TRAINS, BIKES AND BUSES – a pain in the Downunder

The Great Victorian Bike Ride is a superbly organised event, but getting to the starting line with a bike can be tricky, to say the least…

‘Welcome to Countrylink. Thank you for holding. My name is Carol, how can I help you?’

‘Hi Carol. My name is Richard. I need to get the train from Albury to Wangaratta on November 26th. I’m flying down from Sydney to do the Great Victorian Bike Ride. It starts in Yarrawonga, but I’m being picked up in Wangaratta.’

For those unfamiliar with Australian geography, Albury-Wodonga and Wangaratta are good-sized regional towns of some 100,000 and 15,000 people respectively, just 56km apart along the main route between Sydney and Melbourne. Albury has the only commercial airport in the region, so my flight will land there.

‘That will be fine, Sir. We have a train going from Albury to Wangaratta, leaving 15.19.’

‘I’m afraid I need to be in Wangaratta before three o’clock. Do you have an earlier train?’

‘Of course we do, Sir. At 4.12.’

‘That would be 4.12 in the morning?’

‘Correct, Sir.’

‘Er, that’s a tiny bit inconvenient, Carol, since my plane from Sydney won’t arrive till 9.’

‘I’m sorry, Sir. I don’t organise the timetables. You could try V-Line, Sir.’

‘V-Line’ is the cool name for Victoria’s country train and bus service. They have a smart website “providing public transport to Victorians”and I see there’s a bus from Albury which will get me to Wangaratta on time. Excellent. I ring Craig at V-Line, book a seat and everything is going swimmingly, until we get to…

‘Oh, one last thing…I’ll have a bike with me as luggage. Don’t worry, it will be in a box because I’m bringing it on the plane from Sydney.’

‘Well, I can give you the maximum dimensions for our coach luggage, Sir. 40cm by 35m by 15cm. Is it a big bike?’

‘It’s bigger than a laptop computer, yes.’

‘Our luggage regulations are very strict.’

‘Let me get this straight, Craig. V-Line and Countrylink are the only public transport options between Albury and Wangaratta?’

‘That’s right, Sir.’

‘But neither of you can get me and my bike to Wangaratta in the middle of a Friday.’

‘No, Sir. I can’t think of how I could help you. You need a car to get to Wangaratta. Sorry, Sir.’


Filed under Cycle touring, Cycling, Travel-Australia

12 responses to “TRAINS, BIKES AND BUSES – a pain in the Downunder

  1. I guess what they are saying is: there is a surprise 56km prologue to the Great Victorian Bike Ride, Richard.

    • I did consider it, Mina, but there’s the issue of carrying the camping gear I’ll need to bring to survive a nine day ride across the state of Victoria.

      The GVBR itself is brilliantly organised with luggage trucks etc, but getting to the starting line is a challenge.

  2. Well that says it all Richard. Stick to the Metro! Therese

    • Bien sur, Therese, one needs un Metro de Grand Vitesse with a space on it for le velo, stopping several times a day at Wangaratta. Or, peut etre, a Great Sydney to Melbourne Bike Path would do. Merci.

  3. Glad to see you are doing the Great Vic ride again. Sorry it is proving such a pain getting there. Head for Switzerland next time, Richard. They have it all organized over there. Check my latest post.

  4. Mel

    Hi Richard,
    I agree, public transport in Victoria is attempting to be bike friendly but they really need to look at their policies across all areas and transport options.
    Maybe it would be easier for you to change your rider option to just get the bus straight from Southern Cross Station to Yarrawonga? It is $60 but it seemed worth it to me to avoid stuffing around.
    Good luck!

    • Thanks for visiting and the suggestion, Mel. We’re flying into Albury from Sydney, so in the end we gave up and arranged for the GVBR to transport our bikes to and from the ride. Great that they’ll do that from Sydney but a shame that we can’t get them around with public transport. It discourages us from visiting Victoria for other rides we’d like to do at other times.

      Where are the trains with bike compartments like the Germans have? Or the buses like the Danish ones with racks for six bikes at the back?

  5. Adrian

    Even more fun, you can find you and your bike on a V/Line train that does transport bikes, only to discover that suddenly and mysteriously the train terminates and is replaced by a bus, you get to travel on the bus, your bike gets to NOT travel on the bus.

    I had the same hassles getting from Canberra to GVBR rides and from Melbourne to NSWBR, at least Bike NSW was honest enough when I rang them to tell me, “Oh, most people get someone to drive them to the start”

    Sometimes it seems that BV should change their motto to: “More people driving their bikes around on their 4WDs more often.”

    • Adrian, it’s an on-going problem whenever and wherever buses replace trains. It’s even happened to me in Holland.

      The place best organised for bike transport I’ve found was the Danish island of Bornholm. When you got tired of riding you could flag down any bus (it didn’t even need to be on a bus stop) and they would hook your bike onto one of the six racks at the back.

      A tough guy like me never used that wussy service of course, but most impressive that it was there.

  6. steve

    There is a bus from Albury direct to Yarrawongs for the GVBR. It’s getting late to book, but maybe…..

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