Emirates Airlines - Skywards
Member since 30 Nov 2015
Total posts 419
I just wanted to let you guys know how enjoyable this trip was. Three of us went, so we occupied the entire day sitter compartment, and had our own toilet, hot and cold water, soap, two wardrobes, and storage space for three suit cases that did not encroach in leg space/floor space etc. The seats were enormous, very comfortable and big padded arm rests that folded back into the back of the seating. There would have to have been 1meter leg stretch out space, it was enormous, much more than up in First Class Saloon seating. Curtains could be used to shield the sun, air con was perfect, and could even close the door for total quietness. The train left on time, and arrived exactly on time at Sydney Central. Food was very good, hot meals for lunch and dinner cost $9 and there were four types to choose from. They even offered a hot breakfast if you wanted it. They did not do lattes, (the only negative) but the coffee, tea and hot chocolates were good. The country side was spectacular, you really appreciate just how big the distance is from these two cities. Staff were friendly, relaxed and courteous, removed rubbish quickly, and kept an eye on things. If you have time to spare, and fancy this form of transport, get a forward facing day sitter compartment, each seat is the same cost as a single first class seat in the saloon car, if there are three of you going, you will have your own compartment shared with no others. Seniors get a substantial discount. Luggage can also be stored in luggage van if you want. If you want a days entertainment, and want to rest up and enjoy the travel and see interesting things, I do recommend this type of transportation. Central CBD to Central CBD in luxury and comfort is the way to get there, and if your hotel is a five minute walk away, even better for the return trip.
Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer
Member since 10 Nov 2012
Total posts 8
I used this service extensively (and the connecting Xplorer service) when a relative in the Hunter Valley had a long period of sickness. When the XPT service works well, as it sounds like it did for you, it's brilliant. My overall experience is a bit different: some day-sitter carriages are way better than others in terms of noise and smoothness; the locomotives often break down. Sadly, the train went past its use-by date the best part of a decade ago, and no politician wants to pay out for a new train and, ideally, improvements to the track, which is still pretty well 19th century. Last time I looked, the NSW government had put aside $7.5million to pay consultants for a feasibility study for a replacement train. I would like to have been one of those consultants (I could have become rich), but in the meantime I'm not holding my breath waiting for a new train.
There can be problems with recalcitrant passengers, although the staff are pretty quick to fix things. If someone manages to stay unduly disruptive despite the best efforts of the staff, the police are called and the unruly passengers are evicted, but the police in NSW county towns often have other work priorities in the middle of the night, and the train can stand in the platform at, say, Cootamundra, for an hour before the police arrive. Police also occasionally turn up at places such as Wagga and stage walk throughs with drug sniffer dogs. Not that I've actually ever seen anyone being arrested for possession, although I'm sure it happens.
Security has been stepped up since the train's early days -- at most stations, especially at night, all the doors are locked, and only the doors of carriages where passengers are booked to get on or off at a particular station are unlocked, with staff manning the door.
After eating too many of those $9 hot meals (similar to economy airline meals) I ended up taking my own food, or eating before I got on the train -- easier if travelling at night. Last time I tried it, the coffee was a Robert Timms coffee bag, but still not bad, like you say. The amount of waste generated by using throwaway plates and cutlery etc has to be seen to be believed.
Rather than travelling during the day, I actually enjoyed the overnight trip in a sleeper -- when the train arrived at Central I would go for a swim and hot shower at the pool nearby and then join my connecting train. There was usually plenty of time for that, and it was much more relaxed than a change of plane at the airport. (Not that I could use a connecting flight to my destination - my choices were fly to Newcastle and pick up a rental car, or take the train. The train was a whole lot easier, and cheaper).
When I didn't have a sleeper (an extra $88 each way, from memory), I found that the first class seats in the saloon cars were OK -- heaps of legroom although cramped for shoulder room if the train was fairly full and there was someone in the seat beside me. If I had two seats to myself, I could sleep for most of the journey. I tended to choose the days I travelled carefully, so that when I was sitting up at night, I was more likely to have two seats to myself. Bringing my own neck rest was a big help when I wanted to sleep, too.
Even the economy seats are OK -- exactly the same seats as the first class saloon seats, with marginally less legroom and substantially less recline. The economy seats fill up faster and are more likely to reach 100% occupancy, but believe me when I say that they are still way better than flying overnight to Tokyo on a LCC.
Connections to my destination were guaranteed which meant that I didn't have to worry about missing a connection (and forfeiting the price of the ticket/finding a place to stay for the night) if an incoming service was late.
In terms of value for money, the train service cannot be beaten, especially if you buy a six month Discovery pass. Sleeping berth fees are not included in the cost of these passes, but I worked out that my average first class trip from Melbourne to the upper Hunter Valley was costing me $90 for the return trip. Given that I was travelling relatively frequently for a year and a half, that was a bargain.
I agree with everything you have said. I know I was lucky with the service. Money should be allocated for a new train, split between NSW and VIC, it has certainly been worked hard, after a very short turnaround it does that same 900km trip back to Sydney in the night. I am told the engines are serviced after every second trip at the workshops in central Sydney. The engines themselves have a dated ugly duckling almost retro appearance, the interior of the car cabin was fresh and clean. I Glen 20'd the entire compartment to be on the safe side. I did not visit the economy cars. Someone was caught smoking in an economy car toilet, (despite numerous warnings and signs) triggering an alarm and causing the air con to stop in that car. An announcement was made stating what had happened and apologies for the inconvenience. The person was quickly reprimanded and was made to feel he was a total nuisance to everyone else on board, and was dispatched at the next station to waiting police (day time), feral behavior happens everywhere these days, it's comforting to know it is severely dealt with. They have not resorted to plastic cable ties as restraints yet as they do in the sky.
Member since 24 Apr 2014
Total posts 230
How much is it?
$311 Adult return, and I think $186 Seniors return.
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