When travelling around Australia, the very large distances between major cities mean that flying is usually by far the quickest option. But if you live in NSW and often travel to regional destinations, train travel can be a viable (and enjoyable) option.
NSW TrainLink runs daily services from Sydney to Dubbo, Moree, Armidale, Grafton, Casino, Albury and Brisbane. There are also thrice-daily services from Sydney to Canberra, and weekly trains to Griffith and Broken Hill. The train may take a little longer than flying. But depending on where you’re going, it could be a more convenient option for travel to destinations across regional NSW. It could also be far cheaper than flying, especially if you’re travelling on a regular basis.
Most train services continue to operate to schedule despite COVID-19, with the exception of the Sydney-Melbourne XPT which has been terminating in Albury since the NSW/Victoria border closed on 8 July. Staggered seating assignments are currently being used on all regional train and coach services, with neighbouring seats left unallocated, to allow for social distancing.
The NSW TrainLink Discovery Pass
For regular users of NSW TrainLink services, there is an excellent yet poorly-advertised deal that can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. For a fixed price, the NSW TrainLink Discovery Pass comes with unlimited regional train travel anywhere within NSW, as well as to Canberra, Brisbane and (under normal circumstances) Melbourne. The Discovery Pass is available for fixed periods of 14 days, 1 month, 3 months or 6 months. The best deal is the 6-month pass.
If you purchase a “Premium” travel pass, you’ll be entitled to book First Class where available. Considering this only costs a little more than the Economy pass, it’s well worth buying a Premium pass.
Here are the prices, as listed on the NSW TrainLink website:
At $550 for six months of unlimited First Class train travel, the 6-month Premium Pass is an outstanding deal. That’s less than the cost of two return Economy class flights from Sydney to Canberra. The Discovery Pass prices have not changed for the past several years.
After purchasing your Discovery Pass, you’ll be able to book any available seat on any NSW TrainLink train or coach service. You can easily book online or over the phone. Booking is possible any time before departure, however it is possible that there will be no seats left if you leave it too late to book.
Another key benefit of the Discovery Pass is that you can cancel without penalty if you need to. With the uncertainty surrounding regional travel at the moment, this could be useful if you need to make last-minute changes.
What are NSW TrainLink services like?
Many of the NSW TrainLink XPT and Xplorer trains are starting to show their age. That said, the seats are comfortable and the on-board crews are generally friendly. You’ll have enough space on board to get some work done, and toilets are provided at the end of each carriage. (There are normally water fountains as well, but these have been temporarily switched off due to COVID-19.) Food and drinks are available for purchase on board. But power outlets are not available at most seats, and wifi is not available.
The main difference between Economy and First Class is that the First Class seats have 10cm more legroom and recline much further. The cabin is also smaller and more private.
On overnight XPT services to Brisbane and Melbourne, you’ll also have the option to upgrade to a sleeper compartment for an additional $88. This is definitely worthwhile as you’ll get a proper bed and access to an on-board shower.
Read an AFF review of the overnight sleeper service: Melbourne to Sydney by overnight XPT train
Admittedly, you can’t earn frequent flyer points or status credits when travelling by train. Nonetheless, a NSW TrainLink Discovery Pass could be worth considering if you’re frequently travelling to regional NSW destinations like Bathurst, Wagga Wagga, Taree, Orange, Tamworth, Coffs Harbour or even Canberra.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: The NSW TrainLink Discovery Pass
Looking for more tips & tricks on Australian domestic travel? Be sure to join the upcoming Frequent Flyer Solutions webinar on 9 September 2020. Read more →