Extreme Commuting: High Price For Wendouree

Day 3 of my Victorian extreme commuting experiment sees me venturing to the Ballarat suburb of Wendouree, some 120 kilometres from Melbourne itself. This seems like a good time to reflect on the relative cost of tickets in Melbourne and Sydney.

I noted earlier this week that casual journeys outside of the city area in Melbourne seem a lot more expensive than similar ones in Sydney. Wendouree is a good case in point. This is what a normal adult ticket costs between Southern Cross and Wendouree:

Ticket Cost
Single (peak) $18.20
Return (peak) $36.40
Single (off-peak) $12.74
Return (off-peak) $25.48
Weekly $100.20

In all those cases, you can also use Melbourne trains, buses and trams for the duration of the ticket (within 2 hours of arrival for a single, all day for a return or weekly). To qualify as an off-peak journey, you can't touch on in Zone 1 (the city) before 9am, or between 4pm and 6pm.

For regular fares, Sydney is a lot cheaper. Let's consider a trip to Wyong, which at 100 kilometres away from Central is roughly the same distance from the city. These are the relevant fares:

Ticket Cost
Single $8.60
Return (peak) $17.20
Return (off-peak) $11.80
Weekly to city $61.00
Weekly MyMulti 3 $63.00

Aside from these prices, it's worth pointing out that a MyMulti daily, which costs $23, lets you travel absolutely anywhere on the network at any time across a day. That's much cheaper than the off-peak return in Melbourne.

For commuters (our main focus here) the difference is very pronounced: $63 a week for a go-anywhere MyMulti 3 ticket in Sydney versus $100.20 a week in Melbourne. If you only need the daily journey, a weekly from Wyong to the city is slightly cheaper at $61 -- but you'd only need to make a single extra journey to improve the value.

(Incidentally, I haven't included Sydney's Opal card fares here, as they don't yet work on buses. While our focus is on trains here, both cities include the ability to make multi-modal trips -- something Opal can't do yet. It's a topic we'll revisit when Opal is fully implemented.)

The journey

Initially, I thought this might be the first trip I've made all week where I travelled on a different train outwards than on the return. My 0804 service to Wendouree arrived at 0937 but then continued on to Ararat, while I was planning to take the 1004 back from Wendouree. I hadn't, however, reckoned with the Victorian enthusiasm for splitting trains. The front carriages continued on, but the back part of the train became the returning Wendouree service. So I did end up on the same train, alnbeit with some of it missing.

That aside, the journey proceeded smoothly. The morning service was busy but not packed, while yet again the return service was packed with school holiday travellers -- to the point where dozens of people were standing. Particularly notable were the elderly couple who were ostensibly taking their grandchildren out for the day but who were using that as an excuse to bicker for the entire trip. Their home life must be horrible.

My big complaint on this trip was mobile reception, which was the patchiest I've seen all week. Even at Ballarat station -- a populous location -- it wasn't spectacular, and it was effectively unusable for close to an hour on the return journey. If you made this trip regularly, you'd definitely want solid offline options (and not a Chromebook).

Could you do this commute daily?

Yes. Wendouree has roughly a dozen trips a day, and there are a few more which terminate at Ballarat (where you could pick up a bus if necessary). The cost might be higher than Sydney, but it would still be cheaper than driving every day.

We'll wrap things up in this series tomorrow with a trip to Traralgon and some reflections on the working challenges involved.


    @anguskidman You've been providing feedback on mobile reception which is very helpful. But not specifics about which network was patchy where.

    I'm no fanboi for Telstra, but my experience is that it's the most reliable and dependable overall. We recently moved the missis from Vodafail mostly as she found data speeds were too fickle, even in areas with supposedly good coverage and plenty of bars displayed on her phone.

      He mentioned in the original post that he was using a Telstra 4G modem

    I have commuted on this line to Melbourne (from Bacchus Marsh) since 2006. It works reasonably well in the mornings with the Vlocity trains, apart from the overcrowding.

    Afternoon/evening trains are the old red rattlers which often break down especially in the heat.

    Mobile service is patchy even on Telstra. I've preciously used Optus and Vodafone on the commute and they were nowhere near as good. I typically do offline stuff for much of the trip for this reason.

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