Archive: Bendigo Fast Train - "Snail Rail"

Last Updated 13/6/07 



Click here for the Bendigo Fast Rail Song



Fast Train Pain:  Murphy's Law Rides The Rails

(23/3/07 - SG)  More rail fables (or should that be foibles?) you can thrill your grandchildren with...

There are still major reliability headaches with the so-called 'fast' train on the Bendigo line but amid all the tales of woe, we've heard three ripper yarns.


Yarn 1:  Passengers noted a lot of activity around the train driver's 'bunker' on a recent trip to Melbourne.  At most stations, there seemed to be a profusion of people coming and going - more it seemed than the 'bunker' could hold.  The trip seemed uneventful but perhaps the distractions took their toll because then came an announcement that the train had missed stopping at St Albans but, to fix that, it would make a quick unscheduled stop at Ginnifer so passengers who wanted to go to St. Albans could catch a train back. 


Yarn 2:  Seems the new V-locity trains have their own way of keeping passengers cool on hot days.  Apparently, the drip tubes which carry condensation to the outside of the train are prone to becoming blocked.  Passengers have told us it's not uncommon to have drops of water falling onto passengers from time to time from the light fittings in the roof.  It's hard to say if it was a cool down or a chill out for one poor woman on a recent scorching, humid day.  Those drip tubes must have been chockas because as the train went round a bend, close to a bucket of water was dumped right on her, leaving her saturated.  We only hope she was going from, not to, the office.


Yarn 3:  A passenger recently failed in an attempt to mount a court case against V-Line after the case was thrown out for lacking substance.  This intrepid train-traveller was adamant V-Line's train timetable is a raffle and wanted V-Line charged for failing to hold the appropriate approvals needed to run a raffle.



Whooo Whooo  Booo Hooo: The Fast Train Cometh - And Some Wish It Would Just Goeth Away...

(12/9/06 - SG)  Definitely not working for us, say frustrated commuters, after losing an hour on just three train trips

It seems things aren't going quite as planned, so our Bendigo line 'diarist' is again keeping notes on the proficiency and reliability (or otherwise) of the 'fast rail' and 'fast train' upgrades. 


Fortnight ago, train driver had only one of three carriages lined up with platform at Gisborne; missing the platform tripped signalling system alarm; had to reverse to let passengers in first two carriages get off, couldn't reverse until system 'un-alarmed', 10 minute delay while system fixed. 


Monday 4th September

7.28am to Spencer Street, due 8.40am, arrived 8.55am.  Stopped Sunbury but left without all passengers because train squashed full.


Tuesday 5th September

5pm from Spencer Street, 6 minutes late leaving, due Kyneton 6.12pm, arrived 6.16pm.  Waits 12 minutes (until 6.28pm) for Melbourne-bound train to clear single track north of Kyneton.   After being held at Kyneton for a few more minutes for undisclosed reasons, finally arrived Malmsbury 6.38pm (due to arrive at 6.16pm).


Only 4 minutes late on evening return from Melbourne - "within time".


Wednesday 6th September

Earlier commuter 7.18am (to avoid Sunbury squash), due 8.28am, arrived 8.45am - problems with signalling system.  Left earlier, got there later than later train. Problems also emerging with 'fast' trains getting stuck in traffic behind dawdling suburban trains stopping all stations.


Thursday 7th September

8 minutes late at Spencer Street - took that long for conductor and passengers to close train door that wouldn't close.


Friday 8th September

Commuters discover 7.28am (due to arrive 8.40am, arrived 8.40am) actually passes and gets in earlier than 7.18am ( due to arrive 8.28am, arrived 8.45am).  7.28am (although stopping more stations, including Sunbury) already at Spencer Street when 7.18am arrives.


MRRA Says:

That's not all.  We hear the Ballarat and Geelong lines are having a few 'timing' problems as well.  We've also been alerted to concerns with some off-peak trains being changed to peak trains, which won't help people (and pensioners) trying to keep travel costs down either.



UPDATE  WOOooo-WOOooo!  Here Comes The Very, Very, Very Fast Train: Timetable Now Available

(13/8/06 - SG)  Blink and you'll miss it!  It'll be a blur alright as it roars through our stations: no stops in Macedon Ranges

(19/8/06 - SG) UPDATE: Fast Rail Timetable Deciphered: Mystery of extra stops at Gisborne solved


MRRA Says:

Remember how MRRA wasn't sure what the 'extra stops' next to Gisborne meant on the new Fast Rail timetable?   Well, it turns out it means there's an "increase in services to support growth in the Gisborne area".   We'll just add that one to our list of "Hidden Growth Agenda" items.  And we will try to follow up on advice given to an MRRA member that the new timetable will be changing on the first of each month???



WOOooo-WOOooo!  Here Comes Da Very, Very, Very Fast Train: Timetable Now Available

(13/8/06 - SG)  Blink and you'll miss it!  It'll be a blur alright as it roars through our stations: no stops in Macedon Ranges

The long-awaited Fast Rail timetable is finally available and the services shown on it will start on September 3 on the Bendigo line. Click to see or download a copy of the timetable.  There are definite improvements to weekend services, and some additional 'late night' rides as well.  But those who bought the 'Fast Train For Macedon Ranges' spiel five or so years ago will be disappointed - there isn't one.  Even Bendigo residents have something to gripe about - there's only one daily "Fastie" each way to Spencer Street during the week, and none on weekends. And to catch it you'll have to be at Bendigo before 6:05am, or Castlemaine before 6:23am!  Your one chance in the afternoons is the 4:53pm from Spencer Street.  Oddly, Gisborne is shown on the timetable as having "Extra Stops" (we don't really know what that means), with the Swan Hill Express now to stop at Gisborne as well.  There's a new train to Bendigo that gets you there before 9:00am, and the capacity of a couple of trains will be increased to and from Sunbury as well. 


MRRA Says:


WARNING 1:  Take note that from 3 September the 3.50/3.52pm from Spencer Street (the train so many people in Macedon Ranges catch) will only travel to SUNBURY.  Got that?  Otherwise you will be very surprised at being turfed off, halfway home.


There are some oddities in the timetable.  While the V V V Fast Train whooshes to and from Bendigo in 84 minutes once a day, the sole train terminating at Kyneton will take 82 minutes to get there.  All trips from Melbourne take longer than equivalent trips to Melbourne.  Trips starting from Kyneton take 70 - 73 minutes; the trip back is 82 minutes.  For Bendigo, 'to Melbourne' trips are 94 - 123 minutes, 'from Melbourne' are 102 - 127 minutes.  From Sunbury, travel times 'to' vary between 34 - 45 minutes, and 'from' falls in the 35 - 45 minute range.  If we read the timetable correctly, it looks like additional passenger capacity will be provided to and from Sunbury on one or two trains.  What!!!  How will we cope with not having to almost hang out of the train?  Of not having to stand on the coupling between carriages?  Er, of possibly getting a seat all the way?  Will it kill the thrill of train travel, the camaraderie that comes from having someone's elbow under your nose, of having a complete stranger inadvertently grabbing the wrong bits of you in an attempt to stop you falling? 


WARNING 2:  Seen the State government's large advertisements in local papers?  With the big print saying "Don't Risk It!" and "Arrive Alive!", you very definitely need to read the small print to understand that it's not getting on the train that will necessarily kill you but not being alert at level crossings might (although the wording "if you're driving across the tracks, always look both ways and be prepared to stop" is unfortunate - we thought the point was to look and be prepared to stop before driving across the tracks).  In any event the message to "always expect a train to be coming" when attempting to cross the railway line(s) by vehicle or as a pedestrian is relevant and should be heeded.


No doubt there will be lots of unconvincing smiles and photo opportunities come September 3, all trying to convince us we are better off.  Only time will tell if the years of lost hours and opportunities, and inconvenience, and the exorbitant costs, have been worth it, if there truly are sustained improvements, particularly now that the Bendigo line has had one rail amputated north of Kyneton.  So far, most travellers have noticed a marked difference between what's supposed to happen, and what does. 


The peachy-keen rail image isn't helped by a current a notice on VLine's website either - tomorrow's (Monday 14 August) 7.30 Swan Hill to Melbourne train will take 16 minutes longer than advertized due to "operational requirements".   Bit of a bummer to turn up in the middle of what's supposed to be a good news story, isn't it? 


We'd like to know what you think about the Fast (or Snail) Rail project so please send us an email on telling us whether it's good or bad, whether or not it's value for money, and whether or not it really does deliver benefits to Macedon Ranges' and other Bendigo corridor residents.



Bendigo 'Fast' Train:  Snail Rail Goes "Grand Prix" As Trains Race Head-To-Head To Kyneton

(5/4/06 - SG)  Mindful of everything that's going wrong on the Bendigo line, fearful passengers were grateful to get off

It's one of those tales you can't get your head around at first.  A race, between two trains, going in the same direction, using both rail tracks.  That's what we hear happened this week on the way to Kyneton.  It started with the usual muck-up at Spencer Street.  Passengers for the 5.03pm to Kyneton arrived to find their train with no lights.  Waiting, waiting, then came a station announcement that the train was ready to board.  On they clambered, only to be told to get off because the engine (which seemed to be lost) wasn't connected yet.  The 5.03 (stopping most stations) left almost 30 minutes late.  It left, in fact, only some 3 minutes ahead of the 5.33pm to Bendigo (express to Woodend ).   All the way to Macedon, the 5.33 'express' suffered the same stop/start trip as the 5.03 'rattler'.  Enough!  When the 5.03 stopped at Macedon, the 5.33 overtook it on the Melbourne-bound rail.   The 5.03 caught up with the 5.33 at Woodend, where both trains occupied both tracks (with the 5.33 still on the Melbourne-bound rail) and discharged passengers on both sides of the station at the same time.   Then, with 'pedals to the metal' the two trains charged off together to Kyneton - using a track each.  Neither gave an inch as, neck and neck, side-by-side, they hurtled along in the same direction.  The winner, the 5.03, just 'pipped' the 5.33 across the line at Kyneton.


MRRA Says:

Huh?  As one passenger was heard to say, "Hope the signals are working."  Excellent point.  On a rail line as plagued by 'state-of-the-art' signalling failures as this one, our sympathy is solidly with the passengers.  Despite the government's expenditure of almost $2 billion statewide on the 'fast train' concept, we hear that the Bendigo line signals pegged out again only last Saturday, with passengers once more bussed to Melbourne.  Maybe 'tic-tac' men, like those seen waving their arms around on British racecourses, could be hired as semaphores when the whiz-bang new signals are down - reliability and job-creation! 


Then there's the one about the double-decker trains that have now been scrapped because they won't go under the bridges.  Cripes, can someone please give the government a tape measure? 


Makes you wonder what the hell is going on, doesn't it?   You might like to put that question to our current State MPs:

Joanne Duncan (Member for Macedon) 5428 2138 (

Geoff Howard (Member for Ballarat East) 5331 7722 (



'Snail Rail' Contagion Infects Ballarat Line?

(27/3/06 - SG)  It seems the trip to Ballarat might not be without its problems either



We've all heard about the ills afflicting the Bendigo Fast Train  - what the State government and some of our Councillors euphemistically call 'a few teething problems'.  MRRA has now heard a whisper that the Ballarat Fast Train might not be too flash - or fast - either.  Apparently if cuttings are just a bit too narrow, they (the trains!) begin to wobble a lot when travelling at speed through those cuttings (there's a scientific name for this but we don't know it).  To avoid alarming passengers, trains are forced to travel more slowly - 14 minutes each way more slowly, we hear.    The drums are telling us there's also a strong PPO factor laying passengers low on the Ballarat line - they are getting Properly Pissed Off with sitting for successive eternities in sidings on that one-line track.  Guess who else is getting the single track 'improvement'?  Hint: it starts with 'B', ends with 'o' and there's 'endig' in between.   Click here for the 'Snail Rail' archive and to hear the Bendigo Fast Train Song.


One more thing:  Can some thought go into finding another way of emptying new V-locity trains' toilets?  Our advice is experienced travellers know only too well a deep breath .... and HOLD .... is needed when the 'potties' on the train are cleaned out at Spencer Street, but woe betide the unwary.  It's good that train effluent is being dealt with responsibly, but somehow "poo pongs" aren't exactly in step with a modern image, are they?



More "Snail Rail" :  A Late Traveller's Log

(10/3/06 - SG)  Complaints keep coming about the Bendigo Snail Rail as another 'lucky commuter' logs in with MRRA

We've received another sad, sad story about Bendigo Snail Rail.  From radio and newspapers stories this week, there does seem to be rather a lot of them...  Click here for this tale of woe.



Just When Some Thought It Had Gone Away, "Fast Rail" Is Back As "Snail Rail"

(5/3/06 - SG)  Tales from the Dark Side: we all know it ain't going to be a Fast train!  Betting's now focussed on how slow it can go. 


MRRA has no difficulty believing this tale of frustration and shattered expectations (click below) from a Kyneton commuter. This time last year, it took one of our members 8 hours to travel (round trip) from Woodend to Camberwell.  After managing to arrive in time for only 15 minutes of an hour-long dentist's appointment - second appointment needed - our member's day of public transport debacles was topped off nicely by a tyre/wheel coming off the Woodend-bound bus at the Black Forest freeway interchange.  So near, but still so far.  Got your own tale about the 'Farce Train'?  Let us know about it by emailing us on


Yet if we listened to our State politicians, who are trying to get re-elected this year, so-called 'fast rail' was going to be the best thing since sliced bread.  We don't think so, and we notice even the politicians are backing off from trying to sell it as a 'fast' service, generally preferring 'upgrade' these days.  But doesn't 'upgrade' imply 'better'?   The 'upgrade' itself has dragged on and on: more than a year of doubled travel times, unreliable services, getting on and getting off, needing a guide and a cut lunch to get around Southern Cross station, going miles out of our way to catch buses and trains, late arrivals, late (and even early) departures, stoppages and blockages, brake failures and signalling blackouts, ARRRRHHH.  The Intrepids who might still want to travel by train would be grateful just to get the semblance of a rail service that's at least as reliable as the one we had before hundreds of millions of dollars were spent 'upgrading' it to where, unhappily, it is today.


We now hear the government has local Woodend boy (Peter Moon) asking workers to be 'flexible' when they travel, and avoid peak times (even to the extent of changing their work hours) so that people trotting off to the Commonwealth Games can have a fair go.  Mmmm... apart from this having 'more front than Myers' (how about a 'fair go' for workers and Intrepids, Bracksie?), with the Games influx we don't like  anyone's chances of getting where they want to go, or getting there on time, given the 'track' record of rail services in this area which increasingly points to a transport system that's about to burst. 


After all that, when we see the 'happy face' publicity blurbs and photo opportunities telling us how dandy everything is, how lucky we are, it really gets 'up our frock'.  The fluffy political sell keeps rolling out, which is probably more than can be said about the trains right now.  Perhaps the Bracks government could ape the Germans who are apparently paying for yoga instructors on trains to teach passengers how to be calm. 


Ah... and next week's Seniors' Week where more people than normal are usually squeezed into the same number of carriages.   Delays are anticipated (up to 17 minutes on the Bendigo line - we assume that's in addition to unscheduled delays that currently occur)  - go to for information about Seniors' Week and rail travel. 


Meantime, click here to read about A Couple Of Weeks In The Life Of A (Somehow Still Employed) Kyneton Commuter - yep, it's unbelievable, but it's true.  While you are reading, click here to play the Bendigo Fast Train Song.



‘Fast Train’ Fails Again

(29/1/06 – SG)  Travellers stranded at Woodend as signal system goes on the blink again

A week or so ago people waiting at Woodend station for the 9.30-ish train to Melbourne were floored when told the train wasn’t going, just before it was supposed to go.  It seems a(nother) failure in the new signalling system was to blame and it resulted in suspension of train services.   A bus was hurriedly called from Kyneton but even then travellers were still almost an hour late getting into Melbourne – after an almost 2 hour journey.  Doesn’t seem terribly fast, does it?



Death of Cypress Tree at Woodend

(14/6/05 – SG)  Is there anything good about the Fast Train?  We are losing things we can’t replace...

The destruction of an ancient cypress tree growing on Woodend’s railway station last week just about sums up the complete absence of logic and sensitivity of the LITTLE-BIT-FASTER-TRAIN project.  Yes, the tree had been hacked at before, but it had been there a hell of a long time and was part of the station’s character.  Not any more.  Why?  Someone couldn’t think of anywhere else to put bicycle racks.