GSR - The Overland Thread

 
  GeoffreyHansen Minister for Railways

Location: In a FAM sleeper
If it is just the issue of air competition, why has the Overland declined more than other long distance trains such as the XPT and some of the Queensland trains?

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  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
Speed, distance, service frequency and population catchment.
  Gwiwer Rt Hon Gentleman and Ghost of Oliver Bulleid

Location: Loitering in darkest Somewhere
Speed, distance, service frequency and population catchment.
LancedDendrite
Two of which could be quite easily improved upon.  Distance is fixed. Population catchment is probably not that different to Melbourne - Sydney if we factor out the V/line operations between Melbourne and Albury and leave the rest to a two-trains-a-day service.  One of which is in the middle of the night.
  K-Class Chief Train Controller

Location: Melbourne
If it is just the issue of air competition, why has the Overland declined more than other long distance trains such as the XPT and some of the Queensland trains?
GeoffreyHansen
The two big reasons in my mind are cost the cost of the competing services and spread of population.

The Overland is basically just there for end to end travel which has been said over and over there are many ways to fet between Melbourne and Adelaide that are faster or cheaper and often both.

The Melbourne Sydney XPT has the same competition on the end to end service, but has large population centres along the way and my understanding is that by far the major of the journeys on the XPT are not the full distance between the capitals but either end or start outside of Melbourne or Sydney. Air travel from Melb or Sydney to these regional areas is either not available or is much more expensive the rail option.

The much higher population density along the east is what is driving the demand to maintain 2 serviced each way each day.

I dont know much about the situation in Queensland but I do know they have cancelled a number of their long distance services over the past few years and have heard there is probably still more rationalization to come.

Matthew
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Speed, distance, service frequency and population catchment.
LancedDendrite

Service Frequency is the big issue in my view.  If the train was a daily then people could rely on it being available.  When you have to begin looking at timetables because you cannot expect a daily service between two cities with a combined population of over $4.5 million people something is wrong.
  Gwiwer Rt Hon Gentleman and Ghost of Oliver Bulleid

Location: Loitering in darkest Somewhere
The Overland is basically just there for end to end travel which has been said over and over there are many ways to fet between Melbourne and Adelaide that are faster or cheaper and often both.


Matthew
K-Class

Precisely the mentality which will see a perfectly good train service killed off.  It needs to be pitched at the intermediate towns and cities, needs to be marketed as a credible option for inter-city and regional travel and can be marketed as a great way to access the Grampians region reducing car traffic there.

Yes end-to-end traffic usually chooses air but any which goes by rail is welcome.  There are many journeys possible by The Overland (and would be more if some stops were reinstated) which are not possibly by air - or at least not at the sort of competitive price which has seen Capital-Capital traffic won over in droves.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
There are many journeys possible by The Overland (and would be more if some stops were reinstated) which are not possibly by air - or at least not at the sort of competitive price which has seen Capital-Capital traffic won over in droves.
Gwiwer

...but it has to operate daily in both directions similar to V/Line long distance services so people who want to use it know it runs every day; not wait two days to travel on it.


Mike.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Service Frequency is the big issue in my view.  If the train was a daily then people could rely on it being available.  When you have to begin looking at timetables because you cannot expect a daily service between two cities with a combined population of over 4.5 million people something is wrong.
bevans
K-Class has hit the nail on the head - between Murray Bridge and Horsham there are hardly any towns over a thousand people whereas the XPT services four or five very large population centres on its journey. You can't compare the two routes for that reason.

The South Australian and Victorian governments repeatedly tried to increase intermediate traffic with station refurbishments and new platforms at those smaller towns but with no success. You could argue that the cuts to service frequency ran counter to what they were trying to achieve but at the same time the numbers continued to collapse so it wasn't supported anyway.

Stick with 2-3 return buses a day connecting with the train at Ararat or Bendigo - it won't cost anything like a new train doing the full distance and it will serve those small communities much better than a new train anyway.
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
Airlines often run less than weekly services to places with low demand.  But (most well run airlines) operate a minimum of 3 per week (3pw).  Depending on demand growth, the step up can be to 5pw, then daily (though depends on the route, 4pw and 6pw are seen not infrequently).  Would a service frequency of 3pw be enough to make it more desirable?  Or 5pw?
  Graham4405 Minister for Railways

Location: Dalby Qld
Some clever marketing wouldn't go astray. A frequent, well marketed, reasonably fast service that stops at the right places should get them in...
  justapassenger Minister for Railways

Two of which could be quite easily improved upon.
Gwiwer
One of which (service frequency) is fixed easily but not cheaply.

The speed problem is not easily fixed, with a substantial amount of work needed to get the rail network up to the standard needed for the Overland to be faster than a coach, let alone at a point where it's faster than a car and starting to compete with a plane. Remember that with a car there is no transfer at either end, and that real people undertaking real journeys don't generally make the arbitrary city centre to city centre journeys used by pro-rail people to tilt a comparison in their favour.

Population catchment is probably not that different to Melbourne - Sydney ...
Gwiwer
LOL.

Adelaide: 1.3 million people
Sydney: 4.9 million people

And that doesn't account for the significant proportion of Sydney-Melbourne XPT passengers who are using it as an inter-regional service to one of the centres along the way rather than an inter-city service. The only significant regional centres on the Overland route which would come close to warranting a stop if they were on that XPT route are Ararat, Horsham and Murray Bridge - and two of them have other superior public transport options linking them to their respective state capitals.

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.
Gman_86
Indeed.

There is plenty of research in Europe to suggest that high speed rail can compete against air only when the train journey time is a maximum of two hours longer than the flight time - largely to account for the time lost while the plane is on the ground at each end. Note that competition ≠ domination, despite the availability of Eurostar there are still airlines filling plenty of planes between London and Paris because the well-connected airports over there can be more convenient than battling into the centre of the cities with the commuter crowd.

If Australia was as serious about better transport as European countries are then we would be looking at starting to make the baby steps which would eventually lead to a 250+ km/h alignment between Adelaide and Melbourne - not actually building the high speed track, but easing curves and improving clearances every time any piece of infrastructure is renewed for the purpose of future proofing the route.  Before anyone points out that it would not be commercially viable, it's worth noting that none of the big rail projects in Europe are either (certainly not the Channel Tunnel, or the AlpTransit project) but they are necessary for far greater reasons.

Airlines often run less than weekly services to places with low demand.  But operate a minimum of 3 per week (3pw).  Depending on demand growth, the step up can be to 5pw, then daily (though depends on the route, 4pw and 6pw are seen not infrequently).  Would a service frequency of 3pw be enough to make it more desirable?  Or 5pw?
jamesbushell.au
3 per week for a rural air route is very different to 3 per week for an inter-city train - there's still a 57% chance of turning up at the station to ask for the next train and being told a time more than 24 hours away. It was only a couple of years ago when the Overland was running three times a week each way and it was still haemorrhaging passengers even before the Wednesday/Thursday return run was cancelled.

What needs to be kept in mind is how real people would actually use it, not just pensioners who have nothing better to do with their time than to trundle around admiring the countryside. Here's the problem - it's impossible to use the Overland for a quick weekend away in either Adelaide or Melbourne (perhaps to go to an AFL game, the Tour Down Under, a theatre production, a wedding or a significant birthday party) because a weekend in Melbourne by train requires three days off work (six days if it's a Friday night game/show/party) and a weekend in Adelaide takes a whole week. That's not a weekend away, it's a major holiday!

The previous 3 per week schedule made a weekend in Adelaide possible with the same three days off as a weekend in Melbourne requires currently, but that's still closer to a week of leave than to a single flexi day and relies on having a nice boss who won't require you use your annual leave in calendar week blocks.

In the early 2000s it ran four or five times a week with Adelaide-Melbourne during the day and Melbourne-Adelaide overnight. The westbound trains left at about 11pm Melbourne time, which was late enough to get on after an evening event. The only problem was that it required the use of some sleeper carriages which were not paying their way on the eastbound (daytime) trains, and that the track quality is not conducive to sleep regardless of whether you're in a reclining seat or a berth.

Some clever marketing wouldn't go astray.
Graham4405
There's no amount of turd polishing which can fix the Overland, it needs infrastructure.

Although if the infrastructure was ever put in place and a new usable service launched, it might well be worth putting the tired old Overland name out to pasture and giving the new service a new name that doesn't carry any perceptions of the old service.
  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
Then let's add the wish list. . . turn the Snowy Mountains Authority blokes loose on the Adelaide Hills and bore a tunnel from Murray Bridge to somewhere near Mitcham.Shocked
  Pressman Spirit of the Vine

Location: Wherever the Tin Chook or Qantas takes me
Some clever marketing wouldn't go astray. A frequent, well marketed, reasonably fast service that stops at the right places should get them in...
"Graham4405"


I'm sure GSR would be open to any fully costed plan to provide a profitable service as both they and their predecessors have failed to ever find one.
  Graham4405 Minister for Railways

Location: Dalby Qld
I'm sure GSR would be open to any fully costed plan to provide a profitable service as both they and their predecessors have failed to ever find one.
Pressman
I often wonder how hard they look though. Rail is popular and even profitable elsewhere. Why can't we do it here? You have to spend money to make money. Any businessman knows that. People can't/won't use something that doesn't exist or doesn't meet their needs. Does anyone even try?
  Gwiwer Rt Hon Gentleman and Ghost of Oliver Bulleid

Location: Loitering in darkest Somewhere
No-one tries.  My impression of Australian rail with very few exceptions is that no-one tries.  Most of it is State-supported meaning there is no incentive to try.  Not all routes would ever be viable but an interstate main line between two relatively close Capitals and with some modest intermediate population and tourism potential should be able to succeed.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
It had just fallen hopelessly behind of modern expectations around speed and comfort and there were no votes in upgrading it.

In my opinion GSR were completely the wrong management for it - they were exclusively targeting a tourist market with cheesy cabin music and a running landscape commentary from the 'host' that became incredibly annoying if you were trying to sleep or read. The last few times I took it the staff were obviously going through the motions; it wasn't particularly clean or functional (despite millions spent on the 'makeover') and it was consistently off schedule - usually by at least an hour. At eleven hours plus it's more like an ordeal than a trip.

It's just not competitive with the alternatives and the solution would involve big $$$ that no government really wants to put up.

For a start, the transit time needs to be comparable with driving ie: no more than eight hours.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
....

If Australia was as serious about better transport as European countries are then we would be looking at starting to make the baby steps which would eventually lead to a 250+ km/h alignment between Adelaide and Melbourne - not actually building the high speed track, but easing curves and improving clearances every time any piece of infrastructure is renewed for the purpose of future proofing the route.  Before anyone points out that it would not be commercially viable, it's worth noting that none of the big rail projects in Europe are either (certainly not the Channel Tunnel, or the AlpTransit project) but they are necessary for far greater reasons.
....
justapassenger
With the exception of the steam-age alignment through the Adelaide Hills, the route is actually quite flat and straight - in my opinion the very cheapest way of getting the speeds up would be to focus on level crossing elimination. Speeds for DMU's would be heavily restricted by the possibility of collision with a heavy vehicle; if you could get rid of all the level crossings and run DMU's with a decent cruising speed across (mostly) existing alignments and track I think perhaps you could shave three hours off the existing times at least getting them competitive with driving.

Apparently V/locity is capable of much higher speeds than presently allowed (160kmh) but there's issues with insurance and the existence of level crossings along the routes.
  railblogger Chief Commissioner

Location: At the back of the train, quitely doing exactly what you'd expect.
Apparently V/locity is capable of much higher speeds than presently allowed (160kmh) but there's issues with insurance and the existence of level crossings along the routes.
don_dunstan
Apparently they had a very rough ride quality when tested at 200km/h
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
Apparently they had a very rough ride quality when tested at 200km/h
railblogger
Not really designed for that obviously but there's plenty of similar DMU's overseas that can do those kind of speeds in regular service; the British have been doing it for forty years. I'd imagine that if Bombardier were asked to build a 200km/h diesel multiple-unit for the route (maybe as an Albury loco-hauled/XPT replacement too) they could probably come up with one based on the V/locity; like a V/locity long-haul generation 2/Bombardier class 222 Meridian.
  justapassenger Minister for Railways

I often wonder how hard they look though. Rail is popular and even profitable elsewhere.
Graham4405
Where on this planet is passenger rail genuinely profitable?

The franchised operators generating profits for their parent corporations in some European countries (e.g. the UK) don't count, they only generate profits because many of their costs are covered by massive subsidies.

Why can't we do it here? You have to spend money to make money. Any businessman knows that.
Graham4405
Australia does not have the population to sustain the running of rail as a business, outside of a handful of core freight routes. It therefore needs to return to being run as a service, with the profitable routes cross-subsidising the loss-making routes which are essential.

Does anyone even try?
Graham4405
You're right here though.

The reason that we don't have a 21C rail network is that there isn't the demand for one. The unfortunate result of that will be that when the demand does arrive (and it will) the infrastructure backlog could well be around 60-80 years, large enough to make what should be progressive upgrades into a megaproject.
  Gwiwer Rt Hon Gentleman and Ghost of Oliver Bulleid

Location: Loitering in darkest Somewhere
[color=#000000][size=2][font=Roboto, wf_SegoeUI, 'Segoe UI', Segoe, 'Segoe WP', Tahoma, Verdana, Arial, sans-serif][quote]large enough to make what should be progressive upgrades into a megaproject.[/quote][/font][/size][/color]
[color=#000000][font=Roboto, wf_SegoeUI, Segoe UI, Segoe, Segoe WP, Tahoma, Verdana, Arial, sans-serif][size=2]Which perhaps should be the building of mostly-new high-speed lines. I don't say "all-new" because such lines should continue to serve rather than avoid regional centres but the 19th Century steeply-graded, sharp-curved routes we are still struggling with won't last forever as traffic demands increase. [/size][/font][/color]
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud

Which perhaps should be the building of mostly-new high-speed lines.  I don't say "all-new" because such lines should continue to serve rather than avoid regional centres but the 19th Century steeply-graded, sharp-curved routes we are still struggling with won't last forever as traffic demands increase.  
Gwiwer
You have to have the political will and the $$$ to get these things done. Ultimately the Commonwealth needs to be doing the spending because the states don't own the tracks and unfortunately the current administration is scoping ways to flog off the infrastructure to the private sector so upgrades will be the last thing on their minds.

I think apart from the exception of those highly successful inter-urban short services (V/line) that long haul passenger rail really doesn't have a future in Australia - not unless the Commonwealth has a change of heart and decides to invest heavily OR somehow the private money can be found to remove those 19th-century alignments.
  bingley hall Minister for Railways

Location: Last train to Skaville
Anyone thinking the alignment in the Adelaide Hills is a major impediment to the services has rocks in their head. I suppose you think there would be more freight on rail if there was a Hills bypass. There's a delusional local councillor in Mictham who would just love to hear from you.

So it used to run 7 days a week and not enough people used it.

Until very recently it ran three days a week, but the government subsidies were not enough to cover hook and pull cost increases so it was cut back to twice a week. So if you want it to be increased back to 3 days a week you need to lobby the two state governments rather than spend your time whingeing on here.

This has already been done to death in other threads.
  RTT_Rules Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Dubai UAE
10 flights by Qantas daily during week and 4 by Jetstar. Small compared to east coast.

The service is of very limited use to the RPT user on its current timetable and you'd have to adjust your schedule to match the train.

Plenty of options for travel for $120 $150 by plane + transfers.
Rail is $79 to $190 + transfers

Rail is cheaper, but not by much. Its also not a Hotel on rails either.


Tend to agree that the twice a week service is its own worst enemy and the train length to me is too few to be a low cost loco hauled operation. To have a future it needs to go to back 5 or even 7 day a week operation and probably conversion to DMU. The current service averages 75km/hr. If you could get even a 15-20% speed boost from DMU you would probably get it down to 9-9.5hr. Don't need to go +160km/hr, just need to get the lower end speeds up to 120-140km/hr.

But as others have said, its a service where the bulk of the users are capital to capital with very minimal mid route population and this market for rail is very difficult over such a 825km distance, even for MSR and HSR.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
A friend of mine is visiting from Adelaide and insisted on taking the train home on Tuesday - partly because I told him about the rumours on Railpage that the train was going to be closed at some stage soon.

Unfortunately the booking process on-line was surprisingly complicated and there was a fee attached to making an 'assisted' booking (it used to be called phone-booking!). I also noticed that there's surprisingly very few places where you can actually go and buy a ticket in person - we rang GSR to find out if we could actually buy a ticket at Southern Cross station but they weren't sure themselves exactly who sold the tickets or when they were open.

We got through the internet booking eventually - he got the upgrade to 'Red Premium' so it will be interesting to hear how the trip goes...

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