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The last journey in my Extreme Commuting experiment to visit all the outer extremities of Sydney’s network sends me to Dungog. You’d never mistake that for a non-Australian place name. Plus: the lessons I’ve learned over a month of traversing Sydney’s train networks like a fake commuter.
The fourth stage in my Extreme Commuting challenge to visit all the outlying locations on the Sydney Trains network takes me to two cities in the south: Bomaderry (Nowra) via Kiama and Port Kembla. Services to these locations are much more frequent than some of the more remote places I’ve been visiting, yet what this trip overwhelmingly reminds me of is that when it comes to train lines in more remote locations, passengers are rarely the first priority.
Think Bathurst and you think Mount Panorama and bogans in hotted-up V8s. But Bathurst has a train station too, and a big issue in the 2011 NSW state election was demands from locals that a commuter service was added to the once-a-day Dubbo XPT service and occasional strange buses that already existed. So now there’s a train. But is anyone using it? I’m experimenting with extreme commuting all this week, so I had to find out.
It’s a sunny Friday afternoon and there are quite a few people waiting at Sydney Central for the 1602 Goulburn service, which is the next stage of my Extreme Commuting experiment. In fact, if you want to board this train, you don’t even need a ticket.
So I wanted to head to Scone, which is the northernmost point on the Sydney rail network, for the first leg of my Extreme Commuting experiment. There was one big problem: the timetable made that almost impossible unless I elected to spend some time hanging out in one of Australia’s less reputable cities late on a drunken January Saturday night.