most of those were on concessions or free passes.

We could blame rail managements and unions of the day for failing to modify how the railways operated so that they could be competitive with the up and coming modes of transport. You can blame governments of the day for failing to provide the funds to upgrade rail to maintain its competitiveness; but then why would they, the votes were not in it and still are not.

If there was an opportunity for a bus to places like Quorn there would be a enterprising local who would provide a service, the traffic is not there and so there is no service.

SA's position is made more difficult due to lack of traffic density. For instance the population of Ararat alone is more than the entire population along the line east of Mt Barker, then add Horsham, Stawell and the other towns.

I do think, in the name of tourism, if not anything else, that Transport SA should subsidise a bus service to places like Riverton, Clare, Jamestown, Wilmington, Quorn, Burra, Kapunda, Eudunda which have no or limited services at present. Maybe the only reason would be to keep the towns viable  and to encourage people to live outside of Adelaide.
There will never again be enough traffic for rail, if there ever was.

Regards
Ian
  SAR523 Assistant Commissioner

Location: Chicago, IL
Passenger rail may not pay in strictly financial terms, but that wasn't a consideration in former much less affluent times. It  is a government responsibility for which we pay taxes, over lines provided by taxpayers. On safety grounds alone, road transport, however efficient it may be, is not an option. I have used rail, bus and car transport between Adelaide and Melbourne for 65 years, and I would almost always go by rail.
SAR526
I would put it to you that the lack of consideration at the time was a direct contributor to our current situation.

A quick browse of Jenning's book 'W.A. Webb' indicates the the SAR lost about $14 million a year around 1970, at a time when the entire state budget was in the order of around $350 million. I couldn't find the details last night, but my recollection is that a pretty sizable chunk of the state's budget was spent on the railways.

So the cost of running all these trains (and it was mostly passenger trains since the freights appear to have been pared down pretty aggressively) to far flung locations that no-one was using represents a real opportunity cost. Now I'm not proposing that a number of needed track improvements (such as a better alignment to the Eastern states) would have been built had the Railways not blown so much money for so long, but we know what happened when they were doing so - those improvements didn't get done.

As has been pointed out a couple of times, the scheduling we're talking about represents a stubborn propagation of the scheduling from a time when the Railways were the only way to get around, rather than one that represented the reality of the day.  Today Railways represent one of the most capital intensive way of moving people (and goods).  There are certain use cases where they are very effective, and a lot where they are not.

And while we are more prosperous today, that doesn't mean we can just afford more of the same.  The cost basis of activities are completely different than they were in the past; not least of which are labor costs (that's part of the cost of becoming more prosperous).  And while I can't find a good break down of a 1970 budget, I'm fairly confident that its major components would look very different from today's.  For starters, the state spends a little north of 30% of all of its expenditures on health care today, the vast majority of which accrues to today's older population.  Another example (while a lot smaller) would be providing for access for those with lower mobility; this does increase the expense of basically all construction and was something that simply didn't exist in the 70s and before (step-down platforms anyone?).  Our priorities are simply different today, and there are other options to rail.  And frankly, if you think traveling by air in Australia (other than the crowded seating) is anything approaching inconvenient, I can only recommend jetting around the US a little.

And while I share your frustration with regards to your inability to get to Quorn without a car, I'm not sure it's the government's responsibility to solve that for you, or was it ever.  The movement of people facilitated by rail was a happy byproduct of the need for rail to move goods to market.  While obviously an imperfect solution, are there tour groups you can join, or perhaps prevail upon a volunteer to drive you up from Pt Augusta?  From your posts, I imagine that I'd enjoy the drive.
  SAR526 Chief Train Controller

Location: Adelaide, South Australia.
Thank you steam4ian and SAR523 for your comments and kind words on my posting. I have the Webb book in a fairly sizeable library of railway related publications and agree with your contention that the depression and war-time services were very costly and in the long term unsustainable.

Though I regret the loss of the ability conveniently to access country South Australia which was formerly available to all citizens, I know that there is no possibility of its restoration. I was, however, using it as an analogy for the governmental responsibility to provide proper interstate transport infrastructure for the convenience of the public and for the economic welfare of the country, even at a financial loss.

Road construction and the facility for trucks to give delivery to the door are both very important, but I question the bias towards this at the expense of the railways. Infrastate rail services except for a few specialized facilities may well be a thing of the past, but interstate services are a different matter.

No-one can see a mile long freight speeding alongside the Western/Dukes Highway or a double decked Perth or Darwin bound train, coupled with the existing very quick transfer to local road vehicles for the ultimate delivery, without realising the efficiency and economic value of the system.

Similarly, the availability of a daily (I would always prefer an overnight) service with comfortable sleep-inducing seats leaving and arriving at terminals in business friendly hours, plus the inter-community connectivity for the substantial city and en route country town populations of the two states would probably not be profitable in financial sense, but in social terms would certainly be invaluable, and a necessary step in bringing this country into something approaching equality with the rest of the developed world.
  Gayspie Deputy Commissioner

Location: Adelaide, SA
It brings a tear to my eye to see disused rolling-stock that could operate regional rail services languishing in Tailem Bend and to see the state of some of our great passenger stations like Wolseley in the countryside that could be full of people. :'(
  Pressman Spirit of the Vine

Location: Wherever the Tin Chook or Qantas takes me
It brings a tear to my eye to see disused rolling-stock that could operate regional rail services languishing in Tailem Bend and to see the state of some of our great passenger stations like Wolseley in the countryside that could be full of people. :'(
Heath Loxton

Geesh Heath, your back from an enforced break away from RP and you instantly back with the same mindless dribble.
Would you care to inform the good folk here just how may people who live down in Wolseley that will be champing at the bit to catch a train to Bordertown?

As for crying over rusting carriages at Tailem Bend, go speak to the guy who owns them.
  Gayspie Deputy Commissioner

Location: Adelaide, SA
Hello;
I was not on an enforced break - i have been unbanned for months and i just didnt have the time to check RP. and its not dribble its sensible stuff for the future. Smile
  Aaron The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: University of Adelaide SA
The burgeoning metropolis that is Wolseley, population a massive 277, hardly going to fill a station. Take out the 56% of those who are full time employed and there's not a lot of population with time to fill the station.
  Aaron The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: University of Adelaide SA
Heath, you could do worse than try starting an express service between Lynton and Wolseley, with two railcars you could transfer the entire populations from one to the other in one trip. That would make you some serious cash...
  Tallboy-Lemond Station Master

"And while I share your frustration with regards to your inability to get to Quorn without a car, I'm not sure it's the government's responsibility to solve that for you, or was it ever.  The movement of people facilitated by rail was a happy byproduct of the need for rail to move goods to market.  While obviously an imperfect solution, are there tour groups you can join, or perhaps prevail upon a volunteer to drive you up from Pt Augusta?  From your posts, I imagine that I'd enjoy the drive."


As a bit of a side track, I was up in Port Augusta on the weekend and Pichi Richi run services from Pt Augusta to Quorn. So technically you could catch a train (I realise that was not the point of the original post).

Unfortunately the Pichi Richi services is quite expensive (when considering taking a family of five and my mum) and the trip would have been too long for the little ones so we didn't make the trip. It is a shame as I think it is great the work that the volunteers do and I appreciate running the service does cost money.

Back onto the subject. Without a SG train station at Showground station (or preferrably ARS) regional trains in SA are not feasible. Park Lands station is in the wrong place, you need to catch a taxi to get anywhere good. You feel like your dropped off at the end of the earth. That issue will always defeat rail when compeiting with a bus for time and cost.
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
Without a SG train station at Showground station (or preferrably ARS) regional trains in SA are not feasible
Tallboy-Lemond
Its almost moot, i think.  Ive been looking at SA and are there really any population centres to connect to Adelaide, as there are with Melbourne and Sydney to make a regional train network work. I dont see that SA/Line would work, though happy to have a debate! Notwithstanding the rail quality between them, Pt Augusta, Mt Gambier and possibly even Mildura just dont have the size to warrant it IMHO.  The Overland could be replaced with a more commuter type service to MEL but even then dont know if a daily service would work.  Thoughts?
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
This has been done to death in other threads and I think there's general agreement that the existing structure at 2 return services a week is not working. There was some recent effort put into trying to get local intermediate destinations (like Bordertown and Horsham) to actually use the service but the problem is the very infrequent running.

Establishing a proper commuter service (perhaps under V/line) would have some significant hurdles - not the least of which are the undesirable Adelaide terminus at Parklands and the very slow paths/running times presently available. It's not on the cards presently and you would need both state governments to underwrite it for it to go ahead.

Anyway... in the first instance we need to wait and see what the new owners want to do with their existing business - no doubt the future of the Overland is a topic they're already considering.
  Hendo Deputy Commissioner

Federal government sponsored concession fares on the IP, Ghan and Overlander are slated to be gone 1 Jul 2016 anyway. So that will kill off a large percentage of travellers.

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