Sydney cost comparison – Qantas v CityRail

Thursday, 27 August 2009

CityRail ticket
Yesterday I took the CityRail train between central Sydney and the airport. The fare is A$14.60, about half the taxi fare, but no great bargain for a distance (Circular Quay to the Domestic Terminal) of less than 10km. Circular Quay is the closest station to the Opera House.

In fact if I’d stayed on that same train all the way to the end of the line – Macarthur, another 39km along the Airport & East Hills Line – the fare would have only increased to …

No. In fact it wouldn’t have increased at all, it would have gone down to A$6.60. That’s right they charge you an extra A$8 to travel a much shorter distance! Worse than that CityRail charges A$14.60 to travel just 1.55km to Mascot, the first station past the airport’s Domestic Terminal.

In London the shortest distance between two tube stations is Leicester Square to Covent Garden, a mere 260 metres (0.161 miles). Pay the standard £4 fare (don’t it’s only £1.60 with an Oyster Card) and you’re paying £24.84 a mile. The joke used to be that this was more per mile than taking Concorde to New York.

Oyster Card

Well if you could continue on Sydney’s CityRail service all the way to London (17,000 km from Sydney) you’d be paying A$45,300 for a round trip at the Circular Quay-International Airport rate (11.41km, A$15.20). First Class on a new Qantas A380? Oh, A$17,000.

Qantas A380

The reality is this isn’t just the CityRail train fare, the big cost hike for riding the train to the airport is that you’re also paying another company, Airport Link, a ‘Gate Pass’ access fee to use the airport stations. You won’t find out about this from the CityRail website which even suggests that the train fare from the Domestic Terminal to the International one is A$14.60, when Airport Link will take you on that same CityRail train for A$5.