No disputing reign of the iron horses

No disputing reign of the iron horses

The Ghan

Famous for its service between Alice Springs and Adelaide, The Ghan has recently been extended to offer two weekly services to Melbourne and Sydney.

"The Ghan now links two of Australia's must-see locations and interest from UK travellers has been huge," said Travel 2 Australia product manager Andrea Robinson.

The 2,050-mile journey from Alice Springs to Sydney takes two days and two nights (45hrs) and passes through ancient mountain ranges, salt lakes, red-baked earth and miles of desert.

Named after the Afghan camel traders who followed the route last century, The Ghan is one of Australia's most prestigious and luxurious trains and appeals to those want to travel into the heart of the Outback and visit the stunning desert landscape.

Ayers Rock, Kings Canyon and the MacDonnell Ranges are all within reach of the legendary oasis town Alice.

The Ghan, like the Indian Pacific, is popular with people of all backgrounds and budgets as it offers First Class, Holiday and Coach Class accommodation and student reductions.

The journey from Sydney to Alice Springs costs £150 per person in Coach Class, £300 in Holiday Class and around £450 in First Class. From Alice Springs to Melbourne the prices are £325, £200 and £105 respectively. The Ghan also offers motorail.

In a country as vast as Australia, rail travel is often the easiest way of getting around. But travelling by train can be about far more than just getting from A to B and a number of rail journeys are considered adventures and attractions in themselves.

Modern, air-conditioned trains such as The Ghan, The Indian Pacific, The Queenslander and the recently-launched Great South Pacific Express offer that 'once-in-a-lifetime' experience, passing through some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. "All these journeys are unique attractions in their own right," said Leisurail marketing executive Claire Morrison. "They appeal to a wide range of people, from the wealthy retired businessman to budget-watching backpackers."

The Indian Pacific

As its name suggests, this journey takes you right across the country, from the Indian to the Pacific Ocean.

The 2,704 mile trip between Sydney and Perth is one of the world's longest train journeys and takes almost three days and three nights (65 hrs) running twice a week in each direction.

From Sydney the train crosses the Blue Mountains, travels to Adelaide, swings west into the Nullarbor Plain - the world's largest flat surface - stops at Cook and finally ends up in Perth. Passengers can join the Indian Pacific in Sydney, Adelaide or Perth.

Add on tours to Adelaide, the Kalgoorlie Gold Mine, Perth City and Swan River and Broken Hill have recently been introduced and can be booked on the train.

Tradewinds contracts manager Robbie Orr said: "You can fly from Sydney to Perth in 6hrs, while the train takes three days. But the train gives people with the time to spare the opportunity to relax and see more ofAustralia."

Leisurail marketing executive Claire Morrison added: "It's not as exclusive as the Great South Pacific Express, but there's First Class, Holiday Class and Coach Class so everyone, from people with plenty of money to students on holiday, should be able to enjoy the experience."

Price per person for First Class passengers from Sydney to Perth is £555 including all meals but excluding drinks, while a Holiday Class Sleeper costs £365 and a seat in Coach Class £175. Cars can also be taken.

The Great South Pacific Express

Owned by Venice Simplon-Orient Express, the Great South Pacific Express is the most luxurious option for rail travel in Australia.

Launched in April this year, at a cost of £14.5m, the GSPE follows the east coast for 1,900 miles between Sydney and Cairns.

The train was custom built to provide old-style elegance for up to 100 people, with three different grades of sleeping compartments, two luxury restaurants and two lounges.

The GSPE appeals mainly to upmarket couples, perhaps those celebrating an anniversary or birthday, and to those wanting to try the Orient Express experience for the first time.

Orient Express Trains and Cruises sales and marketing director David Hester said: "We don't expect UK holidaymakers to go half way round the world for a train trip, but it gives those thinking of taking a trip to Australia that extra impetus."

There are three itineraries available - a one-night trip from Sydney to Brisbane and vice-versa (prices range from £610 to £1,030); a two-night trip from Brisbane to Cairns and vice-versa (costing from £870 to £1,450); or a four-night trip from Sydney to Cairns and vice-versa (prices range from £1,340 to £2,260). An overnight stopover at a Brisbane hotel is included in the four-night trip, while a helicopter trip to the Great Barrier Reef and a cable car ride over the tropical rainforest are included in the Brisbane-Cairns and Sydney-Cairns options.

The Queenslander

For travellers wanting to enjoy the scenic route between Brisbane and Cairns on a First Class train, The Queenslander offers a cheaper, though less glamorous, alternative to the GSPE.

"The Queenslander is a First Class train, but it's not as luxurious as the GSPE," said Leisurail marketing executive Claire Morrison. Facilities include a sophisticated restaurant, relaxing bar and live entertainment.

Accommodation is in First Class Twin Sleepers, First Class Roomettes and Economy Class seats. A First Class Sleeper costs £180 per person one way and an economy seat costs £60. Motorail service is available.

The train travels the 1,050 miles, via tropical Townsville, in two days and one night (30hrs) running weekly each way from April to December.

The ever-changing scenery, from bushland to cane plantations, from mountains to rainforest, makes this a memorable trip, popular with all ages.

From Cairns, passengers are advised to take a trip on the Kuranda Scenic Railway over the rainforest.

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