The Big Question: Upstairs Or Downstairs?

It's one of the most important questions you can ask a Sydney-sider, and it's a question that every visitor to our fine city must ask themselves should they use our public transport. The train doors open, you walk inside the carriage: upstairs or downstairs my friend? Upstairs or downstairs?

Me? I always prefer to go downstairs. No idea why, I just always have. How about you?



    When I was working for the interstate rail provider, they had a joke about where to sit in the train.

    The electrical engineers refused to sit on the top deck, because if the overhead wiring or staunchions came down, people on the top deck would cop a piece of metal to the face or risk electrocution.

    The track engineers refused to sit on the bottom deck, because if there was any debris or the track was damaged, it would puncture through the floor and you'd get skewered.

    The signal engineers wouldn't sit in the front or rear carriage because if there was a failure of some kind resulting in a collision, people in the front and rear are much more likely to be killed.

    The structural engineers refused to sit in the vestibule because if there was a problem with the bogie, the axle could come up through the vestibule floor and kill people there.

    All of these are things that have happened to trains at some point over the years.

    And the lead engineer, who was responsible for overseeing all the other engineers? He got a taxi to work.

    Last edited 26/02/14 11:25 am

    I like downstairs. On reflection now, I realise it's because it's much easier to scope out the best seats from the vantage point a couple of steps from the top.

      Very perceptive. I think that's what it is for me.

      You can also scope out the available seats on the lower level as the train pulls up. The weird reflective plastic windows obscure the top sections.

    From Bondi Junction to the City it doesn't matter there's nothing much to look at. But when I used to work in North Sydney I'd always try to get an upstairs seat because of the view over the Harbour.

    Not that you ever get a seat in peak hours.

      Unfortunately the view from most Sydney trains is a vague view of the harbour through graffiti someone has scratched into the windows with a knife.

        I never have understood this. Is a marker not Hardcore enough for them? They have to go and ruin everyone else's facilities because they want their gronk mate to recognise their tag? Man, i felt old writing that, but it really pisses me off. Disadvantage the majority for your petty crap. I see it everywhere now too, brand new nice looking bus stop? Next day its covered in utter tripe scratches.

    Don't, just don't. As someone who lives in Melbourne and puts up with constant over crowding on trains, my holiday to Sydney revealed the world of multi floor trains to me and one very big question. "Why the hell don't we have these damn things?!?"

      Melbourne was given a Tangara in the 90's but I think the reason why you don't have them is because your platforms can only accommodate 6 carriages while the Sydney platforms accommodate 8 carriages and our trains are built in sections of 4. Extending the platforms in Melbourne would have cost an absolute fortune so nobody did it.

      Though you could run a 12 carriage train and just stop the train twice at each station but logic does not exist in the real of public transport executives.

        There were also massive reliability issues with the Tangara used in Melbourne, but that was likely down to two reasons. 1) Lack of knowledge in how to run a train which was different from everything else on the network, as well as lack of motivation to invest in just a single train. 2) the train had to be refitted to run on Melbourne's broad gauge tracks, which added more unknowns to the system.
        Additionally, the train could only be run on certain lines, because it couldn't fit through many of the existing tunnels due to it's size.

        And yes, as the tangara was configured as 2x4, they could only run a 4 carriage unit, so it was only ever used for shuttle duties here.

        Add it all up, and you have a train which was uneconomical and inefficient to run on Melbourne's network, so it was never really considered as an option [for all of the wrong reasons!]

        Ultimately, a 2 deck solution customised for Melbourne may work if it is engineered to fit our network, but there are many ways in which Melbourne's train network need to be improved before this is a viable option.

        Sydney, as much as it's users will complain, has a much more robust metropolitan train network. 8x carriages, 2 decks, guards on each train.
        Melbourne should never have privatised it's rail network. Running a public utility as a private, for-profit business is completely mental, and quite frankly, immoral.

        Signal and infrastructure upgrades, upgrades to dual tracks for many lines, rerouting the city-loop to a "pass-through" system to avoid the crossovers on both sides of Flinders St, adding external connection lines so that the network actually goes somewhere other than the city!!!! [shock! People actually travel to *other* places in Melbourne??!?!]

        But hey, all of this requires investment in infrastructure, which a for-profit business will never make.
        I live a 5 minute walk from a train station, and my employer is also 5 minutes from another train station. Yet, to take the train costs me twice as much, and takes twice as long as driving in my car....
        For all of the talk about people moving towards more sustainable living practices, that fact alone shows how significantly screwed up our network [and the priorities of the operators and goverments] is!!!

        What were we talking about again? Oh yeah, dual deck trains..... yeah....

        Sorry.... sigh.... /endrant

      The unfortunate problem with this style of train is that they're a bastard to get in and out of, and thus take longer each station. Every expansion plan I've seen plans to use single-decker trains to improve the "efficiency" of the network.

        I see where you are coming from. But Its hard to remember this when I am wearing half the people in the cabin as a hat

        Single-deck train proposals have a few other differences, mainly the presence of a centre door on each carriage, so that there are three exits. The proposals rely on the fact that dwell time (how long the train sits at the station with the doors open) is the main contributor to hindering passenger volume, and single-deck trains accept fewer passengers so should have shorter dwell times. It implicitly means if you're using single-deck trains you need more of them, and passengers need to grow accustomed to the fact they might not get on the first or second trains they want, and might end up having to wait three or more trains to get one.

        The other way they cut dwell times is to have dedicated unload sides. Basically the train pulls up, the doors on one side open and passengers can only disembark, not get on the train. Then after a few seconds, the doors on the other side open and passengers only get in from that side, not out. It cuts dwell time a lot, but it requires platforms on both sides of the track. In the Sydney underground, where these proposals are needed most, only Town Hall has platforms arranged in this way, and even then it's only one or two platforms that can do it.

      One point everyone forgot was the height. They didn't fit in a lot of places which again reduced the tracks they could use

    Haha I did not know this was a big decision! I really have no preference.

      Neither do I.

      I prefer to sit near the door, but if those seats are taken I really don't care if I'm up or down. Though I do prefer to ride in the front carriage.

        Yeah I usally just sit near the door if there's a spot and I get in the carriage which stops nearest to the exit at my destination. ;)

    Middle carriage of the train, down stairs on the three set, sitting on the aisle is statistically the safest place in the event of an accident.

    There's a choice? Man, Sydney is lightyears ahead of Melbourne.

    the middle part. between the carriages. just coz the sign says not to.

      In my experience people only hang out there when they need to smoke. Or pee.

    Downstairs. If you sit next to the window you can rest your foot on the side.

      I _hate_ those seats... always leave me feeling unbalanced when one foot is up on the side... give me one of those anti-social single seats any day :D Down...oh who am I kidding, Tasmania has no trains.
    grumble stupid ass backwards public transport system grumble

    I used to always go up because I felt the view was better and I felt unnerved about the platform cruising past near my eye level when we went through stations. When I got an iPhone and spent most my time looking at that instead, I transitioned to downstairs where I found the seating was less competitive.

    Down in summer, Up in winter. All about comfortable temperature.

    ever since iv been stabbed twice for sitting in the wrong spot on sydney trains, i now chose to stand in the main entrance because my train has atleast 8 police patrolling for the length of the journey in the afternoons

      Good lord. What line do you live on?

        lol, it's the airport / east hills line,
        just the wrong place, the wrong time, sitting where the wrong dead beat junkie wants to sit, 2x separate occasions, first wasn't too serious, second required 9 stitches and a skin graft, now i have hektic scars which chicks dig ;)

    I go downstairs whenever I can get a seat. Mainly because the swaying of the carriage on the top level makes me feel ill.

    The bigger question is : quiet carriage or not? The quiet carriage is typically noiser than the normal carriage. It seems to attract the ignorant and the arrogant. The carriages are clearly marked yet people still use phones and talk loudly.

    I didn't even know that trains could have an upstairs. First though, I want trains that run on time before we have two floor trains though. Brisbane public transport is rubbish despite what they say in the reports where they think a slightly late train is an on time train.

      Since 2005 RailCorp has considered a train to be on time if it arrives at a station within five minutes of the schedule.

        5 minutes late has been counted as on time in Melbourne for well over a decade. Since privatisation at least.

    Honestly either is fine, as long as I get a place to sit down. Which bring us to the issue of people using the seats as their personal king matrass during peak hours.

    As someone living in Perth I have never had the luxury of catching a two-storey train to work ("Forward planning? What's that?" - Colin Barnett) However if I had the choice I would probably sit up on the upstairs level

    Last edited 26/02/14 12:50 pm

      Other than when they're overcrowded for the football I've never had any issues with Perth trains, and they tend to be cleaner and feel much more modern than here in Sydney.

      The fact they stop running absurdly early and there's only five lines can give you cause for complaint though.

      But god, I miss Perth traffic so much sometimes...

        The biggest upside of it is the fact that unlike Myki our RFID ticketing system ACTUALLY works and is easy to use! That and you can still actually pay cash for the ticket (Handy if you are a tourist here for a few days at most)

    When I was catching the train a while back: Upstairs in the morning - nicer view of the surrounds and Downstairs for the evenings - feel more snug for some reason.

    My constant was always choosing a carriage that was properly air-conditioned.

    I do recall the days when we used to catch 'red rattlers' to school and there would be no doors on the carriages at all. You could just hang your feet over the side of the train. Hilarious times.

    I guess the question for those of us that run the Gold Coast to Brisbane line is do you prefer delays in the mornings or afternoons?

    That's a trick question. It's both :p

    i prefer upstairs. i think its because for some reason i think the aircon works better on the upper floor.

    This is a tough one. Originally, my thinking was just to go up the top when it's cold, because hot air rises so that should be the warmest, right? And bottom when it's hot for the same reason.

    But then, I'd always go up the top in the mornings and sit in the aisle seat of the three-seat side, putting me in the middle of the carriage. Because this was the best spot to sit so that the sun wouldn't be shining on my face, since the top edge of the upstairs windows are lower in relation to the seats than they are downstairs and that seat is the furthest from any window. Plus that also keeps you nice and near the exit for when you have to get off.

    Nowadays though I tend to go neither, and just sit in the vestibule on whichever side is facing away from the sun, rest my head against the glass and sleep there until I have to get off. Much closer to the doors, and tends to keep me ahead of most of the crowd so I don't have to plod down the stairs at a snail's pace with the rest of them.

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