So, I took a trip on the XPT, out on Friday (9th), back on Monday (12th).
Friday's trip exceeded expectations. The trip was on time, the crew were professional, the service was great, and aside from a slight amount of eccentricity from the buffet staff (though it could have been a slight lack of sleep on my part), the experience felt like a Sydney Perth flight (sans in flight entertainment). There is often comment about ferals and undesirables on the XPT but on the Friday trip, there was nothing excessively bad, (though there were some interesting individuals but they didn't cause too many issues!). As noted, the train was on time which to me was the most surprising. Given my experience on the XPT from about 10 years ago, which was often late bu up to 2 hours, I was very pleased. We were 2 minutes early into Albury. Key stations appeared to be Goulburn (where lots of people got off), Yass Junction and Cootamundra (key connection points) and Wagga, (which in itself had a very significant number of boardings, perhaps 3/4 of my carriage filled at WGA). This is consistent with previous discussion about WGA which is said to feed a lot of southbound traffic.
Monday's trip was as for Friday's. The train was 20mins late to Albury but had picked up the time by Junee. I could tell some extra speed was being applied between ABX and WGA, possibly also to Junee. We were on time into Sydney, though I think there could have been some slow running between Campbelltown and East Hills - perhaps we were ahead of time?
The biggest issue I had (outside of NSW Trains control) was that the time between Campbelltown and Cootamundra was painfully slow (except for the Bredalbane plains). It is a shame that this section of track has not been addressed, as some adjustments here to increase speed could really increase the speed of the service and make it comparable to a car trip. So many twists and turns just slow the whole process down, and heading north to Picton just seems illogical.
Some questions though from my trip.
1. What is the slip pattern for the crew that detrains in Albury? Do they stay the day and do the overnight train back to Sydney, or do they overnight in Albury and do the next day train back?
2. What is the max allowable speed of the XPT between ABX and WGA (and Junee)? The buffet crew said 160kph but I thought 130kph was max?
3. If you were to invest in the Main South, where would you do it to get best bang for your buck? Would a straighter track in the Menagle region make more sense than say straightening through the Cullerin ranges etc? Is the Bethungra spiral needed for the XPT or other modern trains?
4. Possibly something for another thread, but IMV, thinking about the Main South and NESG as one line (from a passenger perspective) could lead to some interesting results. Increased services between WGA and Melbourne, plus better services out of Sydney to Goulburn and Canberra I think could be an interesting test of the purported principles behind HSR, ie testing the ability of rail to deliver benefits to regional centres. Again, possibly something for another thread.