The XPT soldiers on

XPT trains are set to be replaced in coming years… but the new fleet won’t have sleepers.

Here’s the XPT last Saturday, after leaving Melbourne Southern Cross, heading into the Bunbury Street tunnel under Footscray, on its way to Sydney.

It’s not breaking any land speed records in this clip, but the XPT (Express Passenger Train) fleet does get to higher speeds along the route, regularly reaching 160 km/h, similar to the V/Line VLocity fleet.

The XPT fleet was introduced in the 1980s, and based on the British Intercity 125.

According to Wikipedia, most of the fleet runs a weekly cycle: Sydney; Melbourne; Sydney; Grafton; Sydney; Melbourne; Sydney; Casin0*; Sydney; Brisbane; Sydney.

(*I have to spell it like that, otherwise WordPress refuses to save my post text. True story; probably a web host thing, which I haven’t resolved just yet.)

The night train arriving in Melbourne departs as the day train about an hour later, and vice versa. So the sleeper compartments get switched to and from “daysitter” cabins.

The XPT is in the twilight years of its life. Introduced in the 1980s, and based on the British Intercity 125, the fleet is set to be replaced in coming years by NSW Trainlink’s new regional fleet.

The good news is the new trains will feature bi-mode electric and diesel power, so they can use electric power when running on the electrified part of the Sydney network.

The bad news is the new trains won’t have sleeper carriages. It’s been a few years since I’ve used the XPT sleeper services, but sleeper trains in general are good fun, and have you arriving into a city centre bright and early in the morning.

The sleeper fare for Melbourne to Sydney or Sydney to Brisbane is about $235 twin share at present. More expensive than a hotel, but cheaper than travel+hotel, which is effectively what you’re getting.

Unfortunately the XPT sleeper service from Sydney to Brisbane has you arriving a little too early… 4:53am in winter, 3:53am in summer, and you won’t be able to sleep in, as the train heads back to Sydney about an hour later. Apparently this is due to track capacity issues in Brisbane, but it’s not my idea of a conveniently-timed trip.

That’s assuming it runs on time. The Sydney-Melbourne XPT is notorious for delays.

Sleeper service aside, hopefully the new trains bring better comfort for seated passengers, and better reliability. Perhaps even higher speeds if the track is up to it? They’re expected around 2027.

The Spirit Of Queensland train from Brisbane to Cairns also no longer has sleeper compartments, but they do have seats that convert to “RailBeds”.

Speaking of XPTs: the ATSB’s final report into the Wallan crash has been released.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

11 replies on “The XPT soldiers on”

I was at boarding school in Albury in 1982 when the XPTs were space age technology. As I recall there were a few drivers who came to grief that year at level crossings where the XPT would take a kilometre to come to a stop after removing them from the gene pool.

Then I rode them overnight between Melbourne and Sydney in January 2020, and by then they were clearly showing their age. Managed to sleep alright in the reclining economy chairs until we got detrained at Goulburn Sydney-bound around 4 AM, owing to the fires having damaged the tracks around Mittagong.

The trip is an absurdly long and expensive. Nevertheless, we plan to travel on the day time XPT later this year. I think the train is well used, but I don’t know why. We will use it as a tourist train.

I absolutely love the XPT it is so reliable and relaxing for a train over 40 years old I travel it regularly from Albury to Melbourne and will have to try a Brisbane trip before they are retired. The V/Line velocity isn’t as comfortable as it’s predecessor and I’m afraid the replacement for the XPT will be the same.

What happened to 2 minute Tim’s high speed train? He is gone and I’m afraid I will too before one comes along.

Unknown what’s wrong with QLD rail, they don’t operate standard gauge trains, therefore the necessity for the XPT to arrive at Roma St so early is total crap. Suburban commutes don’t start that early.
Get your act together QLD.

@Lindsay – the track used by the XPT is dual gauge between Salisbury to South Brisbane, and Queensland Rail use it for peak services from the Gold Coast and Beenleigh. So the XPT has to be out of Brisbane before the morning peak starts, or wait at Roma Street until it is over.

The greatest loss to rail was the Southern Aurora and Spirit of Prigress. Overseas travel by train has increased in demand for trains like the Southern Aurora and Spirit of Progres.
But in Australia, we suffer the fools and idiots of parasitic politicians, who have such narrow vision, basic intelligence and limited capacity and ability.
The cheap and nasty kiosk on the XPT says it all about the standard of service of the XPT.

Reply to Lindsay Morley comment, originally the track from Salisbury to South Brisbane was only a single standed gauge track for bie-directional running for single train operation between Acacia Ridge and South Brisbane and it was under Queensland Rail train control, later the standard gauge was extended to Rome Street and the XPT had its own platform. Queensland Rail had gained access to the standard gauge track from Salisbury to South Brisbane for the Gold Coast to Brisbane Airport express down services during peak periods, so Queensland Rail have to convert the track from standard gauge to dual gauge and today its still only a single dual gauge track. The XPT is the only standard gauge train running from park Road to Rome Street on a scheduled service once a day. Queensland Rail managed to get the XPT train to run 1 hour earlier so it can clear the dual gauge track at Salisbury for the morning express Gold Coast services to Brisbane and the airport. In summer the XPT runs on NSW summer time, and it’s a inconvenient time for train travellers, the XPT used to arrive in Brisbane during the day once, it was more convenient. Hope this information was helpful and understanding why the XPT train leave Rome Street so early.

I travelled from the west coast of Canada to the east coast on a train that was of the same quality and standard of the Southern Aurora. It was a sensational journey seeing the country and meeting people, instead of flying over the top of it in a soulless plane, which is just a bus with wings.

No sleeper cabins or rail beds?? Is this a joke?? Seriously, wtf NSW government. Are they actively trying to discourage people from taking overnight trains??

I’ve been taking XPT from Bris to Syd, then Can or Melb, for work mostly since about 2010. It’s cheaper than flying when you factor in avoiding taxis. And more humane – well when decrepit track doesn’t cause bumping onto coaches. Not to mention greener and scenic. It’ll be crap without the twinette sleepers. Shortsighted as even if they charged touristic prices there’s a market: just compare how coastal tilt train beds are booked out months ahead in Queensland (and they are far less quiet n private than the compartments on XPT).

Agreed with earlier comment: why does DST time diff require overnight XPT to arrive at 353am in Brisbane, especially on weekend when commuter trains competing for space are less frequent. It’s insane to have QR staff at Roma St over an hour before there are anys suburban trains let alone buses. And involves dumping often tired older passengers and tourists, on Roma St footpath with no connecting public transport, at taxi grave yard hour … after a long journey with no chance to charge phones onboard! Meaning some can’t even summons an Uber…

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