Is it time to bring back the Southern Aurora?

 
  woodford Chief Commissioner

A short comment on the probable condition of the vehicles.......................

THe car they delivered to Violet Town is a 2nd class sleeper, all strip out. The story I was told was it was purchased by VLine to turn it into a 2nd class seated car, but after they stripped it out they found it was in to poor a condition to go back on the track, so this plan was shelved and Violet Town purchased it. I cannot imagine any of the other cars would be in any better condition.

woodford

Sponsored advertisement

  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
THe car they delivered to Violet Town is a 2nd class sleeper, all strip out.
"woodford"
Point of order - there was no 2nd class on the Southern Aurora. It was "Reserved Sleeping Berth" only.
  speedemon08 Mary

Location: I think by now you should have figured it out
Could always pull of what OBB did.... 230km/h capable business class trains to compete with airlines

https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnybrauns/32670458838/
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
A short comment on the probable condition of the vehicles.......................

THe car they delivered to Violet Town is a 2nd class sleeper, all strip out. The story I was told was it was purchased by VLine to turn it into a 2nd class seated car, but after they stripped it out they found it was in to poor a condition to go back on the track, so this plan was shelved and Violet Town purchased it. I cannot imagine any of the other cars would be in any better condition.

woodford
woodford

Surely Woodford you were aware the 'Aurora, in its time was AFAIK the only 1st class sleeping car train in operation anywhere in the world.

Also V/Line had plans to strip the car (done) and turn the empty shell into a power van, however the chassis of the car was not strong enough to sustain the weight of the diesel engine therefore the idea was shelved.

Mike.
  woodford Chief Commissioner

A short comment on the probable condition of the vehicles.......................

THe car they delivered to Violet Town is a 2nd class sleeper, all strip out. The story I was told was it was purchased by VLine to turn it into a 2nd class seated car, but after they stripped it out they found it was in to poor a condition to go back on the track, so this plan was shelved and Violet Town purchased it. I cannot imagine any of the other cars would be in any better condition.

woodford

Surely Woodford you were aware the 'Aurora, in its time was AFAIK the only 1st class sleeping car train in operation anywhere in the world.

Also V/Line had plans to strip the car (done) and turn the empty shell into a power van, however the chassis of the car was not strong enough to sustain the weight of the diesel engine therefore the idea was shelved.

Mike.
The Vinelander
I have NEVER claimed to be an expert on railways, I am just a student of engineering and have little interest in operations (Note 1). The car concerned had 2 beds per compartment so I assumed it was a lower standard as the current Ghan has both 2 bed and single be compartments, the latter being a higher standard.

Note 1: The reason I went down to the station to see the car unloaed was to see the crane operation, the load being difficult for cranes to handle being both bulky and heavy.

woodford
  kuldalai Chief Commissioner

A short comment on the probable condition of the vehicles.......................

THe car they delivered to Violet Town is a 2nd class sleeper, all strip out. The story I was told was it was purchased by VLine to turn it into a 2nd class seated car, but after they stripped it out they found it was in to poor a condition to go back on the track, so this plan was shelved and Violet Town purchased it. I cannot imagine any of the other cars would be in any better condition.

woodford

Surely Woodford you were aware the 'Aurora, in its time was AFAIK the only 1st class sleeping car train in operation anywhere in the world.

Also V/Line had plans to strip the car (done) and turn the empty shell into a power van, however the chassis of the car was not strong enough to sustain the weight of the diesel engine therefore the idea was shelved.

Mike.
The Vinelander
The former SA sleeper donated to Violet Town was gutted by the whizzkids to convert to the fourth sg powervan, which they soon discovered was going to be a very expensive conversion, so that thought bubble was abandonded and a damaged ACZ ex a derailment at Werribee many years ago was converted to become the sole PZ powervan which is actually incorrectly coded as PZ when it should be PCZ as it is both power van and  luggage van .  
Not rocket science VLP  .   A- First Class  B - Economy Class   C -  Luggage/Van space   P - Power Generation  R - Refreshment .    Class of overall carriages  Z, N, H etc .
So a Z car class carriage that accommodates power generation and van/luggage space is a  PCZ  ,  just as the other 3 sg powervans are from the former  Overland J class cars and thus correctly coded as  PCJ .
  RTT_Rules Dr Beeching

Location: Dubai UAE
WE know already that the air route between Melbourne and Sydney is one of the busiest in the world carrying literally thousands of passengers every day and on weekends. We also know that most of these pax have rarely or would even realise that travel between Melbourne and Sydney was once...Union disputes of the 1970's aside, the most enjoyable way of travelling between the two capitals...which have grown in size many fold since the heydey of the nightly silver express.

Only the parents and grandparents of today's red eye air travellers know of the former overnight trains and they largely avoided the 'Aurora because 40 years ago air travel was the modern way of travel.

These days...air travel is generally accepted to be a necessary evil. It's no longer cool to be getting up at such hours to get out to the airport etc...it's merely accepted as a means to an end.

The XPT is no option as it serves a different market with a sole sleeping car that usually means a single traveller is bunked in with a total stranger...no dining options, nor a space to conduct informal meetings such as the former Lounge car.

Therefore I suggest the operators of the cars that once formed that service to get their collective heads and their volunteers, preferably the retired ones together...and advertise for more volunteers to enable enough cars to be assembled to form enough for two sets of trains that could potentially re-create the nightly service which would utilise full celebrity chef Dining car and bar service in the former Lounge car...the potential to grow this service is only limited by the imagination of the operator.

By utilising volunteers, now retired ex-railway people and others with a passion for providing great customer service in hospitality would enable the running costs to be reduced to track access charges, the actual operating crew, drivers and assistants, Guard and head conductor. The fares would be a premium, say from $350.00 each way to start off, however there are already enough expense account execs that would happily pay for a First class service that $350.00 upwards is a tiny price to pay for not enduring the early morning alarm clock.

Travel doesn't have to be both ways by train and the current air service can still be utilised for the return journey.

Again...I emphasise there are thousands who travel daily between the capitals and ALL of them have to face the grind of getting up at the un-godly hour of 04:30 in many cases to enable an early arrival at their destination and because there are so many, and because it's so easy to advertise an alternative means of getting to their destination, it would be easy to syphon a low percentage of those pax to travel on the overnight express, which at its former maximum load only ever carried 198 pax.

WE know AMTRAK still operate many sleeping car trains and in Europe despite the economies of operation there are still several sleeping car services:

https://www.seat61.com/sleepers.htm

and in England/Scotland...a new dawn of sleeping cars has arrived.

http://newtrains.sleeper.scot/

I feel the opportunities are there to re-commence a low cost operation by utilising the equipment that still exists which...with the size of the potential market that's offering can only grow and is only restricted by the imagination of the potential operator with their potential army of willingly trained volunteers.

Opinions and suggestions Question

Mike.
The Vinelander
Hi Mike,
I see what you are getting at and I think the concept is fine but I think you've underestimated a few key parts which is why I think it won't work.

Why it could work
1) One train each way is less than 5% of the total airborn commuter traffic

2) Yes I've used the XPT (sleeper) to arrive in Brisbane more conveniently than going by air from Wyong, I wish there was more options.


Where I think you missed the mark and it won't work
1) $350 is a gross under-estimate, try closer to $1000 when looking at the XPT subsidy

2) Why did people abandon rail in the first place? Convenience of using air, most don't need to get up at 4:30am, more likely closer to 6am

3) Most parents would rather put their kids to bed and try their luck under the sheets and get up early than go over night.

4) The evening plane is more comfortable and likely cheaper than the train option.

5) You assumption the volunteers would provide a backbone of the work force is basically wrong. Yes they may do it for a week, but beyond, on such a service. Few love trains that much. Also any volunteer organization will tell you about the dramas and politics of working with a volunteer workforce compared to one you have the leash via a salary.

6) Very few will agree to share a cabin these days. I travel for business and I don't share hotel rooms and only shared a cabin on a train in India as no other choice. Even if same company you need to deal with mixed sex travelers as a starter. Your train will need to be mostly single cabins.

7) sleepers are in decline world wide. The new trains for Scotland are just replacements, not a new service.

8) Train arrives at one time in the morning, what time will it be? If I had to wait around for 1-2h on arrival its no longer useful, just wasting my time.

9) Just because S-M air corridor is 3rd busiest in the world, doesn't mean it needs a 2ndry form of transport.


As I said at the start, there is some merit, but I think costs will basically kill it and why its not there now.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
I don't agree with all your comments Shane...however thanks for your contribution all the same.

As the rail preservation honcho's also read Railpage, it was a prompter for them to scratch their collective heads and see if it could work.

I definitely believe there is a market as the air is full of red eyed early morning commuters and the train would only take a small percentage of those who can understand its merit. I don't believe sleeping cars have had their day despite what's happened in  Queensland and I just think the dynamic has changed and the top end market is out there looking for an 'experience' alternative and are prepared to pay probably much more than the initial $350.00 base fare I originally suggested.

I'm not a train operator I just see the potential.

Mike.
  simstrain Chief Commissioner

Do we not have an XPT or a future new regional train that will provide such a service Vinelander. When you say the upper end of the market what you really mean are those like yourself who don't like flying. The upper end either have there own plane / helicopter or take first / business class. These people aren't going to want to get on a train for 11-12 hours. I'm at the lower end of the market and after taking the XPT to Melbourne a few years back I don't want to catch a train for 12 hours.

The staff are good but the trip is horrible and bumpy and I don't want to be in a bed when an XPT bounces over some of the pot holes on the line. The plane is roughly the same price and so why am I taking a train for 11 hours for?
  sthyer Deputy Commissioner

I've spent many years in mainline preservation as a volunteer. I know what I'm not doing in my spare time, now or in retirement.... night shift! Current on train staff are based in Albury. They work to Sydney, motel, work back. Or they work to Melbourne, turn around and bring it back in a shift.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
I've spent many years in mainline preservation as a volunteer. I know what I'm not doing in my spare time, now or in retirement.... night shift! Current on train staff are based in Albury. They work to Sydney, motel, work back. Or they work to Melbourne, turn around and bring it back in a shift.
sthyer


Thanks for highlighting an aspect of the volunteers who could be eligible and enthusiastic hosts in promoting an executive railway service that I mentioned earlier.

You are not retired.

Mike.
  kitchgp Chief Commissioner

It would have to be a completely commercial operation, with a 99%-assured arrival time of 7.30am.

Some figures:

$500 fare (business class airfares $650 - $1000)

120-pass trains (individual berths with a few twins) = 120 x $500 = $60,000

2 trains per night (one each way) = 2 x $60,000 = $120,000

6 days per week (not Sat) = 6 x $120,000 = $720,000

50 weeks per year (not Christmas/New Year or Easter) = 50 x $720,000 = $36M

80% occupancy = $36M x 80% = $28.8M

less the (up to and not offset) $2.6M GST collected for the Government, leaves about $26M per annum to run the service, eg staff, capital costs, Wi-Fi, etc. There would be additional revenue (minus costs) from the lounge and dining cars.

It is very doubtful any private operator would take the risk.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
It would have to be a completely commercial operation, with a 99%-assured arrival time of 7.30am.

Some figures:

50 weeks per year (not Christmas/New Year or Easter) = 50 x $720,000 = $36M

80% occupancy = $36M x 80% = $28.8M

less the (up to and not offset) $2.6M GST collected for the Government, leaves about $26M per annum to run the service, eg staff, capital costs, Wi-Fi, etc. There would be additional revenue (minus costs) from the lounge and dining cars.

It is very doubtful any private operator would take the risk.
kitchgp

Thanks for your contribution...

You don't think a fledgling business with appropriate government start up support of tax write-offs can make a go of this with...as you suggest, a clear $2.5 Million+ after expenses Question

Remember...particularly in Victoria, the opportunity to expand tourist railways is occurring where it's feasible. Though I admit, expanding tourist railways is no walk in the park...and this would probably be a tourist railway consortia between Vic & NSW operating as a niche commercial business.

But anything passenger rail in Victoria is definitely flavour of the month, however not sure about north of the Murray where the potential rolling stock is situated as evidenced by the scant operation of tours there compared to Victoria.

Also...for Kuldalai's info, the memorial carriage at Violet Town is NOT ex SAR as it clearly has NSW & VR as constructed on the side by the door.

https://www.southernauroraviolettown.com.au/

Mike.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Just finished watching some youtube on sleeper services in Europe and there are many.  One such programme showed a journey from Vienna to the capital of Romania.  Sleeper cars dinning cars attached and detached on the journey, food and also sitting cars detached and attached on the route.

Line speed within Austria and Hungry 140-160km/h no problems.

There is a market for this service in Australia running Melbourne/Sydney/Brisbane.
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Trapped in a meeting with Rhonda and Karsten
You don't think a fledgling business with appropriate government start up support of tax write-offs can make a go of this with...as you suggest, a clear $2.5 Million+ after expenses?
The Vinelander
Why would the Federal or relevant State Governments want to subsidise a privately-owned sleeper service that is catering to business travellers?

Remember...particularly in Victoria, the opportunity to expand tourist railways is occurring where it's feasible. Though I admit, expanding tourist railways is no walk in the park...and this would probably be a tourist railway consortia between Vic & NSW operating as a niche commercial business.
The Vinelander
The annals of Tourist & Heritage Rail history in Victoria & NSW are littered with the corpses of failed commercial mainline operations. Australian Vintage Travel tried to make a go of it with the Southern Cross Express in the late 80s (with Victorian Government support). Northern Rivers Railroad tried in the 90s. ARHS Canberra tried to run a commercial freight arm (Espee Railroad Services) that ended up bankrupting its parent organisation. There is a simple fact: Non-profit organisations aren't set up to run high-intensity commercial businesses like you propose. And mainline rail is a hard business to get into in the first place, because you can't afford to stuff anything up and there's magnitudes more paperwork involved.

Any mainline rail preservation operator in NSW & Victoria would look at your service proposal with a large degree of skepticism. I think you'd need some partners with commercial experience in hospitality, marketing and commercial transportation (esp. airlines) to build up your case before the mainline mobs would give you anything more than the time of day.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Just finished watching some youtube on sleeper services in Europe and there are many.  One such programme showed a journey from Vienna to the capital of Romania.  Sleeper cars dinning cars attached and detached on the journey, food and also sitting cars detached and attached on the route.

Line speed within Austria and Hungry 140-160km/h no problems.

There is a market for this service in Australia running Melbourne/Sydney/Brisbane.
bevans

Thanks...though its dining car...not dinning.

Moreover I'm off to Norway in a few weeks and among other places the Nordland railway from Trondheim to the isolated city of Bodø and beyond which has a nightly overnight sleeping car service as per:

https://www.vy.no/globalassets/filer-en/timetables-train/71-eng-vy-pdf-trondheim-s-bodo-nordlandsbanen-9-12-18_14-12-2019.pdf

I think that reports of the demise and cessation of sleeping cars on European trains is highly exaggerated.

Mike.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
You don't think a fledgling business with appropriate government start up support of tax write-offs can make a go of this with...as you suggest, a clear $2.5 Million+ after expenses?
Why would the Federal or relevant State Governments want to subsidise a privately-owned sleeper service that is catering to business travellers?

Any mainline rail preservation operator in NSW & Victoria would look at your service proposal with a large degree of skepticism. I think you'd need some partners with commercial experience in hospitality, marketing and commercial transportation (esp. airlines) to build up your case before the mainline mobs would give you anything more than the time of day.
LancedDendrite

The government doesn't discriminate between a proposal between business partners trying to get a legit operation up and running if there's merit to it and a business case is produced...

Again, as I've previously written, I posted this thread as a prompter to the tourist rail operators, many...(all) of whom read Railpage who may have needed a prod to think about looking into the viability of this suggested proposal.

If it doesn't get up and the projected revenue fails to meet projected income, that's fine by me.

Mike.
  simstrain Chief Commissioner

Just finished watching some youtube on sleeper services in Europe and there are many.  One such programme showed a journey from Vienna to the capital of Romania.  Sleeper cars dinning cars attached and detached on the journey, food and also sitting cars detached and attached on the route.

Line speed within Austria and Hungry 140-160km/h no problems.

There is a market for this service in Australia running Melbourne/Sydney/Brisbane.
bevans

Stop day dreaming. This is Australia and not Europe. Those services do not exist in this country for a reason unless you want to pay thousands of dollars such as the new great southern service. The new great southern service costs $3500 from Adelaide to Brisbane and 9 days https://journeybeyondrail.com.au/packages/sun-surf-and-great-southern-2019-20/

There is only one private passenger service operator in Australia and it is trying to get out of the overland style service and in to the more profitable ghan and indian pacific type holiday service. GSR are just going to tell the Victorian government no more in the next year or 2 and so vline will have to step up to the table for that service.

Volunteers can not be expected to do this on a daily basis. If you want a daily service such as this then an operator needs to pay wages. You have an XPT / new regional train from Melbourne to Sydney and then on wards to Brisbane. That is your only rail option going forward.
  simstrain Chief Commissioner


The government doesn't discriminate between a proposal between business partners trying to get a legit operation up and running if there's merit to it and a business case is produced...

Again, as I've previously written, I posted this thread as a prompter to the tourist rail operators, many...(all) of whom read Railpage who may have needed a prod to think about looking into the viability of this suggested proposal.

If it doesn't get up and the projected revenue fails to meet projected income, that's fine by me.

Mike.
The Vinelander

Your not proposing a viable business idea. Your proposing a train service because you want to go back to 1962. There is no valid reason any government would give you support when there is already an existing government funded service in 2019.
  RTT_Rules Dr Beeching

Location: Dubai UAE
It would have to be a completely commercial operation, with a 99%-assured arrival time of 7.30am.

Some figures:

$500 fare (business class airfares $650 - $1000)

120-pass trains (individual berths with a few twins) = 120 x $500 = $60,000

2 trains per night (one each way) = 2 x $60,000 = $120,000

6 days per week (not Sat) = 6 x $120,000 = $720,000

50 weeks per year (not Christmas/New Year or Easter) = 50 x $720,000 = $36M

80% occupancy = $36M x 80% = $28.8M

less the (up to and not offset) $2.6M GST collected for the Government, leaves about $26M per annum to run the service, eg staff, capital costs, Wi-Fi, etc. There would be additional revenue (minus costs) from the lounge and dining cars.

It is very doubtful any private operator would take the risk.
kitchgp
Operating on board staff will need to be paid, but support staff could be partly volunteer.

I would also dispute there are so called people in heritage groups who know to look after business travellers. Its not shoe shine 1950's, you will need to hire and train people to meet todays standards of safety, corporate culture that you are trying to project and still provide a reasonable level of service to make people feel welcome. I suspect the dining cars would be buffet to save on waiting staff. The chef would simply be reheating food and placing in the buffet. Washing dishes, cleaning, making beds etc would be done by contractors at the end of the journey during the day.

But for a 7:30am arrival time, the train would leave at 9 - 9:30pm, so no dinner and likely no breakfast would need to be provided which would save alot of cost. Best to simply provide snacks with evening drinks and morning coffee etc.  

120 pass of sleepers is about 5 pax cars, plus 2 other cars and a loco, total 8-9 vehicles @1L/vehicle/km = 7700L of diesel or nearly $10,000 per trip.

Wages, Assume 5 on board crew per train + 2 drivers (if using locos) + contractors to clean and service the train and food Looking at min $5000 per train trip.

Track fees? Assume 5c/t/km = $20,000

Train maintenance and depreciation costs = ?????

Insurance = ????

So known costs around $35,000 plus maintenance, insurance, redundancy (ie call bus when line blocked), I'd say easily exceed $50,000 per trip.

You can no longer rely on high levels of alcohol consumption for revenue as this is a business audience target and in this day and age even Corporate Australia doesn't tolerant people coming to work suffering hang-overs or alcohol breath.

There are few BC travellers on the flights between Syd and Mel and I'd dare so too many of there are interested in rail, the target audience is EC.

Rolling stock will be a major issue, only stock up to the task on NG is owned by GSR and the NSW govt (ie XPT). The retired XPT's could be rebuilt to 2 x BC only sleeper trains of 8 cars plus two locos per trains. Note four locos are only 30 years old.
  simstrain Chief Commissioner

Where would you need NG RTT. The southern aurora is Sydney to Melbourne and vice versa.
  Donald Chief Commissioner

Location: Donald. Duck country.
Where would you need NG RTT. The southern aurora is Sydney to Melbourne and vice versa.
simstrain
I think he was talking Dangerdan's language.   The only true gauge ... etc
  potatoinmymouth Chief Commissioner

Where would you need NG RTT.
simstrain

He’s been brainwashed by DD707 and recognises the need to call everything other than the One True Gauge “narrow”.
  trainbrain Deputy Commissioner

yawn..................................
  Richard stroker Locomotive Fireman

Is this thread still going?
I think the answer To the original question is NO.
It would be nice ,but if it was a money making venture I'm sure it would have been started by now .
This thread should be called "if's and but's " or keep dreaming

Sponsored advertisement

Display from: