Brisbane to Sydney by Train

XPT Arrived in Sydney

These are some short notes from a trip from Brisbane to Sydney on the XPT Train. This took just over 14 hours, mostly in daylight. It had some interesting scenery and was reasonably discomfortable. Costing AU$81.40 (14 day advance purchase) for a first class seat, this is a bargain compared to other long distance train trips I have been on.

New Apartments Being Built at Roma Street Station

Unfortunately the provider of the service, CountryLink (a NSW Government owned organisation) don't make it easy to find out or book the service. Their web site <> hides the important details about timetables and booking down the bottom right hand side of the page. The timetable is good (once you find it) but you can't complete a booking on-line. You make a booking request and then have to phone to pay. But you can collect the tickets on the train.

Grass Growing on Disuse Line

You can only do the journey by train one way in daylight (Brisbane to Sydney). This works very well, starting early in the morning (7:30 daylight saving time). The return journey leaves Sydney at 16:24, so much of it would be in darkness. One thing to watch out for is that Queensland doesn't use daylight saving time, so the train leaves Brisbane at 6:30am local time, in summer.

Typical Countryside

All that said the journey itself was reasonably comfortable. The XPT trains are showing their age, with worn carpets, paint worn off and cracks in fixtures. But they are reasonably clean and seem well maintained. The seats are large compared to an airline seat and adjustable (the seat in front of me was a bit too adjustable, not being properly anchored to the floor and wobbling about). The windows are large and provide a good view. The buffet car provides reasonable snacks (you can order a hot lunch or dinner). The bargain drink is hit water for 60 cents (for use with your won coffee bangs as they only serve instant coffee).

Hills at Queensland-NSW Border

The first 30 minutes or so leaving Brisbane's Roma Street station is interesting. The train goes over the Brisbane River and then through the Brisbane convention center and the outskirts of Brisbane. There are then many kilometers of scattered houses and bushland. Around the Queensland - NSW border it gets interesting again as the train climbs into the mountains, with steep hillsides and valley, and large trees and farms. Then it is back into flat country in NSW, passing many small towns and a few rivers. The best bit is just on dusk as the train enters some hills again, with sparkling rivers, steep heavily wooded slopes, cattle, kangaroos and at one point, an eagle.

Do-it-yourself filtered coffee

Unfortunately it gets dark before reaching the Hawkesbury River. The trip from Sydeny to Brisbane may be worth it for that view alone. The train windows have a copper volute reflective coating which is good a reducing the large in the daytime but make it difficult to see much, even in a brightly lit city like Sydney. But it is fun watching the faster XPT overtaking the commuter trains in Sydney as we approached Central Station. The train was on-time, despite the need to change to a bus for part of the journey (due to a derailment by another train on the line). The staff were friendly and helpful at all times.

Central NSW

As a practical way to travel from Brisbane to Sydney the XPT isn't. It costs about the same as a discount airline flight and takes much longer. But as a holiday trip for those who like trains, it is excellent. But 14 hours is a long time on a train for anyone. If on a holiday, you might consider breaking the journey for a day at one of the small towns along the way.

Central NSW

The train appeared to be only about half full most of the time. If Countrylink was to spend a few thousand dollars on a better web site, offering some travel and accommodation packages, they might attract more tourists to fill the seats. Spend a few tens of thousands more on some new carpet in a premium section of the train, they could attract more tourists at premium prices.

XPT Stopped Due to Derailment on Line

Technology on Board

These photos were taken with a Sharp GX30i camera phone. This isn't really a good way to take photos through a train window, but was the only camera I had. The GX30i has a shiny silver plate around the camera lense, which is seen reflected in many of the photos. Someone seems to have forgotten to tell the phone designers that the black bit camera makers have been putting around lenses for the last few hundred years is not decoration: it is there to stop reflections. That said, it is impressive that any of the photos were usable, as taking them out of train windows is difficult.

More of Southern Central NSW

Apart from movement controlled automatic doors and an overly complex power door on the disabled toilet, there isn't a lot of hi-technology to see on this train. There are no digital displays of speed and location as on the ICE . What might be useful is if there were some hand held gadgets available for rent which had a travelogue of the trip (even a paper map might help).

Self Portrait in the Window

There was minimal Vodafone GSM mobile phone coverage outside Brisbane and until Sydney, but I left the phone on to take photos. About half way the battery was just about exhausted. Unlike the newer Xplorer trains (but like the Eurostar), the only power points on the train are in the toilet. So I had to make a few visits to recharge the battery.

More Countryside. See the Cattle, Kangaroos and Eagles? ;-)

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