No Luggage: Railway Rewards & Battery Battles

No Luggage: Railway Rewards & Battery Battles

Spending the whole day away from a power outlet is challenging, but not impossible. Also inside as the No Luggage challenge continues from Newcastle to Melbourne to Bendigo: how NSW is still losing in the rail fare stakes.I knew when I planned it that today would pose the biggest challenge to me in power terms. I boarded an airport bus at 4:30am. I wasn’t going to get to my hotel until 4:00pm. In between, I expected to be using the BlackBerry near-continuously, save for take-off and landing. I suspected that might be tricky, and that’s why I was very grateful when I spotted this at the Newcastle airport departure lounge:

No Luggage: Railway Rewards & Battery Battles

Sure, I’d only been using the device for 45 minutes at that point, but having the chance to recharge before boarding meant I was fully juiced up when I got on the plane.

Surprisingly for such a small and relatively densely-populated state, Victoria doesn’t have particularly good mobile coverage in my experience. To further hedge my bets, I switched off my mobile signal for most of the two-hour train journey from Southern Cross to Bendigo, which is always a good way to extend battery life. I had plenty of writing to do, and for the most part I can do that net-free. I got to Bendigo without having lost all power, but I had gone into the red “warning zone”.

Fortunately, Bendigo station has quite a few accessible power outlets in the waiting room, so when I returned there for the journey home, I was able to recharge and get enough power for the journey home. In truth, I didn’t work quite as hard on the way back, but I had been up since before 4am.

If I had a lot of days like this scheduled, I’d have packed a spare battery (three cheers for phones with that option, BTW, and it wouldn’t have been a major space issue). However, as I’m now looking largely at plane travel, I’ll have lots of chances to recharge in Qantas lounges each day.

The fare challenge

I’ve long contended that public transport fares in NSW are poor value compared to other states, since single-journey tickets only ever cover a single trip on a train or bus or boat, rather than letting you use multiple modes of transport in a 2-hour or all-day window. Today’s travel confirmed that.

When I first researched this trip, I actually thought NSW was going to come out on top for once. The trip from central Sydney to Newcastle, a distance of 168 kilometres, cost $7.80 one way. The trip from Melbourne to Bendigo is almost identical in distance (164km), but costs $16.40 one way.

What I didn’t realise until I read my ticket was that my Victorian ticket also included any needed travel within both Melbourne and Bendigo. On a day return, I could catch as many local buses as I liked at either end, plus any other tram or train in Melbourne. If I cared to use those options (I did hop a tram to get to my hotel), I could get much more value from the fare. $7.80 to get to Newcastle is a good price, don’t get me wrong, but I wish the NSW fare structure actively encouraged use rather than pursuing a pay-for-every-leg mentality.

Wednesday sees me venture north to Brisbane — a plan that very nearly went awry because of a certain State of Origin game. I’ll tell you tomorrow how that became a blessing in disguise.

For the No Luggage experiment, Angus Kidman is doing his normal job while travelling Australia for a week with not much more than a BlackBerry. So far, his thumb is holding up nicely.


  • Yeah thats one thing I like about the Vline/metro/yara trams. My weekly vline ticket gets me travel on Metro Trains and Yara Trams. (plus the buses if I really really want)

    Also if you grabbed a vline one way, it’s valid (after you get it stamped) for 2 hours on the metro/yara trams system.

  • The Sydney (NSW) cost of public transport really gets to me.

    If i’ve gotta get a train and 2 buses somewhere, thats 3 fares, and if there’s 2 of us its cheaper to just catch a cab!

    • The big picture problem is that’s Sydney’s only day pass, and hence bad value if you don’t want to go as far as Newcastle. It’s also a rip-off compared to a weekly. For greater Melbourne (not including VLine), the equivalent all-day do-anything pass is $10.

  • A spare battery costing about $10 from deal extreme has been a great investment for my iPhone. (yeah we know that’s what you were picking on!)

    I don’t use it much but it’s good piece of mind.

  • There is nothing to really celebrate about Sydney’s fare system. The great $7.80 – 164km fare was a final act of desperation by the previous government to win votes in old working class electorates far from the city.

    I live 13km west from the city and if I want to catch 2 buses to just get to the beach (about 18km), I have to pay $8.60 one-way or more if I use the ferry. A My-Multi day pass is a joke, $20, when the equivalent fare in Melbourne is $13 something and $9 in Perth. A Sydney My-Multi day pass only saves you the time in having to buy multiple tickets but saves no money over buying multiple fares like it should and does in other ‘global’ cities as Sydney likes to describe itself.

    Melbourne did the smart thing and went to a 2 zone system for all modes, simple and much more efficient to manage. Perth has a great fare zone system too. Sydney, nope. They spent $1 billion trying to implement an electronic smart fare system but failed miserably.

    Anybody who champions the public transport fare system in Sydney either works for the government, use to work for the government or is in need of medical help.

  • No-one seems to have mentioned that if you’re just going to Bendigo and not around Melbourne first, charging $16.80 is a rip!
    There should be an option for people going there direct, rather then including extras that some travellers don’t need.
    It’s also stupid that there’s not a train station in Tullamarine – WTF? I know that in Sydney we aren’t perfect ($10 station access fee – also totally stupid) but it’s cheaper than a $15 cab fare to Sunbury (including mandatory tip if you pay with card), then $16.80 for a ticket to Bendigo one-way.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!