Buy a score of DMUs at what was 7 mill a car ? Brilliant , spent more money we don't have and increase taxes or cut funding somewhere else . Rude ?This thread starts with a post that questions "How do we replace the XPT?" and a warning about "dribbly foamer mode". While I'm being a little bit flippant, my post dealt seems pretty consistent with that original post! I recall another thread recently dealing with hook and pull specifically ... you started it! ... but that's not "this thread".
Hooking and pulling the southern and north coast ONLY XPTs , which is what THIS thread is about , would cost a pittance by comparison . As has been explained again and again and again other operators already have networks in place to cover the Roma Street to Spencer Street corridor and nothing is new to them . Little would have to be spent other than the motive power and crewing capacity which they could justify for the potential revenue stream ....
Over the life of a set (say three decades or so), for shortish trains the evidence is very much that a DMU or EMU style setup beats loco hauled plus carriages where it matters - the overall cost for a given level of service. Do you want evidence? Have a look at pretty much every modern rail operation extant today. There is a reason that we have Endeavours/Explorers/Hunters/Velocities/Prospectors, etc.
Your third party locomotive provider might have a spare loco available today that means that they are willing to accept a lower hourly hook and pull rate in order to keep that loco busy. But that's not sustainable. At some point the cost of keeping that loco available for this hook and pull work will exceed its revenue or at some point the third party provider will find more lucrative work for the loco. At that time, you are immediately back to paying rates that cover both the operating cost of the loco and its (or its replacement's) capital cost, amortised in some form.
Note that cost of capital for a government body is probably about a third of that for a private enterprise. As a general principle - it doesn't make sense for social services to shift capital onto private enterprise and keep operating costs in house - if anything it makes more sense to go the other way.
Sourcing your locomotive power from a bigger fleet may have some opprtunities for savings in terms of the scale of maintenance operations, etc. But I'm far from convinced that big pool of locomotives really exists - I suspect all that would happen is that a separate specialised sub-fleet would appear over time with locos that were more suited to hauling half a dozen carriages around rather than 1500 m long intermodal trains - you loco provider would trade off the maintenance savings against the potential for lower operating costs of the specialised kit, particularly once you take things like hotel power into account. Why do I think that? Because in the good old days, when trains were loco hauled, that's exactly what happened.
(But it isn't going to make sense for every hook and pull provider to maintain a specialised sub-fleet just in case they happen to win the hook and pull contract - so you can kiss goodbye any chance of the contract being competitively tendered...)
Longer train? The relative operating and capital cost situation changes to favour loco hauled with "dumb" trailers. No doubt - purchase, maintain and operate one or two big diesel engines rather than twelve little ones. But a longer train over the corridors we're talking about implies a lower frequency. Lower frequency means that the service is less useful (I'd expect a reduction in patronage and hence less revenue), but more importantly, less relevant to the reason for CountryLink existing in the first place - connecting the regions to the capital. There is no point whatsoever the NSW (or QLD or VIC) government subsidising a service that is ideal for those who want to travel by train from Sydney to Melbourne or Brisbane and pretty much useless for everyone else - such a service performs no useful social role what-so-ever. And without subsidy, that service won't exist, not by a long shot.
On the other hand - I think there's a serious problem with public transport in NSW at the moment - that people's expectations are way beyond what they are willing to pay a service. CountryLink is certainly right at the heart of that, but the current interurban fiasco is not all that far behind. My idea addresses that - head on. You are still providing a service that's arguably better than what provided now, but you've also broken the ridiculous sense of entitlement that currently exists. I think that would enable a substantial amount of additional revenue, and that additional revenue would go a long way to making CountryLink and rail transport in general far more sustainable than it is now.