The Tilt Train has been nobbled
The Tilt Train doesn't tilt any more. That's one of the most glaring proofs of how the super cautious bureaucrats at Queensland Rail have totally misused one of the few trains that they could have been proud of. It is one of the few bits of "modern" (it is 20 years old) technology that could have given passengers a modern journey time.
It chugs along at a speed averaging about 80 kmh versus the 160 kmh it is routinely capable of. It goes a little faster than the old "Sunlander" but the "Sunlander" was REALLY slow. You could have walked faster at some points on it.
Do the sums yourself: The Tilt Train does the 615 km from Brisbane to Rockhampton in 7.5 hours -- which averages out at 82 kmh -- or 51 mph in the old money. Highway traffic goes faster than that. Allowing half an hour for stops still brings the average speed up to only 87 kmh
And that slow speed is why the train doesn't tilt any more. The whole point of Tilting technology is so it can go faster. The train does not have to slow down so much as it goes around curves. It leans into curves the way a motorbike would. But the Tilt Train goes so slowly around curves that it has no need to tilt. It handles curves in the track the same way the old "Sunlander" did -- by slowing to a crawl.
On my recent trip from Brisbane to Rockhampton, there were a few spots when the train showed something of what it can do and that was rather exciting but they never lasted for long.
Perhaps the most extraordinary example of excess bureaucratic caution was the way the train slowed to a crawl for an urban level crossing. With red lights flashing and a boom gate down, Queensland motorists can still cross rail tracks at will. In most of the world you risk your life by ignoring crossing warnings but not so in urban Queensland. The train goes so slowly that the driver could probably stop in time rather than run into you. The bureaucrats ensure that NOTHING will generate negative publicity for their train.
On my trip the train even came to a full stop for 15 minutes to deal with an ill passenger. I have no idea how that helped. I suspect regulations again.
So why are Queenslanders in the grip of bureaucrats who completely misuse their best asset? I suspect it goes back to the time when the Tilt Train did tilt. But it can only tilt so far. And in 2004 BOTH drivers were too busy noshing to slow the train down when it entered a curve. So they sent the train through a curve at twice the recommended speed. It of course crashed.
So what was clearly needed were computerized speed limiters. Queensland Rail in fact did install such a system but to be super cautious they just slowed the whole train down forever. A very bureaucratic and unintelligent response. They can now enjoy their coffee breaks without a care in the world.
I must however give credit where it is due. The food aboard is remarkably good for railway food. Their chef clearly knows what he is doing. The hot food came around hot and the cold food around came cold. And the prices are very reasonable, though the portions are rather small. And the food carts come around with great frequency, perhaps to take the minds of passengers off the painful progress of their train. I am guessing that the food supply is the only thing outsourced to private enterprise. What might upset international visitors, however, is that they only take cash. Remember that stuff? Credit cards are not accepted.