GSR - The Overland Thread

 
  Gwiwer Rt Hon Gentleman and Ghost of Oliver Bulleid

Location: Loitering in darkest Somewhere
The cafeteria selection (I won't call it a menu Wink ) is very basic.

For a train which travels across at least two meal times in the course of its pedestrian progress the offerings are at best poor.  And they don't vary across the day.  Nothing to match the QR Traveltrain style where full dining is available on many trains and on those with recent stock you get at-seat service of airline-style meals.

The options are basically BYO or be at the mercy of limp, lukewarm sausage rolls or pies.  That's OK maybe once in a day around lunchtime but not for a late breakfast nor dinner.

It's basically what was termed in the UK a "sulky" service.  The entire operation, now just two return trips a week, runs only under a degree of duress because it came with the prestigious Ghan and IP operations and has to be maintained.  The attitude of on-board staff on all of my trips has reflected that to a tee.  No interest in doing anything more than the barest minimum.  And definitely no opening of doors at station stops unless you're booked to get on or off.  

It's the only long-distance service in Australia where I have never been able to hop off for a few seconds and get photos at the intermediate stations. I was actually threatened with being put off the train at Murray Bridge for daring to attempt a photograph from an open doorway.  In the opinion of the "Customer Service Staff" (I use the term loosely) as I was not booked to alight and was clearly not boarding I had no business even being out of my seat!!!!!

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  CS2905 Junior Train Controller

Location: Canberra, ACT
As per my post in the "Ararat loop day trip???" thread (http://www.railpage.com.au/f-p1910682.htm#1910682), I'm thinking of taking a V/Line train out to Ararat, stay there briefly, then take The Overland back to Southern Cross. More to sit back and look out the window than anything else, so food doesn't really matter.
  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
In the opinion of the "Customer Service Staff" (I use the term loosely) as I was not booked to alight and was clearly not boarding I had no business even being out of my seat!!!!!
Gwiwer

Sounds like the female storm trooper whom I encountered on the IP between Perth and Adelaide a couple of years ago. She should not have been permitted anywhere near customers, who were quite clearly something unpleasant that she just had to put up with.  Some HR departments astonish me, and GSR's is one.
  justapassenger Minister for Railways

It all makes sense as soon as you remember that GSR is Serco - one of a very select group of companies to achieve the astonishing feat of having a worse customer service ethic than heavily unionised government railways.
  CS2905 Junior Train Controller

Location: Canberra, ACT
Don't bother with putting too much effort into seat selection - GSR will give you whatever number comes up next on their system without paying any attention to what you selected on the V/Line website. V/Line should really remove the seat selection from Overland bookings as it's misleading advertising, but my guess is their website has it just because it won't be able to process a reservation without it.
justapassenger

Having done the "Ararat Loop" on Friday, here's what I can report....

My V/Line ticket said "S 32", but the GSR staff member at the loco end of car T was simply advising passengers verbally of where to sit, then crossing them off. He told me seat 30, but somebody was already in that seat, since they'd misinterpreted the aisle / window indications. He was about to move across when the conductor came through, and said that I could just sit anywhere that wasn't already taken. So I plonked myself in seat 33, one seat behind what my V/Line ticket said. Another passenger then said that she'd just been given that seat, but wasn't fussed and continued on. So it seems to be a bit of a free-for-all, really.

As far as seat and window alignment goes, it's probably easiest to say that all window seats in Red have some degree of window view, but some more so than others, and it also depends on which way the seats are facing. Car T had the lowest numbered seats at the loco end, and with seat 33 facing the direction of travel I had a good window view; better than my "V/Line allocated" seat in front of me. Not that I needed it, but the seats in the row in front of me (also facing the direction of travel) had greater leg room. I assume that it's because there's a larger distance between the two centre-most windows, and the seats have been spaced accordingly. If you're 10' tall or more, seats 3 and 4 are your best bet, if they're facing the door.

The next car along was also a Red class car, but around the other way, such that the highest numbered seats were at the loco end. The car after that was the buffet car, and as Red class scum, I wasn't able to go any further.

When they announced at around 4.45pm that the buffet car would be closing at 5pm for a private function, I took my chances on a plain meat pie. It was OK. The worst part about the buffet car closing at 5pm was that it meant that Miss Very Inebriated graced our carriage with her presence for the remainder of the trip.

The staff seemed fine. No sign of any female storm troopers, which is a bit of a pity really, since Miss Very Inebriated could've done with a stern, "STFU or we're throwing you off the train."
  x31 Chief Commissioner

Location: gallifrey
Rumour going around Vline are planning to take back the Overland from GSR.  Seems the minister is not entirely happy with the performance of GSR.
  Gwiwer Rt Hon Gentleman and Ghost of Oliver Bulleid

Location: Loitering in darkest Somewhere
I like that rumour though can neither confirm nor deny anything in connection with it.

V/Line already operate Melbourne - Adelaide services via road coach for the most part. There is a risk of small and relatively isolated communities becoming further marginalised if these were replaced by a train service which would not be able to call at everywhere the road coach serves.

There are additional stops the Overland could make but don't count on getting a train to stop at the likes of Wolseley ever again Wink
  Gman_86 Chief Commissioner

Location: Melton, where the sparks dare not roam!
Credible rumours around the traps are The Overland is all but finished. It will take some big changes in thinking for it to survive into next year.

I would be astounded if V/Line showed any interest in operating The Overland, or any other form of Melbourne to Adelaide passenger train.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Rumour going around Vline are planning to take back the Overland from GSR.
x31
There's a lot of obstacles to V/line resuming this service - as Gwiwer says they already operate their own co-branded daily bus to Adelaide. I tend to agree with others there that it's unlikely they would actually want to operate a service like that anyway given their existing problems with their small standard gauge fleet and lack of suitable rolling stock for a long-haul service like that.
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
A road coach is easy to cancel, but i agree, what could replace it?
  NSWGR8022 Deputy Commissioner

Location: From the lands of Journalism and Free Speech
There's a lot of obstacles to V/line resuming this service - as Gwiwer says they already operate their own co-branded daily bus to Adelaide. I tend to agree with others there that it's unlikely they would actually want to operate a service like that anyway given their existing problems with their small standard gauge fleet and lack of suitable rolling stock for a long-haul service like that.
don_dunstan

Buses can be cancelled and a move made to trains which are more comfortable and quicker.  Would vline run through to Adelaide or if only Victoria would they run to where on the border?

I have also heard this mentioned over the past few days but also to be jointly funded by the SA Government.  It could be a hand back of the train to the government.

VLine would do a reasonable job.  They are one of the only rail operators in Australia who run regionally who have the patronage growth.  This is surely to continue.

Hand Geelong over to Metro and electrify and then have vline focus on the longer distance trains.
  Gwiwer Rt Hon Gentleman and Ghost of Oliver Bulleid

Location: Loitering in darkest Somewhere
V/line is a not-for-profit operator these days and directly operates rail services for the State of Victoria.  They also have some financial arrangements regarding the Overland and XPT interstate services as I understand it.

If - and I stress if - GSR chooses to abandon the Overland then a likely scenario is for V/line to step in and assume responsibility for the Victorian side of the operation.  

I suspect the rolling stock might be contentious as GSR I believe owns the set used currently and V/line surely doesn't have anything spare never mind whether it's on the right gauge.  Hook and pull traction isn't hard to come by.  A viable route is problematical due to the gauge issue; it would be prohibitive to convert half the interstate line either one way or the other for a single train a few times a week.  That effectively means no change to the Plains route used now and missing out on Ballarat and (effectively) Geelong traffic.

I really have no concept of whether there's any feeling in PTV about retaining the rail link with Adelaide but I suspect there would be some sort of pressure to do so even if it were at the cost of the daily coach service.  That could probably be reduced to twice weekly without undue hardship if the train ran more often and stopped along the way.
  x31 Chief Commissioner

Location: gallifrey
I really have no concept of whether there's any feeling in PTV about retaining the rail link with Adelaide but I suspect there would be some sort of pressure to do so even if it were at the cost of the daily coach service.  That could probably be reduced to twice weekly without undue hardship if the train ran more often and stopped along the way.
Gwiwer

Both posts above are good and thought provoking.  If GSR wanted to hand back the service then it makes a lot of sense for Vic and SA Governments to undertake this.  Not withstanding the Victorian side would provide some much needed political kudos from the people of western Victoria it might be an opportunity for the South Australian Government to get back into the regional passenger market.

From where would the rollingstock come?  Would GSR sell the overland stock?
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
.... it might be an opportunity for the South Australian Government to get back into the regional passenger market.
x31
Why would they want to do that, they're cash-strapped and there's no votes outside Adelaide for a Labor government. The last thing they need is to restart a loss-making regional passenger train service that very few South Australians will actually use.

My money is on the service ending completely at the end of this year as has been rumoured in other threads.
  x31 Chief Commissioner

Location: gallifrey
My money is on the service ending completely at the end of this year as has been rumoured in other threads.
don_dunstan

If that were to be the case Don then we all need to understand why a service 10 years ago was full and now it is not when equivalent services over similar distances are surviving. Disgraceful.
  Gwiwer Rt Hon Gentleman and Ghost of Oliver Bulleid

Location: Loitering in darkest Somewhere
Cross-border services seem to be a problem in Australia.  No-one wants to do anything beyond their own four walls.  There is an argument which asks "Why should they?" but there are others which suggest "joined-up thinking" and "mutual co-operation" produce a greater result.

For SA there isn't a lot to be gained politically but a daily Murray Bridge - Adelaide train offering at least 10am - 4pm in the Capital may prove worthwhile.  For Victoria there's the investment already made in getting the BG back to Ararat several times a day and connecting with road coaches to points west to set against the prospect of a train running perhaps once a day at best and it it were purely on the Victorian side possibly going no further than Horsham.  That, for a dedicated train on a different gauge running through the middle of nowhere, is not viable full stop.

But if the two are joined and a decent through service offered at suitable times then many intermediate towns will gain useful transport links to either or both state Capitals rather than the erratic twice weekly offering they have now which arrives well into the evening at either end and necessitates an overnight stay or three if returning by train.  In short the service isn't attractive and is being actively run down.

I have suggested before that if a state-based operator (for example V/line) were to have control of the service and had a reasonable financial input from their neighbour state then a two-set service could be offered.  One set working Murray Bridge - Adelaide in the early morning returning by day to Melbourne and the other Melbourne - Adelaide arriving in time to return to Murray Bridge in the evening.  Early business arrivals into Melbourne and out in the evening are already catered for by the BG Ararat service so there is no need to compete for this market.  

If that pattern ran each weekday with perhaps just a Melbourne - Adelaide one-way Saturday and return on Sunday that permits a little down time for train maintenance.  OK the idle set would be at Murray Bridge but it could be brought into Adelaide overnight.

There is a demand waiting to be met and there are people willing to travel by train if only there was one on the right day (i.e. every day) at the right time.  There is always a small but steady number of people arriving at Melbourne's Southern Cross station seeking "the next train to Adelaide" and going away bemused and head-scratching when told it's three or four days away.  The major market potential isn't end-to-end as air wins on time every time there.  It is intermediate traffic to and from the major centres and any or all end-to-end traffic (of which there remains a modest amount yet) is welcome additional revenue.  There is also a significant potential in opening up the Grampians region to non car users by having regular trains to Horsham and a short bus link to Halls Gap for those who require it.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
If that were to be the case Don then we all need to understand why a service 10 years ago was full and now it is not when equivalent services over similar distances are surviving. Disgraceful.
x31
Anyone who has followed my posts would know that I am pro-train where it's viable or where numbers are sufficient to justify it - but this train simply is not in that category and probably never will be. I think it's time to lay it to rest.

It's like similar threads that have been done in the past about the lack of political will to return V/line services to the Wimmera - the numbers were simply not sufficient to justify keeping it going and if the locals simply aren't supporting it with patronage (because the service can be managed easily with three or four return buses a day to Ararat) then it's a no-brainer.

The situation is slightly different with the Overland but the core problem is fundamentally the same: It's not attractive enough for potential passengers to use. Outside Adelaide the numbers are really minimal past Murray Bridge and there's not a lot of reasons for Murray Bridge people to use the train anyway because it was significantly slower than the bus. Local people along the route aren't sufficiently interested in using the train, I suppose because its not attractive compared with driving your car or taking a bus. But the real killer on the capital-to-capital market has been cheap air travel - air fares that are actually cheaper than the equivalent train fare - even two or three days out from the date of travel. Why on earth would you want to muck around with eleven hours of a not-particularly-comfortable train with microwave pies when it could all be over in three hours including transfers to/from the airports?

As Gwiwer says, there's no real interest from either side of the border in maintaining this service with more taxpayer money because the potential for it to attract new passengers is really marginal given that all the efforts to turn to service around in the last twenty years have consistently failed, completely unable to make headway into the passenger preference for air travel. And as someone who used that train infrequently (maybe once or twice a year) I'm really not going to miss it... an increased Daylink coach/train service isn't a bad alternative and it would cost a fraction of the big $$$ required to bring the train up to any sort of speed/comfort standards to effectively complete. More frequent buses would probably work better for those small towns along the Dukes/Western Highway anyway.

Sad but true.
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
But for the decision not to standardise the Ballarat line this discussion (and the Horsham one) would be altogether different.
  Graham4405 Minister for Railways

Location: Dalby Qld
Cross-border services seem to be a problem in Australia.
Gwiwer


Not for airlines or bus/coach operators...
  Pressman Spirit of the Vine

Location: Wherever the Tin Chook or Qantas takes me
I have also heard this mentioned over the past few days but also to be jointly funded by the SA Government.  It could be a hand back of the train to the government.
NSWGR8022
For starters, there is no obligation for GSR to "hand back" anything to the Government. The hand back clauses in the sale of the SAR related to the corridor NOT the services or rolling stock.

And as this whole discussion has come about because of the rumoured withdrawal of subsidies by the SA Gov, why would the SA Gov be the slightest bit interested in taking on MORE expense to run it?
  Pressman Spirit of the Vine

Location: Wherever the Tin Chook or Qantas takes me
Both posts above are good and thought provoking.  If GSR wanted to hand back the service then it makes a lot of sense for Vic and SA Governments to undertake this.  Not withstanding the Victorian side would provide some much needed political kudos from the people of western Victoria it might be an opportunity for the South Australian Government to get back into the regional passenger market.

From where would the rollingstock come?  Would GSR sell the overland stock?
x31
Again, there is no "hand back" clause for services or rolling stock.
Why would the SA Gov be the slightest bit interested if they are (as rumoured) withdrawing subsidies.

If GSR abandon the Overland of course they would sell the rolling stock if they have no use for it.
  Pressman Spirit of the Vine

Location: Wherever the Tin Chook or Qantas takes me
If that were to be the case Don then we all need to understand why a service 10 years ago was full and now it is not when equivalent services over similar distances are surviving. Disgraceful.
x31
To understand why, remove the gunzel goggles and open your eyes and look at what was happening at the time, Air fares where dropping fast, rapidly becoming affordable to everyone, not just the corporate high flyers.
As a comparison, 10 years ago I was paying over $1,000 for a return Air ticket, Adelaide to Perth, Today under half that price at less than $500 (including baggage and meals!)

Also the private car was becoming affordable and reliable for interstate trips.

The disgrace is that the travelling public choose to NOT use the train. At the time of the decline, AN tried a Day train and a night train, but still patronage collapsed.
  Pressman Spirit of the Vine

Location: Wherever the Tin Chook or Qantas takes me
For SA there isn't a lot to be gained politically but a daily Murray Bridge - Adelaide train offering at least 10am - 4pm in the Capital may prove worthwhile.  
Gwiwer
I doubt many would bother with a rail service,
Murray Bridge to Adelaide via rail is just on a 2 hour trip.
By road in a private car just 60 minutes and around 70 minutes on a bus.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
If GSR abandon the Overland of course they would sell the rolling stock if they have no use for it.
Pressman
I believe that the rolling-stock is actually leased from a third party; a private entity, not the Commonwealth government.

At the time of the decline, AN tried a Day train and a night train, but still patronage collapsed.
Pressman
As someone who has used the train on and off for many years, I have to say - the main put-off is the fact that it's nowhere near comparable to either driving or flying... it's four hours slower than driving and eight or nine hours slower than flying. If you only have a couple of days that time can be crucial; for the train to be competitive it needs to be at least comparable with driving your own car. Even buses are marginally faster despite the driver meal-breaks along the way.

The other pain is having to either get a taxi or otherwise try and trek out to Keswick terminal - it never made sense to me that the country terminal was moved to somewhere with no interface with local public transport; at least it doesn't do that in Melbourne.
  Gman_86 Chief Commissioner

Location: Melton, where the sparks dare not roam!
For most people, the thought of needlessly spending an entire day on a train, when there is a 1 hour flight as an affordable alternative, its pure insanity. That is the only reason the Overland has declined, and is the reason why the Overland will continue to decline.

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