Commute

Plane, train or automobile? Everything you need to know about commuting from Geelong, Bellarine and the Surf Coast. 

Many ex-Melbournian’s and Sydney-sider’s make the move to Geelong upon realising extra travel time is a marginal cost against some serious savings on housing expenses. Beyond the financials, extra travel time may be a worthwhile exchange for lifestyle perks like access to surf beaches and getting around on weekends with ease.

No matter where you intend to move from, it pays to remember that even a small daily travel extension can take some getting use to. It can also create additional family logistical burdens. Solving the cons of commuting can be a trial and error affair. At times the whole thing can be downright gruelling. So before you start, it pays to go in with eyes wide open. Here’s a few things about commuting you need to know, and a few tips to keep your mental health as intact as possible.

Driving across the West Gate Bridge. You can expect hideous traffic in peak hour.

Driving across the West Gate Bridge. You can expect hideous traffic in peak hour.

Travelling to Melbourne by car from Geelong, Bellarine and Surf Coast

Commuting by car on the M1 is not advisable unless it’s your only option. If this is your lot, steel yourself for a 5.30/6am departure time from Geelong. alternatively start your day later in the office and leave around 8am. This is the only way to avoid the most horrendous time wasting peak hour traffic. It still probably won’t be a fun experience. Some car commuters are allowing 2 hours one way for their journey time at the moment. Two hours for a 66 kilometre journey is clearly insane.

Tips

  • Get a hands free phone set up so that you can safely knock off a few phone calls while travelling.
  • Get a car phone charger.
  • Load up on pacifying, mood-enhancing playlists or CDs. No, not Enya, but maybe Save the Rage Against the Machine for home.
  • Program the bejesus out of your car radio so you can easily skip between stations if you’re getting edgy.
  • Have an emergency stockpile of mints and car snacks in the glove box for any bumper-to-bumper carmaggedon situations.

Why is travelling by car so horrific?

Suburbs between Werribee and Point Cook are growing at break neck speed. Road infrastructure isn’t keeping up with the increasing popularity of these suburbs. Further compounding the problem for the next year or so is the widening of the Tullamarine Freeway, which is impacting West Gate Bridge traffic…in a bad way. The forthcoming Western Distributer build may also cause traffic impacts for Geelong commuters – we don’t know yet. In the long term, it should improve access for the fast growing western corridor of Melbourne. The Victorian Government claims it will slash commuting times to Geelong by 20 minutes. Whoa! Getting slugged $12 – $16 a day for conveniently located car parking is an added downside for commuters by car at the moment. This seems crazy cheap for Docklands based worker-bees.

Purple train, purple train

Purple train, purple train

Travelling to Melbourne by train from Geelong, Bellarine and the Surf Coast

The train offers greener pastures for both commuters based in Geelong, and Melbournians who need to regularly travel to Geelong for work. It’s not all rainbows and skittles though.

Melbourne’s train system is broken and won’t be fixed anytime soon. Metro trains anticipate reaching capacity by 2018. It’s hard to imagine what that experience will be like based on what it’s like to travel around Melbourne by train now.

Since mid 2015, Geelong has an operating Regional Rail Link (RRL). It’s been a pretty diabolical start with initial timetable meltdowns and then a wheel wear fiasco putting trains out of action for months. Trains are now back on board and it promises to be a huge improvement. Today, there are more seats and more frequent services. Compared to driving, it’s much easier to use commuting time productively, whether your definition of productive is working, catching up on some restorative zzzzzz time, or par-taking in the golden age of TV.

Train stations in the Geelong region are located from south to north at:

  • Waurn Ponds
  • Marshall
  • South Geelong
  • Geelong
  • North Geelong
  • North Shore
  • Corio
  • Lara

Cost of train travel

You can calculate the cost of your journey here. Unless you can access free parking in Melbourne, travelling by train is a no brainer on the $$$$ front.

Keep in the loop with service disruptions by signing up for one of the V/Line communication options.

Top tips for travelling to Melbourne by train with bonus useful/ranty info

Leave as early as possible if you need to get into Melbourne by 9am.

If you plan on commuting by train, and you need to adhere to conventional office hours (let’s say 8ish to 5ish) leave as early as you can in the morning and follow the same approach at the end of the day. This is the best way to avoid the pitfalls that come with train commuting. If you can swing an 8ish to 4ish day in the office and nail a couple of hours work on the train, you’re racking up a fifty hour week, minus whatever you need to take for lunch. If your office is the kind of place that only counts what you do when they’re eyeballing you in the flesh, then your regime may be more challenging. Negotiating some flexibility with your employer on that front will help to set you up for success.

Getting a park at some train stations is dependent on arriving early. Some days, you’ll be lucky to get a park at Waurn Ponds, Marshall, South Geelong and North Geelong station after 8am. To avoid V/Line hijinks and get a park at the station, set that alarm for sparrows. Pleasingly, South Geelong station has recently expanded its car park. Note also the tendency of latecomer’s so ‘park’ anywhere.

Be organised before you travel.

Have myki card, will travel. This is another mental health meltdown mitigation strategy. There are things you can do to keep your journey time to a minimum. Faffing around in queues waiting to top up at the machine or counter could be an extra five-minute snooze in the morning. Register online and manage your top up payments online too. It will stop you from missing trains, getting shirty and developing stripes on your forehead. If you can’t function without a hot drink before boarding the train, most stations have a coffee cart of some sort to kick-start your daily caffeinating process.

It’s a longer travel time, but at least you’ll have a seat.

The Regional Rail Link (RRL) is providing regular commuters with a greater range of departure options both to and from Melbourne. Thankfully, getting a seat on the train is now the norm and lurching/standing up is a rarity compared to pre RRL days (especially for hard done by North Geelong folks who constantly dealt with musical chairs sans tunes and hilarity).

Trains run every 10 minutes (sort of) in the morning peak, and every 20 minutes off-peak on weekdays, although this is not from every station on the Geelong line. It’s worth noting there are no additional train services between 6am and 8am compared to the pre RRL timetable. However, more of those crucial peak hour services now originate at Waurn Ponds, so overall there’s more services stopping at more stations. This is ace.

Despite new sections of track being high speed (up to 160kms an hour), travel times will not improve off the back of the multi billion dollar RRL project. The transport users association claim travel times will be 10 minutes longer than previously, in part due to the longer, in-direct route the track follows from Geelong. They also claim some sections of the high-speed track will now be subject to an 85km per hour speed limit. The question has to be asked: if this is correct, WT actual F?

The shizen list: regular annoyances of train travel you need to be aware of

  • Trains regularly operate at a reduced capacity.
  • Regular cancellations of the 4.52 Whyndham Vale from Southern Cross, exacerbate the impact of reduced capacity trains that follow.
  • Trains experience regular delays, anywhere from 15- 25 minutes. This seems to occur more in the afternoons on return Geelong journeys.
  • Last minute scheduling changes. Sorry, we were meant to be running through to Waurn Ponds, but we’re actually terminating at Geelong station. This is most irksome.
  • Wi-Fi and mobile phone coverage on the Geelong line journey is patchy at best, appalling at worst; more on how to get around that below.
  • Hot weather speed restrictions. It beggars belief that a newly built RRL does not accommodate local weather norms e.g. temperatures often exceed 35 degrees in summer.

Getting the most from train commuting time without internet access

Yeah you read that right. There’s a gaping black interweb hole from Lara through to Melbourne’s western suburbs. Internet connectivity is sporadic at best, non-existent at worst, ruling out cloud connectivity, and deep and meaningful phone calls. Plans to introduce Wi-Fi on board Geelong services are all over the shop. So train time is best managed by working offline. There’s no shame in catnapping if your home environment is not conducive to requisite sleep. Giving your travel purpose will alleviate the time poverty that comes with long-distance commuting. If you’re responsible for small people duties like childcare picks up’s and/or dinner, bed and bath routines at journey’s end, slam down some mindfulness while you can. Using train time productively may also be conducive to sneaking in some exercise at journey’s end. Preparing emails and working offline is a breeze, and there’s plenty of think time on the train that meeting packed days rarely accommodate. Quiet carriages are the go if you’re easily distracted. But early morning train rides are a pretty quiet affair. Train journeys offers plenty of headspace set to a soundtrack of gentle snoring.

You’re awesome just by going to work. Commuters make our local economy go round

The 2011 census found that around 28,000 people live in Geelong but work elsewhere, representing almost 20% of Geelong’s employed residents. Over the past five years, train patronage on the Geelong line has grown by more than 22%, hitting 4.2 million 14/15 financial year. So it’s reasonable to assume that our region’s cohort of train commuters is on the rise, although some may be former drivers abandoning West Gate shenanigans rather than shiny new Gee-towner’s. No matter, this is a group driving huge local economic benefit, scurrying away at daybreak and returning at sunset like vampires. If you meet a commuter, hug them. Even if their timetable chat bores you to the point of weeping, be nice. It’s a tough job and their hard work keeps our region’s economy ticking over. If you’re a commuter yourself, you rock. Thanks for keeping your bucks a-flowing into the local economy.

Deakin is a feasible commuting option from Melbourne

All this extra patronage isn’t just city bound traffic. The extra weekday services from Melbourne to Geelong are now coordinated with local bus services, making Deakin University Waterfront and Waurn Ponds campuses a more attractive and viable commuting option for Melbourne’s higher ed students. Attending lectures in person rather than online is so passé, but hey it’s an option if you want it.

Geelong businesses have better options for train travel to Melbourne.

With off-peak trains departing every 20 minutes from Geelong, taking a CBD client meeting in the middle of the day is piece of cake. There’s more flexibility for Geelong business operators to train it to Melbourne as required, and use travel time productively. The dramatic increase in weekday services (previously one every 40 minutes to an hour) is a boon for Geelong based businesses. It’s another reason why operating a business venture from Geelong is a very attractive proposition.

Cough. Travel times are longer than they actually need to be – come on timetabling people!

Putting the PTUA claims about ballooning travel times to one side, there’s a number of Geelong to Melbourne peak hour services currently stopping at Whyndham Vale, Tarneit and Sunshine that could be axed for the time being, until demand for those additional services is warranted. It’s tedious to have trains stopping unnecessarily at stations where there’s little to no one getting on or off on some services.

Train travel can be a hassle at times, but commuting by car is a freaking nightmare.

If the government is serious about shifting more commuters off the freeway and out of their cars, residents across Geelong, Bellarine and the Surf Coast desperately need access to some express train services between 6am and 8am, as well as an increasing number of peak hour services on the Geelong line. This is the only way to make it remotely feasible for people who need connecting rail services beyond the CBD to get to work during regular office hours. Rolling stock that might enable this isn’t due to come on line until mid 2017.

People make friends on trains

Seriously, if you get into a long-term routine, you regularly see the same faces. There’s camaraderie in the face of adversity. It might give you time with people you already know, or spark the seed of friendship. It happens!

Conductors on Geelong trains are the loveliest in the state.

Even in the face of fast growing patronage, technology and infrastructure meltdowns, V/Line conductors are super nice and generally always try to be helpful.

Jetstar plane at Avalon Airport

Jetstar plane at Avalon Airport

Travelling to Sydney by plane from Geelong, Bellarine and the Surf Coast

Jetstar flights operate at Avalon Airport, flying to Sydney five times a day in an hour and twenty-five minutes.

Avalon airport is a 20-minute drive out of Geelong. Parking on site is $39 a day. There’s a shuttle bus to the airport from Geelong, Bellarine and Surf Coast. Return journey tickets are on a par with daily airport parking costs. It’s more expensive for coastal dwellers.

For business travellers, the 6am flights get you to Sydney by 7.30am. There’s ample time to get to meetings in central Sydney by 9am. Get the 3.25pm or 6.25pm flight home if you can. The only other evening flight out of Sydney leaves at 9.50pm, returning to Avalon at around 11.30pm: not ideal.

Flight costs can be anything from $55 per journey leg (plus all the other costs that magically appear once it’s time to actually check out) through to $279 for a last minute type booking on the 6am flight. Sometimes more. There’s regular sale fares on this route for as little as $35 one-way plus all the BS add ons. Buy the luggage allowance because the Jetstar staff are total badasses with luggage weight restriction enforcement.

If you’ve missed the Avalon boat, there’s more flights and carriers running out of Tullamarine Airport. Parking is cheap at Busy Beaver in Keilor ($15 a day) which is super easy to get to from the Western Ring Road. Their shuttle bus services to the airport leave early and often and the driver’s have excellent Kevin Sheedy anecdotes. Come on who doesn’t love Sheeds?

In addition to Sydney bound aircraft, Jetstar also operates flights to the Gold Coast, Adelaide and Hobart. Canberra bound bunnies need to head to Tullamarine for connections.

****COMING SOON: We’ll add all info about the Portarlington to Docklands Ferry once we know when the service will commence and how it will all work. Meantime, you can check out the current guff here.

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