Early 2020 AD. Danny and I embark on a 21st century Odyssey. On the Majestic Princess from Sydney to New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji. Back to Sydney, then to Melbourne and flying back home.
As train geeks we decided to try out the NSW TrainLink from Melbourne Southern Cross to Sydney Central with the XPT. XPT stands for Express Train. NSW TrainLinks markets this train as regional. As Simon rightly points out, that is confusing for Europeans.
Anyway. The XPT consists of two diesel electric power cars and five carriages. The rolling stock is an Australian version of British Rail InterCity 125 or High Speed Train (HST). Soon they will be replaced by Spanish CAF rolling stock. On the long term, a real high speed train service should be provided.
The journey is scheduled to be 11 hours and 30 minutes. I will already spoil the news we had a 1 hour and 10 minutes delay. We departed late due to the late arrival of the night service, there were speed restrictions, technical difficulties with signals and really bad weather in the Sydney metropolitan area. Sounds familiar to our Belgian ears…
Less familiar is skipping stops as no-one was booked to get on or off. You can do that when you work with bookings.
The train guard or conductor communicated proactively but not too often. She explained why we were delayed and motived passengers to help. Prepare to leave the train by gathering your belongings in advance, don’t block doors and vestibules.
Sitting for twelve hours
We booked first class tickets. But there’s another option. You can book a seat in a sleeper cabin. You have to actively mail NSW TrainLink to get one of those. There are three seats so as a duo, expect to get company from a third traveller. We had an attractive and silent young man who joined us in Albury, NSW.
The seats are comfortable seats not unlike what you find on (bus) coaches. Two sleeper cabins are positioned opposite each other and share a shower-toilet combination. You have to pull up / down the toilet seat and the wash bin depending on what you need.
There are is only one power outlet. Tablets are to be installed separately. They’re in the wall and you fix them yourself.
There is airconditioning and enough light.
Regular first class and second class seemed to have the same seats. I didn’t see a difference. Maybe the legroom?
There’s a well-stocked buffet car with wam, cold, savory, healthy(ish) and sweet snacks at reasonable prices.
Twice during the journey an attendant comes take your hot mail order. The options that day were: beef brisket, stir fried pork, a vegan option and spaghetti bolognese.
What do you do for twelve hours? Look outside the window, walk a bit, eat a bit, sleep a bit. The scenery changes, the train winds through some mountains.
We saw kangaroos. We also saw damage done by the major 2019-2020 bushfires. But to quote our colleague: “It’s turning green again”.
The XPT service is a nice product. But be a train lover. Twelve hours is long. Non-initiated to long train trips will dread the journey.