Train from Sydney to Melbourne with bike?

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Train from Sydney to Melbourne with bike?

Postby jakekg18 » Wed May 14, 2014 10:55 am

Hi guys I'm not sure if this is the best section for this post and I hope I'm not flogging a dead horse so to speak but I've got to travel to Melbourne within the next 2 weeks and am considering taking the train-link XPT however, i was told they have very strict policies about bicycles much the same as airlines and while I would much prefer the train when travelling with a bike, is the bike actually safe on the train (ie is it in your sight, who handles it etc) as I've heard stories about damaged bikes or people stealing them at their stops. I also noticed greyhound offer bikes to be brought onboard for an extra 50 assembled or 25 boxed. Would there be any merit to this option over the train for example?

Thanks for the help in advance :)
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by BNA » Wed May 14, 2014 12:38 pm

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Re: Train from Sydney to Melbourne with bike?

Postby dalai47 » Wed May 14, 2014 12:38 pm

What is the ticket price for bus or train these days? I've done the overnight bus in the distant past when flights were far more expensive. Really uncomfortable journey!

Flights can be reasonable now if you are flexible with dates. With Qantas - bike boxed is part of your luggage allowance so not an extra charge unless you take an extra bag with the box? If you could fit most of your luggage in the box and still under 23kg and fit the rest in your hand luggage then you wouldn't need to buy additional allowance. Even then to buy an extra luggage item prior to leaving is only $30 per piece. Also you will be in Melbourne in a couple of hours rather than many more...
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Re: Train from Sydney to Melbourne with bike?

Postby TTar » Wed May 14, 2014 2:51 pm

I don't know if it's the Syd/Melb train, but I occasionally see the XPT trudging along in Sydney and it's always only two or three mostly empty carriages. Such a pathetic sight -- talk about the romance of rail.

The one time many years ago I rode the XPT it was an unforgettably bad experience and I'm told it hasn't improved since. Even so, being able to ride to your nearest train station and carry your fully assembled bike on a metro train to the nearest XPT stop, roll your bike onto the XPT and roll it off at the other end in a city centre would compensate for the service's many failings. There would likely be a surge in cyclists patronising the service if they had the imagination to simply hitch a bicycle specific car to train to accommodate assembled bikes. But that's expecting too much, I suspect.

Sadly, dalai's comments about it being only slightly more expensive to fly if you can avoid paying extra for a bike is true. You might even be able to do it cheaper than the cheapest $110 XPT fare if you book ahead or find a good deal. Given the choice, if I have to break down my bike for either mode of travel, I'd be flying every time -- the XPT is unfortunately not a great train journey, so I'd rather endure the one hour of airborne discomfort rather than 13hours worth on the ground.
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Re: Train from Sydney to Melbourne with bike?

Postby zero » Wed May 14, 2014 3:49 pm

The bike isn't likely to get stolen. I've travelled on xpt's and explorers about 50 times total without a theft incident, and I've never seen anyone running around looking for a stolen bike.

You may be able to avoid removing your rear wheel if you have a small frame, but at 190cm, with 21.5in mtb and 60cm road bike, mine never fit into their boxes with the rear wheel still on, and thats lead to more than one case of bent rear deraileur.

You'll also have to turn up an hour early to get it boxed, and its likely the bike will be stored in such a way as to bubble a disc brake line - so check (and pump if necessary) disc brakes after reassembly. If you have a method (say spare axle and axle stand) you might be able to protect the deraileur properly.

The box probably won't get trodden on, it won't go through a cargo elevator and it won't be packed without other items on top of it (I've seen inside the luggage compartment often enough), so you probably don't need axles to protect the triangles - ie its not as harsh as a courier service. Outside of train handling of the boxes is relatively benign, railway trolley is just not as harsh as airport baggage handling.
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Re: Train from Sydney to Melbourne with bike?

Postby zero » Wed May 14, 2014 3:52 pm

TTar wrote:I don't know if it's the Syd/Melb train, but I occasionally see the XPT trudging along in Sydney and it's always only two or three mostly empty carriages. Such a pathetic sight -- talk about the romance of rail.

The one time many years ago I rode the XPT it was an unforgettably bad experience and I'm told it hasn't improved since. Even so, being able to ride to your nearest train station and carry your fully assembled bike on a metro train to the nearest XPT stop, roll your bike onto the XPT and roll it off at the other end in a city centre would compensate for the service's many failings. There would likely be a surge in cyclists patronising the service if they had the imagination to simply hitch a bicycle specific car to train to accommodate assembled bikes. But that's expecting too much, I suspect.

Sadly, dalai's comments about it being only slightly more expensive to fly if you can avoid paying extra for a bike is true. You might even be able to do it cheaper than the cheapest $110 XPT fare if you book ahead or find a good deal. Given the choice, if I have to break down my bike for either mode of travel, I'd be flying every time -- the XPT is unfortunately not a great train journey, so I'd rather endure the one hour of airborne discomfort rather than 13hours worth on the ground.


There are several services. Melbourne XPT is relatively full after strathfield and about 60% of the patrons get off at Wagga in either direction - ie its technically 2 regional services that happen to be the same train. I agree its a pointless service if you consider it as a melbourne service, too far and too slow.

North Coast XPTs are often fairly full after Hornsby and fairly empty between strathfield and central. I think there is a low frequency service to Orange using 1 power car, and thats probably the one you see.
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Re: Train from Sydney to Melbourne with bike?

Postby il padrone » Wed May 14, 2014 6:24 pm

zero wrote:I agree its a pointless service if you consider it as a melbourne service, too far and too slow.

North Coast XPTs are often fairly full after Hornsby and fairly empty between strathfield and central. I think there is a low frequency service to Orange using 1 power car, and thats probably the one you see.

You want to know about pointless, slow services try the XPT to/from Lismore. I rode on it about 16 years ago and it was a toddling, winding slow-train. Some sections I reckon we were travelling at less than 50kmh. The Melbourne run was a high speed express by comparison. Maybe things have changed but I doubt it. Much of the run to Melbourne is quite flat, open line where the XPT can charge along at top speed.
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Re: Train from Sydney to Melbourne with bike?

Postby Mulger bill » Wed May 14, 2014 7:49 pm

Bikes MUST be boxed to travel on the stainless steel slug. No exceptions.
Bikes travel in the luggage/crew compartment and are stored vertically in racks designed to hold the boxes very well.
There is no legitimate public access to that compartment so security is not a big thing.
If you have to pull the rear wheel, remove the rear mech from the hanger and tape it to the frame.
...whatever the road rules, self-preservation is the absolute priority for a cyclist when mixing it with motorised traffic.
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Re: Train from Sydney to Melbourne with bike?

Postby zero » Thu May 15, 2014 5:35 pm

il padrone wrote:
zero wrote:I agree its a pointless service if you consider it as a melbourne service, too far and too slow.

North Coast XPTs are often fairly full after Hornsby and fairly empty between strathfield and central. I think there is a low frequency service to Orange using 1 power car, and thats probably the one you see.

You want to know about pointless, slow services try the XPT to/from Lismore. I rode on it about 16 years ago and it was a toddling, winding slow-train. Some sections I reckon we were travelling at less than 50kmh. The Melbourne run was a high speed express by comparison. Maybe things have changed but I doubt it. Much of the run to Melbourne is quite flat, open line where the XPT can charge along at top speed.


Travelling to Wauchope which I do every now and then, has a timetabled average speed of 70km/hr from Sydney. Which would have much to do with the track layout being designed to be (a) as cheap as possible given the scenery, and (b) be generally compatible with locomotives Edward Eddy ordered in 1888, and were delivered in the early 1890s. (yes that long ago). It does seem rather ridiculous when travelling alongside the 20 billion dollar unfinished highway today that a few billion can't be found to at least make the railway line faster than a truck (and hence stop the trucks destroying the surface on that 20 billion investment quickly).
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Re: Train from Sydney to Melbourne with bike?

Postby sankari » Fri May 16, 2014 1:19 am

The track was built for 19th century locomotives. Back then, steam locomotives had much less horsepower, which meant that hill climbing was the biggest limitation. So the tracks were built to meander through the countryside, to follow the level curves as much as possible. I think far from being cheap, they were actually quite scrupulous about this.

Since hills are not such a problem for today's locomotives, tight curvature is the next limitation to speed. So the needs of today's locomotives are diametrically opposed to the design principles of 19th century track. There is unfortunately not much solution to this except to build new track, though if aging portions of the track are replaced, the speed can be bumped up slightly.

Also, much of the route remains single track, meaning that opposing trains can only pass at the short segments of dual track along the route. Slack has to be built into the timetable to accommodate this.
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Re: Train from Sydney to Melbourne with bike?

Postby kPrdfHTb » Fri May 16, 2014 3:25 am

Really, $110 for a ride on the XPT? I would be seriously considering a train to Goulburn ($8), getting off there and riding the rest of the way. (That is, assuming time constraints were such that riding the entire way is infeasible.)
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Re: Train from Sydney to Melbourne with bike?

Postby barefoot » Fri May 16, 2014 8:35 am

TTar wrote:Even so, being able to ride to your nearest train station and carry your fully assembled bike on a metro train to the nearest XPT stop, roll your bike onto the XPT and roll it off at the other end in a city centre would compensate for the service's many failings.


It may, but in case it isn't clear to others reading, this is a hypothetical scenario.

As far as I'm aware, you need your bike boxed, airline-style, to take it on the train. Getting the box to and from the station is left as an exercise for the reader.

So, the train costs at least as much as a budget flight, is just as uncomfortable (but for longer), and obviously, takes half a day out of your life instead of just a couple of hours (including all the traditional faffing at airports) for flying.

I took the train MEL-SYD once in the late '90s. It was horrible. I will never do it again, until we have a proper fast train service.
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