Ten years on, Ghan's still going strong

 
  rail_road_runner Station Staff

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  Milkomeda Chief Train Controller

Yeah Im sort of surprised its still going strong travelling by plane to Darwin is much quicker and cheaper it just goes to show you people like riding on the Ghan just for the scenery. I wouldn't mind going for a ride on it someday myself if the fares were cheaper.
  MC3801 Train Controller

I remember travelling on the Ghan about 4 years ago from Darwin to Adelaide. It was a fantastic journey. It's great that the train is still running.
  mclaren2007 Assistant Commissioner

Location: recharging my myki
I'd travel on the train just to see the sights Smile
  SAR526 Chief Train Controller

Location: Adelaide, South Australia.
I've been fortunate enough to have travelled Gold Class to Alice Springs and Uluru as a 70th birthday present when the line terminated there. The whole journey was luxurious and the food in the dining car, based on bush tucker, was excellent.

My next journey was even more memorable – all the way to Darwin and return Red class sitting up for about $400 in a Summer sale. A friend decided to travel with me. The first night was not over comfortable as the seats were hard and head rests were absent, but we survived to Alice Springs without too much trouble and enjoyed renewing our acquaintance with the town.

The next night was enlivened by a group of aboriginal children in the care of a gentlemanly old man and his wife – probably their grandparents. The children were excited and ran around the car, but were no trouble to anyone. As night drew in, we were surprised to be approached by the car conductor who thought that we would be inconvenienced and kept awake, so he upgraded us to a Red Kangaroo sleeper in an empty car, where we remained for the next three nights to Darwin and back to Adelaide in very comfortable conditions.

Food was bought in the Red Kangaroo buffet, and was cheap  and of excellent quality, with a menu with several choices which varied for every meal. Self served coffee and tea was available as often as desired throughout the journey.

I will never forget the stopovers in Katherine, the frangipanis in bloom and the boat ride through the gorge with the river in spate and without the necessity to walk between pools. Nor will I forget the pleasure of tracing the remains of the North Australia Railway which virtually paralleled the new line between Katherine and Darwin.

I now have an abiding interest in things Territorian and would most happily return there if I could afford it. The new Red Class seats are very comfortable indeed (like those pioneered in the Overland) with an amount of leg room and seat width that is better than that in business class in planes.

If you get an opportunity to travel on the Ghan, don't hesitate. Our Australian outback is both unique and absolutely wonderful. Watch out for GSR sales!
  rail_road_runner Station Staff

Location: Adelaide, South Australia
http://blogs.abc.net.au/sa/2014/01/10th-anniversary-of-first-ghan-to-darwin.html

It's 10 years since the first Ghan passenger train departed Adelaide's Keswick rail terminal bound for Darwin.

The 43 carriage train, hauled by locomotives NR74 and NR109, stretched for 1.1 kilometres, making it the longest passenger train in Australia's history.

It was 1929 when the first Ghan through to Alice Springs left Adelaide with the plan to eventually extend the line through to the Top End.

  steam4ian Chief Commissioner

The article expresses a mild surprise that the Ghan is still running and running well.

The surprise reflects the Australian attitude to rail travel; it is seen as obsolete and unattractive.

This contrasts with the attitude in the rest of the world, even the USA. Mid distance rail at a reasonable speed is still a winner in Europe and USA, both east and west coast. High speed rail certainly draws patronage. It is a preferred mode of business travel in Europe.

Amtrak in USA and Via in Canada are still proving effective although with local subsidies in some cases. Trains book out all year round.

The only down side of the remaining long distance Australian trains is their being orientated to the tourist market, particularly the high end. Both the Ghan and IP are very expensive compared with the Amtrak equivalent and the air fare.

This contrasts with the USA. For our next trip we are travelling LA to Atlanta via Chicago and Washington; bedrooms of two trains and roomette on the Crescent. Total cost two fares well under $1,900. We are later flying Atlanta to Vancouver, cost around $1500 (and that is after shopping around). BTW, having a sleeper is considered as "first class" so you have access to lounges at stations and dining car services is free.
  rail_road_runner Station Staff

Location: Adelaide, South Australia
The article expresses a mild surprise that the Ghan is still running and running well.

The surprise reflects the Australian attitude to rail travel; it is seen as obsolete and unattractive.

This contrasts with the attitude in the rest of the world, even the USA. Mid distance rail at a reasonable speed is still a winner in Europe and USA, both east and west coast. High speed rail certainly draws patronage. It is a preferred mode of business travel in Europe.

Amtrak in USA and Via in Canada are still proving effective although with local subsidies in some cases. Trains book out all year round.

The only down side of the remaining long distance Australian trains is their being orientated to the tourist market, particularly the high end. Both the Ghan and IP are very expensive compared with the Amtrak equivalent and the air fare.

This contrasts with the USA. For our next trip we are travelling LA to Atlanta via Chicago and Washington; bedrooms of two trains and roomette on the Crescent. Total cost two fares well under $1,900. We are later flying Atlanta to Vancouver, cost around $1500 (and that is after shopping around). BTW, having a sleeper is considered as "first class" so you have access to lounges at stations and dining car services is free.
steam4ian

Ok, sorry this post was meant to celebrate the anniversary, not to mock, i can say i have never been on this train and there fore didnt mean to run it down, that was not my intention.
You have some valid points in costings and services provided for other countries, but isnt it like comparing apples and oranges?.
I have to agree with the costs of Aust rail travel, but that has to do with wages, running costs, etc.
  K-Class Chief Train Controller

Location: Melbourne
The article expresses a mild surprise that the Ghan is still running and running well.

The surprise reflects the Australian attitude to rail travel; it is seen as obsolete and unattractive.

This contrasts with the attitude in the rest of the world, even the USA. Mid distance rail at a reasonable speed is still a winner in Europe and USA, both east and west coast. High speed rail certainly draws patronage. It is a preferred mode of business travel in Europe.

Amtrak in USA and Via in Canada are still proving effective although with local subsidies in some cases. Trains book out all year round.

The only down side of the remaining long distance Australian trains is their being orientated to the tourist market, particularly the high end. Both the Ghan and IP are very expensive compared with the Amtrak equivalent and the air fare.

This contrasts with the USA. For our next trip we are travelling LA to Atlanta via Chicago and Washington; bedrooms of two trains and roomette on the Crescent. Total cost two fares well under $1,900. We are later flying Atlanta to Vancouver, cost around $1500 (and that is after shopping around). BTW, having a sleeper is considered as "first class" so you have access to lounges at stations and dining car services is free.
steam4ian


Both Amtrack and ViaRail receive large subsidies from the US and Canadian governments as well as a number of US states supporting travel in their state. They are both run with a similar structure to Vline etc where the the fees only cover part of the fair where as GSR have no government subsidies for the Ghan and Indian Pacific and they have to cover full costs. A north American equivalent to GSR is the Rocky Mountainear which is also fully private and their fairs across the Rockies are more than double the cost of the train operated by ViaRail. Also in winter ViaRail sells many of their tickets at half price to help bump up the numbers.

The ViaRail train The Canadian takes 4 nights to travel between Vancouver and Toronto twice each way in winter and 3x per week in summer. On the east bound Canadian which left Vancouver Friday week ago there was 10 carriages and only 90 of us onboard when we left. More than 40 disembarked in Jasper on Saturday evening with only about 40 left to continue east to Toronto (and other destination on the way). The Train was far from booked out even when we left Vancouver, let-alone once we left the Rockies to cross the Prairies. I was told this is a typical number for winter trains. The cost for a room for 2 from Vancouver to Saskatoon (a bit under half way to Toronto) was only $900.

Matt
  justapassenger Chief Commissioner

K-Class says it well - you can't compare a private operation like The Ghan with heavily-subsidised trains overseas

The US Government's average subsidy for Amtrak is in excess of $135 per 1000 passenger miles - that's just operations and not capital works. Ian's favourite long-distance trains receive additional direct subsidies from state governments to secure station calls in their states (equivalent to GSR turning to the council of a regional centre and saying they'll stop having the IP call there unless the council pays up), favourably regulated track access charges and they are cross-subsidised by the more viable Amtrak commuter services in the north-east.

Long-distance road coaches are more popular as a functional form of transport in the USA, they receive only $4 per 1000 passenger miles in federal subsidy and don't require kickbacks from city/state governments to secure stops.

Longer services in Europe are also quite highly subsidised, but they are helped by even the longer inter-regional trains all having relatively frequent stops to allow them to pick up most of their business at intermediate stations.
  steam4ian Chief Commissioner

Matt

Thanks for the response. I shall tell you about the Rocky Mountaineer after our next trip. The Via level of service is better IMHO than Amtrak but the RM is I understand quite superior, more like Gold/Platinum on the GSR. When we went on the Canadian it was mid winter but sleepers were scarce unless you wanted a Pullman berth. Lots of people left the train at Jasper but similar numbers joined it; likewise there were passengers joining/leaving at Winnipeg and Edmonton. My wife and I were the only passengers that detrained for the 40 minutes we were at Moose Jaw! Bitterly cold, not as bad a Winnipeg where I only managed 10 minutes in the rail museum attached to the station before my camera hand became numb and my head ached (pity, there were some unique exhibits).

My comments were not intended to depreciate the IP and Ghan. That GSR can keep them booked at fares which recover costs and maintain business viability is a credit to them.

Justapax
Do interstate buses here or in the USA pay realistic road (track) access charges? I suspect not. Amtrak is subsidised in the USA because it is seen as providing a service.

Tonne.km for tonne.km what are the comparative track/road access charges for trucks versus trains?

Regards to all
Ian

Ian
  kipioneer Chief Commissioner

Location: Aberfoyle Park
AMTRAK can be very cheap: my trip San Francisco Fishermans Wharf to Chicago Union Station in a single bedroom on the California Zephyr cost me USD532.15 (including a USD23.15 credit for being over 62) when booked 8 months out.   It is much more expensive booked closer to the travel date.

The service I travelled on had passengers leaving and joining at many places along the 3 day trip.    The service from the sleeping car attendant was very good as was the service from the dining car attendants.    The meals were adequate much not to the standard of the Canadian.

I just missed out on the very bad weather and the train ran on time all the way.

The Rocky Mountaineer is an all daylight service overnighting in hotels.   There are 2 (I think) levels of service - the superior which I took was in a bi-level car with seating on the upper deck and plenty of windows to see the rather spectacular mountains.   On the lower deck was a dining room and an open-air observation lounge.   The lower level of service was in single level cars; the exact layout of which I don't know.

My trip in 2010 was in two trains: North Vancouver to Whistler, and Whistler to Jasper with an overnight stop in Quesnel, a prosperous town founded on the timber industry.

My reasoning was I would likely only go that way once so the superior package fare was worthwhile.   Expensive but worthwhile for the tourist experience.

From a railfan's point of view you get to see many very healthy trains, both carrying cut trees and also lumber, coal trains running to Prince Rupert, and some very long container trains - all Canadian National since they are the track owners.

VIA Rail Canada's The Canadian service is a very friendly train with great service from the car attendants from Winnipeg as it should be on the 3 nights from Jasper to Toronto, but is very expensive compared to AMTRAK.
  xxxxlbear Token Booking Clerk

Location: Geelong
Back on track....
I was lucky enough to have travelled on the 'old' Ghan via Maree and Oodnadatta, and throughly loved it.
But I am yet to travel on the 'new' Ghan via Tarcoola.
Will not be able to afford a trip unless I have a major upward change in income so, as a consequence, I am very jealous of anyone that has done the trip Smile
  kipioneer Chief Commissioner

Location: Aberfoyle Park
Travel off-season (the wet season in the top end) and keep your eyes out for specials on the Ghan: I travelled Gold class for the price of Red class from Darwin to Adelaide a couple of years ago.   The trip was in December at the start of the build up and it was hot, particularly in Alice Springs.

There were a couple of conditions on the offer, neither onerous: book the hotel in Darwin and a day trip through GSR.

I think the off-train excursions are included in the fare these days, perhaps a sign the train isn't travelling as well as it could.   The one to the Katherine Gorge was great and, really, if you don't want to spend 3 or so hours sitting around the Katherine Station or looking around the town then you really should take an off-train excursion.

As for Alice Springs it was 42 at 8:30 and I walked into town, which is not far but at 42 a long way.    A pub lunch with my nephew was very welcome.

Location: Adelaide, South Australia
I agree with the above comments that it is great having a rail link from Adelaide to Darwin but what about the old Ghan  track?  Is there anything that could be done to reconstruct this fabulous old train line? The new Adelaide to Alice Springs section of the Ghan passes though such uninteresting country compared to the old track which was fabulous going through the Flinders ranges and across magnificent creek beds to Alice Springs. It is incredible the Government could allow this historic old track to be dug up and some of those beautiful old buildings and bridges left to ruin. Today I travelled between Oodnadatta and William Creek seeing frequent ruins of the old Ghan on the way. Can something be done to try and reconstruct this historic rail line for tourism and not left to waste which the Government decided was the best option. I am really bewildered at their decision back in the 1980's and just hoping some private enterprise can do some restoration??
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: North Haverbrook; where the monorail is king!
Can something be done to try and reconstruct this historic rail line for tourism and not left to waste which the Government decided was the best option. I am really bewildered at their decision back in the 1980's and just hoping some private enterprise can do some restoration??
MartinDavey
http://www.pichirichirailway.org.au/
  Nightfire Minister for Railways

Location: Gippsland
I agree with the above comments that it is great having a rail link from Adelaide to Darwin but what about the old Ghan  track?  Is there anything that could be done to reconstruct this fabulous old train line? The new Adelaide to Alice Springs section of the Ghan passes though such uninteresting country compared to the old track which was fabulous going through the Flinders ranges and across magnificent creek beds to Alice Springs. It is incredible the Government could allow this historic old track to be dug up and some of those beautiful old buildings and bridges left to ruin. Today I travelled between Oodnadatta and William Creek seeing frequent ruins of the old Ghan on the way. Can something be done to try and reconstruct this historic rail line for tourism and not left to waste which the Government decided was the best option. I am really bewildered at their decision back in the 1980's and just hoping some private enterprise can do some restoration??
MartinDavey


As history will revile, old route was unreliable, costly to maintain/repair, slow and costly to operate.

The new Western route fully superseded the old one In many ways when $$$'s are a factor
  TheBlacksmith Chief Commissioner

Location: Ankh Morpork
I'd travel on the train just to see the sights Smile
mclaren2007
But that's part of the problem, it is the same kilometre of sights repeated again, and again, and again....

I have travelled on many trains world-wide, and The Ghan was one of the most boring trips, visually speaking, I have ever done.
  nswtrains Chief Commissioner

But that's part of the problem, it is the same kilometre of sights repeated again, and again, and again....

I have travelled on many trains world-wide, and The Ghan was one of the most boring trips, visually speaking, I have ever done.
TheBlacksmith
Serco is trying to dump all of their trains because they are all going broke. I do not know where the term "still going strong" came from. IE The Ghan, The IP and the Overland.
  Pressman Spirit of the Vine

Location: Wherever the Tin Chook or Qantas takes me
I agree with the above comments that it is great having a rail link from Adelaide to Darwin but what about the old Ghan  track?  Is there anything that could be done to reconstruct this fabulous old train line? The new Adelaide to Alice Springs section of the Ghan passes though such uninteresting country compared to the old track which was fabulous going through the Flinders ranges and across magnificent creek beds to Alice Springs. It is incredible the Government could allow this historic old track to be dug up and some of those beautiful old buildings and bridges left to ruin. Today I travelled between Oodnadatta and William Creek seeing frequent ruins of the old Ghan on the way. Can something be done to try and reconstruct this historic rail line for tourism and not left to waste which the Government decided was the best option. I am really bewildered at their decision back in the 1980's and just hoping some private enterprise can do some restoration??
MartinDavey
For starters, back in the 80's the Federal Government formed Australian National Railways from the old CR and the SAR.
The new company was issued with a directive it was to become profitable as soon as possible, become self-sufficient and cease being a drain on the treasury purse.
Part of becoming profitable was to be able to provide reliable service. The Old Ghan line was just about as far from reliable as you could get! Constantly under repair, constantly cut almost every time it rained. A more reliable route was a necessity, it's location a lot further to the west was to get away from the flash flood prone areas.
The very reason that the line south from Marree to Port Augusta was standardized and shifted west was to provide a reliable route for the efficient transport of Coal from the Leigh Creek mine to the Port Augusta Power Stations.

Is it so incredible that any government would cut their costs? Even back then the politicians were starting to realise that the treasury was NOT a bottomless pit of money.

So which section of the line would be rebuild to provide a tourist service?
How would tourists get to that section?

Did you know that the Pichi Richi Railway has restored and operates tourist trains on the original Ghan line between Port Augusta and Quorn?
And they use original Ghan rolling stock and locos!
This route runs through (in my opinion) one of the beautiful parts of the Flinders Ranges, and to boot you can travel on it on a day trip from Adelaide (albeit a long day)
  bingley hall Minister for Railways

Location: Last train to Skaville
Serco is trying to dump all of their trains because they are all going broke. I do not know where the term "still going strong" came from. IE The Ghan, The IP and the Overland.
nswtrains
Well done. Totally incorrect as usual. Stick to NSW topics in future Razz

Serco have the GSR business up for sale because Serco itself has problems with its overall global business and has decided to get rid of GSR as it is a non core business.

Certainly The Overland is in trouble and requires Government subsidies to keep operating BUT that is no big secret and has been the case for a number of years.

From internal GSR sources the Ghan and IP are doing OK in their current business model. I believe the Ghan was 37 cars last week.
  Pressman Spirit of the Vine

Location: Wherever the Tin Chook or Qantas takes me
Serco is trying to dump all of their trains because they are all going broke. I do not know where the term "still going strong" came from. IE The Ghan, The IP and the Overland.
nswtrains
Really nswtrains?

For starters check the date of the original post, yep over 14 months ago, on a news article about the Darwin Ghan's 10th anniversary.

Maybe you should check why parent company Serco is selling GSR, not because it's going broke, but to consolidate and concentrate on their core interests (which is other than railway)

As for going broke ...... how do you explain that this month's booking for the Ghan are so high that GSR have programmed three fully booked triple consist and one fully booked double consist Ghans?
And it's not even the peak season!
  Trainplanner Chief Commissioner

Location: Along the Line
Yes we need to be careful here.   The IP and the Ghan are going very well and it is a credit to new management at GSR that their efforts over the past 15 months or so are now paying dividends with increased passenger business but its a very very tough gig.   The Overland is different and yes it is subsidized by both SA and Victoria but in the scheme of things compared to the subsidies paid to operate the XPT in Victoria its peanuts really.   The reduction in frequency of The Overland was not because of lack of patronnage, it was due to an increase in the cost of the Hook N Pull contract price by PN, which the former Lib/National Government in VIC was not prepared to contribute to (thats the increase) so the way to keep the train service within the budget allocated was to drop it by 1 trip.

GSR put in a very genuine effort into running of The Overland and saw it as a contributor to their other trains even without direct connections.  Look at the volume of motorail traffic on The Overland as a guide. If the subsidy were to be topped up GSR would reinstate the 3rd Overland service.  The situation with selling GSR's business by Serco is correct as stated here.   Serco have many problems globally and this is not core.

But like VIA Rail and the Canadian seasonallity of tourist markets is a huge factor in keeping these trains going.   I've had two high season rides on The Canadian very recently and the train was 24 and 26 cars long with around 600 passengers on/off throughout the journey.  ViA has as well upgraded the train and now has a prestige class on selected trips equivalent to GSR's platinum.   That was fully sold out at about $6,000 per passenger.   There is however on the Canadian a much greater choice of accommodation types because the train still even in high season carries Canadians doing various local trips.

I hope the efforts of the current GSR team continue, putting aside economics for a moment there is a sense of some national pride in having the Indaian Pacific and The Ghan. We are lucky that they are operated commercially but that shouldn't stop our tourism marketing people from actively promoting these services as well.

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