I rode The Overland for the first time last November. Melbourne to Adelaide on a Tuesday, then returning to Melbourne the following Monday. While I was travelling as a railfan, the people around me in my Red Premium carriage were mostly just regular punters who chose to take the train instead of driving or flying. The following is a list of the main issues these people had throughout the journey:
1. The noticeable drop in ride quality on the Victorian side of the border. Everybody noticed it. Serviceton to Ararat being the culprit here, from Maroona to Gheringhap was a fair bit smoother.
2. The slow journey along the freight lines. From Werribee to Southern Cross was well over an hour. Particularly slow once you get past Newport. Some people were a bit confused as to why at one point we seemed to be heading away from the city (when heading towards Sunshine from Newport, the city can be seen appearing to be behind you). Despite this we arrived on time into Southern Cross Platform 2.
3. Lack of both on board WiFi and mobile device charging stations. At 10 + hours, for many boredom does set in and most peoples phones were getting a good work out, which was fine until many had drained their batteries. Having a charger with you is fine, unless there is nowhere to plug it in. In 2020, this is seen as a necessity for most people, not just a luxury.
Aside from all of that, many people were very aware of the possibility that the service was on its last legs, and many were asking the staff questions about this, the staff were more than happy to talk about it, and everybody on board was hopeful that the service would continue.
Also, I need to mention the food was top notch, the service was friendly and timely and it never felt as if we weren't being looked after. I can't ever imagine V/Line matching this part of the experience. Also, with the food and refreshments counted in with the price of the fare, I thought the cost was fairly competitive too.
Yes, I am happy the service is to continue for at least another 3 years, and I hope that in that time, certain issues can be addressed and the downward trend in numbers can be reversed.