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I'm looking at flying from Melbourne to Christchurch, but can save a considerable amount if I go via Sydney. I could fly to Sydney, but that relies on using Jetstar for my connection there, who I don't trust for critical times.

There's an overnight train which gets in with a three hour buffer, which would be fine for me if on time. I'm wondering if there are statistics online about how reliable this service is, in terms of how often it runs late, and if so, by how much?

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Are you really seeing that big a difference in the price? Jetstar, Virgin and Air NZ all fly MEL-CHC direct, I can't imagine the price differential to SYD-CHC would be more than the (rather expensive) cost of the overnight train. –  jpatokal Sep 29 '13 at 23:47
    
@jpatokal - Christmas time :/ Flights from MEL-CHC return are looking around $950-$1100. –  Mark Mayo Sep 29 '13 at 23:48
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up vote 5 down vote accepted

The official statistics only give the percentage of trains that were no more than 10 minutes late. The Melbourne to Sydney night train is train 622 (second green bar from the left). The on-time performance is pretty bad: only 60% achieved the 10-minute objective.

There doesn't seem to be any official tracking of how late the late trains are. Google finds complaints about delays of an hour and more, but you can't conclude from the anecdotes how common that is.

The conditions of travel guarantee connections (for services run by the same company) only if you allow a one hour buffer, which doesn't speak highly of their expectations for on-time performance.

A large proportion of the line is single-track, and there aren't many sidings, so if any of the (mostly freight) trains is delayed, this can have a significant impact.

Watch out for planned bus replacements and other delays on the date you'll be traveling.

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