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Comparisons of suburban rail

This is a comparison of Australian capital city suburban and commuter rail systems in many domains. Included are outer-suburban services, but not inter-city, inter-state, tourist, or other such services. Unfortuatley, some figures may include unwanted measurements.

Cells coloured green represent the best city for that category. Yellow shows a city that is behind or substandard. Red shows a city that is the worst. Sometimes multiple cities share colours for various reasons. Grey shows "not applicable".

This document is under construction, and probably will be for some time while I research. Entries in italics with a (?) mean that the entry is suspected but not confirmed. Accuracy is not guaranteed - please check with a more reliable source if you need accurate info.


City Adelaide Brisbane Canberra Darwin Hobart Melbourne Perth Sydney
Catchment population 1           1 3x Adl

Non train, non bus operators

(Many bus)
0 (?) 0 (?)
1 bus
0 (?) 0 (?) 2(+)Trams


Suburban train operators TransAdelaide QR citytrain 0 (Tourist)
0 (?) 0 (?) C: Connex
M: M>train


Length Km
120   0 (?) 0 (?) 0 (?) C:128(240)
Total: 390
(?) 2060
Number of stations 84 143 1-2 (?) 0 (?) 0 (?) C:90+27=117
66 306
Number of suburban passenger cars 100   (?) 0 (?) 0 (?) C:
43 sets 1458
x 1,000
91.6         C:~142 (?) 850
Passengers annual (Million)               279
Airport connection (Short bus, taxi ride) Yes       tram(?) Yes(?) Yes, $ and maint.

Catchment population refers to the poulation covered by the rail network. This includes fringe cities serviced by regular outer-suburban commuter services. Naturally there will be pockets of non-serviced areas included.

Non-bus operators: This highlights tram operations and other innovative transport solutions. Melbourne is the city of trams, so gets a prize for the extensive, two(?) operator tram network. Adelaide gets a prize for the Busway (0-Bahn), an innovative guided busway that combines the speed of rail with the convenience of road trasit. Sydney gets a prize for its monorail, used for inner-city transport, even if locals joke about it, it's a leg saver for the inner city, although a connection to Central station might make it a bit more useful.

Sydney gets the prize for biggest system, however it's interesting to note the huge proportions of track and cars. It could be possible that they quote track length, not route length. Still, they have a lot of rolling stock compared to other cities.

Thanks to those who have supplied corrections so far.

Rollingstock specifications

Car specs Adelaide Brisbane Melbourne Perth Sydney
Top speed Km/h 90 100-140 90(?) (?) 130

smallest capacity car (seats)

224 - IMU 3x set
180 - ICE 4x set
(?) (?)


largest capacity set (seats) 5x113=565 248 - EMU 3x set
(496 2 sets)
(?) (?) 132x8= 1056
Set sizes 2k:3,(+)
3 or 6 Comeng:6
Electric models 0 5(all) 2 1(?) 6(21)
Electric system (DEMU) 25000
V AC(?)
1500V DC xxxxV?? 1500V DC
Diesel-Electric models 2(4) 0(?) Outer. Sub
0(?) 0(?)
Diesel-Hydraulic models 0
(historic tourist)
0(?) 0 0(?) 3(4)?
Air Conditioning All All Comeng All(?) 3/4 of cars
Announcements Personal DVA(?) DVA refurb DVA(?) Guard
New: + DVA
Door opening (Driver release) Manual button or handle

Auto or button (?)

H: (?)
Auto(?) Guard only
Door closing Driver/PSA
Auto, chime
Auto, auto swing
Some announce
C:Auto chime(?)
Auto,(?) Guard vocal warning

Where multiple values are available, the most significant (largest/smallest) is chosen.

Models are shown as total models / (sub-models (ie power/trailing/driver cars))

(historic tourist) means that some refurbished trains are in regular tourist operation, while there are no suburban or commuter entries.

Operator performance

Performance Adelaide Brisbane Melbourne Perth Sydney
Most frequent (min) 30 or less       6-(130?!)

Least frequent (hrs)

1 or 6       4?
Min freq(weekend) 60        
Max freq(weekend) 1 or none        
Daily services
total or

~198 (old info?)



853, 702)

Hours of operation ~5am-
- midnight
2:46 (H11) to
2:11 (N198)
to TT - to time table
w/x min - within X minutes
a - achieved, p- peak
goal: >=
95% to TT
    a97% w/3min
a99% w/5min
g: 97% toTT
g: 100% w/3min

99% peak run
92% p w/3min
Sub:95% w/3

Locals whinge Not really       Yes
Trains make news Very little, neuteral       Frequently, some negative

Frequency refers to cars departing from stations to similar destinations. Otherwise it can be a lot more frequent when express trains catch up to all-stops trains, like around 5 minutes (in Adelaide)

I'm confused about Sydney's reliability - different sources give different stats. Also Sydney's PR is two-sided, as it gets a lot more attention than some cities where trains infrequently make news.


Safety Adelaide Brisbane Melbourne Perth Sydney
Signalling Complely 3-colour lights (?) Mix (?) Mix

Signal passed at danger trips brake

Yes - non mechanical     (?) Most, (upgrade:all)
Emergency brake for passengers Yes-all cars     (?) No
Help points in cars No   Upgrade (?) New
Help points at stations Staffed(some) Most Yes/some? Upgrade all Yes/some?
Payphones Take a hike or
use a mobile
Most (?) Upgrade all Yes- 99%
Electro-Magnetic brake operation At least some(?) -
None(?) None(?) None(?)

Maybe New(?) -

CCTV in cars Yes/some(?)   Upgrade   Yes/some
Night safety Nightmoves: single car operation (?) (?) (?) NightSafe: some cars locked
Mobiles at night Upgrade: after 8pm (?) Yes(?) (?) Yes(?)
Guard/PSA Set >= 4       All

Cost and convenience of travel

Fares Adelaide Brisbane Melbourne Perth Sydney
Primary fare system 2hr trips (unlimited) From/To
2hr within Zones Zoned Zoned somehow
Mode transfer on one ticket? Yes, all
no? Yes
(?) Bus, ferry
Ticket type Slim cardboard (?) CreditCard size? CreditCard size CreditCard size?
Ticket reliability Simple and reliable (?) Teething probs(?) (?) 97.5%
Evasion security
C: secure
O: trust
? C:secure
? secure
120 new inspectors
Day travel $5.70($2.90) N/A(?) $3.40($1.80)-
$7.10($3) $13
2 Section $1.70($1.20) N/A(?) $1.70($0.90) $1.10(.50)  

2hr journey peak

$3($1.50/$1.30) (?) $1.90($1.00)-
2hr off peak $1.80 ($0.9)        
10 trips
Saving from normal
Yes - All
Save $10.20
Other multiple trips No Monthly, etc weekly, monthly, + Month, wk, yearly Month, Wk, yearly
Turn up with cash Yes-all staffed(?) Yes-all (?) Yes


Consessions Two concession types, and inter-peak discount Unsure(?) Various schemes.   yes?
Bike fare - peak consession Not allowed   Not allowed Child fare
Bike fare - off peak free double doors only (?) Free Free
Free CBD travel (CityFree buses) (?) With off-peak ticket CAT Bus and FTZ train No. City Hopper ticket

Prices in brackets are for concession fares(concession/student). A 2-section ticket is for a very short journey with limited, if any, transfers.

Passenger information sources

Passenger info Adelaide Brisbane Melbourne Perth Sydney
Next train - audio All - push button (?) most(?) All most(?)

Next train - visual

Staffed / major stations   Some major stations(?)   Some major stations(?)
Additional visual info Adelaide   Yes(?)   Some(?)
Timetables on display Adelaide, (?) (?) (?) All stations Almost all
Timetables - supply Adelaide, Staffed(?)       staffed(?)
Timtable online Text & PDF No(?) Yes text, PDF


Route planner online Yes, no transfers Yes Yes Yes Yes
Delays announced Newspapers (day before) (?) Online, stations(?)   Online, stations, trains(?)

Web site

Light green: best
Dark green: Good
Yellow: best looking

Useful and fast. URLs not user friendly.
A little stale
Good & useful.

M: Impractical - Too much eye candy
C: Good

Good, lacks technical info Good, lots of useful info. Easy nav.
Constant updates
Passenger info center KingWilliam St       Central &
Darling Harbour
Stations of architechural or historical significance Adelaide, Gawler,
and more
? Flinders St ? Central (tours)

Upgrades, past and planned


Info current as at November 2001.

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Updated Nov 25, 2001