Monty Pythonesque way to travel?

Dacquiri 17 June 2010 11

Thinking of going to Melbourne for a friend’s birthday, I consulted the rail timetable, as the train seemed to be a good option in terms of both comfort and environmental credentials. This, however, turned out to be a scripted joke of Monty Pythonesque proportions.

At, you will find straight-faced descriptions of 4 ways to get from Melbourne to Canberra.

Assuming that these descriptions are correct, only one of these (the last option) involves making the entire journey by train: this can be done only 4 days a week and takes more than 15 hours, including a wait of 3-4 hrs in Goulburn.

The other options all involve transferring to a coach for substantial portions of the journey. It’s no wonder that people opt for $79 air fares, even when time is not the crucial factor. During my 17 years in the UK, I never owned a car but relied on inter-city trains for journeys ranging from 20 minutes to 8 hours.

Is it not an embarrassment that the national capital has no decent passenger rail connections to our larger cities – or is this just me being old-school again?

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11 Responses to Monty Pythonesque way to travel?
smilesr smilesr 8:32 am 18 Jun 10

Haha, yes we had this experience recently. It’s such a clunky website that when we saw that it would be a 3 hour bus ride to Cootamundra on a bus our decision was to drive to Goulburn. It was only when we were on the train stopped at “Yass Junction” that we realised we could have just driven to Yass instead! But did the website give us that option? Nup. Didn’t really matter though as it was still a nice journey and with a family of 4 (2 under 4 years old which were free for the trip) it was much much cheaper than going by plane and you end up right in the centre of Melbourne.

trevar trevar 8:10 am 18 Jun 10

J Dawg said :

Seriously, this isn’t the UK, why on earth would you expect any Australian rail service to compete with UK’s rail service. You’re comparing apples to (rotten) eggs.

Which country’s the apple, and which is the rotten egg?

Still, I agree that only an old, stupid Pom who still thinks we’re a colony of their little-man-syndrome-induced empire would try to compare intercity rail travel in the UK with interstate rail in Oz. Victoria, on the other hand, which is twice the size of the UK and has 10% of its population, compares quite favourably with the old country on rail travel.

My 72 year old mum uses the train service from Melbourne to Coota and bus to Canberra regularly, because she’s a pensioner and gets some free travel with Countrylink, and pays a pittance for the rest. When the cost comparison is $80 to $2, and you’re retired, a day on a train and bus is just relaxing.

Still, I’d prefer it if the taxpayer didn’t have to prop up the railways just for the pensioners.

aussieboy aussieboy 11:09 pm 17 Jun 10

Why would you presume an ability to catch a direct train to somewhere on the other side of a massive mountain range?

The combination of coach to Cootamundra and train to Melbourne takes 9:10 – I don’t think there’s anything Monty Pythonesque about that (considering its about 700km)

Furthermore, you could get a bus along the awesome freeways that we have – would take 8:05.

I think the main problem is that you have some issue with coach travel; which is cheap, fast and efficient in Australia. (And only marginally less comfortable than the train)

Why exactly do we need a good rail link to Sydney and Melbourne? Pretty much everyone can afford to fly, and if not the coaches are great.

Primal Primal 10:48 pm 17 Jun 10

Rai-yul? Wuzzat?

The rules about “the national capital should have” don’t apply when you’re talking about a city of only 350,000. Just look at how long it has taken Qantas to think about getting us a decent airport terminal – and that actually has demand!!!

arescarti42 arescarti42 10:37 pm 17 Jun 10

J Dawg said :

The real joke here is that you thought you could travel by rail.

Seriously, this isn’t the UK, why on earth would you expect any Australian rail service to compete with UK’s rail service. You’re comparing apples to (rotten) eggs.

More like comparing the space shuttle to a push bike.

J Dawg J Dawg 10:08 pm 17 Jun 10

The real joke here is that you thought you could travel by rail.

Seriously, this isn’t the UK, why on earth would you expect any Australian rail service to compete with UK’s rail service. You’re comparing apples to (rotten) eggs.

basketcase basketcase 8:53 pm 17 Jun 10

I’ve done Canberra – Yass(Country link bus) then train. Not too bad.
Melbourne – Wodonga by train and then the VLine bus to Canberra. Painful.

Looks like Country link now goes to Cootamundra, and would be my preferred means, the bus ride up from Wodonga is *painful* as are all bus trips over a few hours.

If I go again, I’d do the Cootamundra bit and then get into the decent seating on the train.

arescarti42 arescarti42 8:49 pm 17 Jun 10

Looks like that website might be a little dated, looking at the Countrylink website, it seems they are running trains 5 times a week, but rather than stopping at Goulburn, they go all the way to Mossvale where you transfer to a different train.

The total trip time is 12 hours and 13 minutes at a cost of $91 for an economy class seat.

If you include the detour to Mossvale, the trip is about 900km, (about 150km longer than it needs to be), and averages a massive 73km/h.

I’m still hoping that the government will get serious about a Melbourne to Sydney high speed rail route. It is the 4th busiest air route in the world, so there is plenty of potential passengers.

We could build a high speed rail link from Melbourne to Sydney for about half the cost of the NBN. I have my suspicions about which would be the better project.

Thoroughly Smashed Thoroughly Smashed 8:34 pm 17 Jun 10

Does it involve a 16 ton weight falling from the sky or being slapped with a fish or something to that effect?

MrPC MrPC 8:22 pm 17 Jun 10

Daily Service
Canberra: 06:43
Goulburn: 08:19

Daily Service
Canberra: 09:32
Yass Junction: 10:55

Daily Service
Goulburn: 10:25
Yass Junction: 11:31
Melbourne: 18:55

Return Service

Daily Service
Melbourne: 08:30
Yass Junction: 16:01
Goulburn: 17:09

Goulburn: 20:54
Canberra: 22:29

Daily Service
Yass Junction: 16:20
Canberra: 17:55

Now, why on earth would anyone give much of a damn about not being able to sit at Goulburn for almost four hours to spend an hour and a half on a train when you could have taken the connecting bus and been almost at the suburban fringe of Canberra by the time the XPT gets you to Goulburn.

The train lines in NSW are absolutely primitive. People who are used to quality rail services overseas are probably better off giving up and taking the plane.

* The trains are hideously slow.
* The alignments are curvy and toss you all over the place along the way.
* The track standard itself is, ahem, very lightly laid, particularly from Joppa Junction to Canberra.
* The fares are high, not that anybody notices, since most passengers are pensioners on freebie vouchers and occasionally others on half fare, along with railway workers on various passes, and the occasional backpacker on a pass.

I would love to see a proper (Shinkansen/TGV standrd) rail line built from Sydney to Canberra to Junee (or maybe direct to Albury). The line from Junee to Melbourne is pretty much dead straight and doesn’t need significant upgrades, though a second track from Junee to Wodonga and Seymour to Footscray would be helpful. Run decent trains at decent speeds (200km/h+) and electrify the route, and we’ll be able to get people, parcels and whatever else needs to be moved from A to B regardless of petroleum supply constraints and airport capacity constraints.

But for the time being, just fly. Or Drive.

Hercsie Hercsie 7:03 pm 17 Jun 10

Last time I did the Melbourne to Canberra by train trip was 1982 and the it was a train from Melbourne to Yass – overnight and then a 1 hour bus trip to canberra

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