The NSW TrainLink XPT (short for "eXpress Passenger Train") is a diesel powered long-distance passenger train used in regional New South Wales, Australia, and on main CountryLink routes including the interstate Sydney-Melbourne and Sydney-Brisbane services. It has been in service from 1982, and is based on the InterCity 125 High Speed Train (HST) from Britain. The HST, however, has a different colour scheme and has side engine coolers instead of top ones.
The XPT operates country passenger rail services through Victoria towards Melbourne via Albury (connecting with Tasmania ferries) as well as services to Brisbane via the east coast (with connections north and west on Queensland Rail) and services north-west to Dubbo in the central west of NSW. XPT's are operated by the NSW TrainLink however QLD and VIC services are subsidised by the Victorian and QLD governments respectively.
The first two motor cars produced commenced testing with a luggage van in the August of 1981. With a top speed of over 160 km/h, on a demonstration run to Albury on 6 September 1981 the XPT set a new Australian rail speed record at 183 km/h. On a test run to Albury on 10 September 1992 the XPT travelled even faster, reaching speeds of up to 193 km/h between Table Top and Yerong Creek. However this record was broken by Queensland's QR Tilt Train in 1999. The seats and the overhead compartments convert to beds whilst the tray tables fit into the armrests. The first full XPT set (2 motors, 6 carriages) ran in January 1982, and the first revenue passenger service began on 8 April 1982 to Dubbo, replacing the diesel locomotive-hauled Central West Express. The next service was the Mid-North Coast XPT to Kempsey from May 1982. The Riverina XPT to Albury was introduced in August 1982, with services introduced to Canberra in August 1983 and Tenterfield or Armidale in 1984 (the Northern Tablelands XPT). The initial XPT livery was the red, orange and black, the 'Candy' livery of the then State Rail Authority of New South Wales.
Initially the XPT carried a fare surcharge compared to parallel locomotive-hauled services, however this was abolished in 1985. The XPT was a huge success, with high patronage forcing the government to order and deliver an additional 12 trailer cars to allow six sets of 7 passenger cars. This allowed the extension of the Mid-North Coast XPT from Kempsey to Grafton, becoming known as the Holiday Coast XPT from 1985.
In 1988, the Booz Allen Hamilton report issued by the newly elected Greiner State Government recommended the cessation of all-XPT country passenger services, citing their economic non-viability. This was considered politically unfeasible, so the report's alternative option of moving New South Wales to an all-XPT country passenger service was adopted, resulting in the progressive withdrawal of locomotive-hauled services. In 1989, CountryLink was founded as a business unit of State Rail to operate country passenger services, and from 1990, North Coast XPT services were extended to Brisbane and Murwillumbah, the Northern Tablelands XPT service was cut back to Tamworth, and the Canberra XPT was replaced by locomotive-hauled trains as no other CountryLink rollingstock as available.
Between 1990 and 1992, with the introduction of the CountryLink brand, the trains were repainted in a new blue, turquoise and white livery. In 1992, tenders were called for the provision of additional rollingstock and the refurbishment of existing passenger cars for the introduction of Southern XPT services to Melbourne. ABB in Dandenong, Victoria constructed four additional power cars, five new seating cars and eight new sleeper cars. The sleeper cars were introduced on services to Murwillumbah and Brisbane in 1993, the Tamworth XPT was withdrawn and replaced by an Xplorer set, and the daily Grafton XPT on the North Coast Line was introduced. Services to Melbourne began at the end of 1993, initially a single overnight service (replacing the Sydney/Melbourne Express) but later an additional daily service was introduced, by extending the XPT service from Albury, on the New South Wales/Victorian border through to Melbourne, an extra distance of approximately 320 kilometres, replacing the Intercapital Daylight Express (which had actually been withdrawn earlier in 1991). In 2004, with the cessation of services on the Murwillumbah branch line, the Murwillumbah XPT was cut back to Casino.
The XPT fleet are currently used on five routes from Sydney:
- Melbourne (1 overnight train in each direction with 1 sleeping car attached, 1 daylight train in each direction - travel time 11 - 11.5 hours)
- Brisbane (Daily overnight service from Sydney to Brisbane with sleeping car attached, daily daylight train from Brisbane - travel time ~14 hours)
- Dubbo (Once daily each way - daylight service, morning departure from Sydney, 2:10pm departure from Dubbo - travel time ~6 hours)
- Grafton (Once daily each way - daylight service, designed to service the north coast conveniently including Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour - travel time ~10 hours)
- Casino (Daily overnight service from Casino to Sydney with sleeping car attached, daily daylight train from Sydney to Casino - travel time ~11 hours - coach connections to Brisbane and the Gold Coast)