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Australia - Rail Travel

There are a number of places where you can find information on rail travel. There are a number of websites for rail operators and these include Rail Australia, Country Link and V Line. Travelling by train is one of the best ways to see the country but due to the vast size of Australia, you need to be prepared to spend a lot of time on a train if you want to go from one side of the country to another.

Travelling from Sydney to Adelaide or on to Perth is a long journey and these trains are sleepers. All the trains have restaurant cars and comfy lounges for you to relax in during the day. These are now run by a private company and journeys are once a week, although during busy periods there are two trains each week. This is a route which only came into being during the 1970s and the journey from Sydney to Perth is more than 2600 miles. The journey is broken by a stop at Adelaide, which gives you a chance to explore the city before the train leaves again in the evening. Stops are for several hours at a time due to the length of the journey. There are different classes of travel, known as ‘Gold Service Sleeper’, ‘Red Service Sleeper’ and ‘Red Service Reclining Seat’. The fares vary according to the time of year but children under the age of 4 can travel free of charge. Tickets can be booked online or over the phone and there are concessions for the elderly and students although those who qualify for a concession may be limited on the type of service they can have.

Another major rail line is the Adelaide to Darwin Line via Alice Springs. This journey is known as the ‘Ghan’ and this is considered to be one of the best ways to reach the centre of the country. These trains run at the same frequency as the Sydney to Perth trains and offer the same types of accommodation with the additional ‘Platinum Class’. If you follow the line right through you are on board for two nights. Fares are on a similar scale as those for the Sydney to Perth line.

There are much shorter journeys that you can take by train in Australia. You can travel between Melbourne and Adelaide three times a week and these routes run all year round. The journey takes approximately 10 hours. Accommodation is in first and standard classes and there is a restaurant on board.

There are trains which run regularly between Sydney and Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra. These are run by the CountryLink service and on some routes run twice a day. The trains themselves are similar to those used in the UK. Accommodation is in first class and standard class and there is a buffet car on board. Some of the trains are timetabled to run overnight in which case there are sleeper cars available.

There are routes which run along the east coast of the country, from Brisbane to Townsville and Cairns. These include sleepers, shared room sleeper cars and economy reclining seats. There are plans to upgrade the current Sunlander trains with the Tilt trains which travel much faster and will have only seats rather than sleepers. On these trains children under 15 are charged half the adult fare and children under 3 can travel free of charge.

Trains are available on the Kalgoorlie to Perth line, offering a journey of less than 6 hours and some of the fastest trains in Australia. These run each day and there is just one class of travel, making the fare standard. Children under 5 years of age travel free of charge.

One option for those who want to travel by rail is to use a rail explorer pass. This is ideal for those who need to use the trains frequently but it does limit you to the reclining seat service. You are able to purchase an Australian Rail Explorer pass from anywhere in the world.

Disabled access is available on trains but it is advisable to inform the rail company in advance if you have mobility problems so that staff can be on hand to help if necessary and if you need any special mobility aids you can discuss this in advance.

Cities such as Melbourne and Sydney do have some underground services but these are not an underground network as residents of New York or London would recognise it. These are overland trains which simply travel underground for part of the journey. The cities do have some local rail services available and more information on these is available from along with fares and timetables.

Read more about this country

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