The Western standard gauge railway line is a standard-gauge railway line in western Victoria, Australia. Completed in 1995, it forms part of the Melbourne–Adelaide rail corridor and serves as the principal interstate rail link between Victoria and the western states. The line replaced a number of former broad gauge routes which were gauge converted, and today sees both intrastate and interstate freight traffic, as well as the twice weekly (in each direction) The Overland passenger service. Major towns on the route include Geelong, Ararat, Horsham and Dimboola.

History

The first inter-capital link between Melbourne and South Australia was completed in 1887 when the Victorian Railways line was extended to Serviceton on the state border.[1] Known as the Serviceton line, it passed through Geelong, Ballarat, Ararat, Stawell, Horsham and Dimboola, on the way west. It was not until 1889 that a direct Melbourne – Ballarat link was opened.[2]

In the 1970s most interstate lines in Australia began to be converted to standard gauge. By the 1990s Adelaide to Melbourne was the only interstate link not converted, and so various proposals were made for gauge conversion. Two main options were put forward:

  • via Ballarat: A new track or dual gauge to Ballarat, then conversion of the line west.
  • via Geelong: A new track to Geelong, dual gauge to Gheringhap, then conversion of the line via Cressy, and then conversion of the line from Ararat.

Various reasons for given for and against both routes. The Geelong was longer, but avoided the steep grades on the line though Ballarat. Businesses and industry in both cities also wanted to be on the main interstate link. In the end it was decided to build the route via Geelong, and work was completed in 1995 with funding from the Federal Government One Nation program. Along with the gauge conversion of the interstate line, the Portland, and lines were also converted, and a dual gauge link provided to Maryborough to permit grain from the north-west to reach the port at Portland.

Infrastructure

The line is standard gauge, except for dual gauge on the Newport – Sunshine freight line, and where it follows the Geelong – Ballarat line. It is single track throughout, with numerous 1500 metre long crossing loops.[3] The majority of the line uses Centralised Traffic Control to direct trains, except for the Gheringhap to Maroona section which uses the ,[4] a Victoria-only radio token based safeworking system developed in the 1980s. The line is owned by VicTrack and since 1997 has been managed by the Australian Rail Track Corporation.[5]

Services

The main traffic on the line is Melbourne – Adelaide interstate freight, with trains operated by Pacific National and SCT Logistics. Grain services are also operated on an irregular basis by Pacific National and One Rail Australia.[6] A local container freight service also operates from Melbourne to Horsham by SCT Logistics for .[7] Until July 2008 it was operated by Pacific National, who cancelled it in April then gave it a three-month reprieve.[8][9] Aurizon and Qube operated the Horsham service until 2014, when it was replaced by SCT's Dooen service, which is where the new container terminal open. For a number of months, both services operated until the Horsham terminal closed down. The only passenger service is The Overland twice weekly (formerly three times weekly until 2013 due to dropping numbers).[citation needed]

Route

The line leaves the North East railway line at Tottenham, then runs south via the dual gauged Newport – Sunshine freight line. From Newport, the line runs parallel to the Warrnambool as far as the North Geelong junction, where the line joins the dual-gauge Geelong–Ballarat line. The line proceeds northwest as far as Gheringhap, where the line branches off as the Gheringhap–Maroona line westwards until it meets the Portland line at Maroona, and heads north to Ararat where it rejoins the former main line.

Western standard gauge[10]
Southern Cross
South Dynon
West Footscray Junction
Tottenham Junction
Newport
CRT Group depot
SCT Logistics depot
21 km
Laverton Loop
36.80 km
Manor Loop
67 km
North Shore
North Geelong and Grain Loop
BG towards Geelong
To Ballarat
83 km
Gheringhap Loop
Wingeel Loop
Berrybank Loop
Vite Vite Loop
Tatyoon Loop
244 km
Maroona
265 km
Ararat
Serviceton Line gauge converted to
standard gauge in 1995
Pyrenees Loop
Great Western Loop
240 km
Stawell
Deep Lead Loop
Lubeck Loop
305 km
Murtoa
Murtoa Loop
Horsham Cut-off (proposed)
327 km
Horsham
Pimpinio Loop
362 km
Dimboola
Dimboola Loop
Salisbury Loop
400 km
Nhill
Diapur Loop
Kaniva Loop
Leeor Loop
462 km
Serviceton
462 km
470 km
Wolseley

References

  1. ^ "ARHS Railway Museum: History 1839–1900". www.railwaymuseum.org.au. Retrieved 27 March 2008.
  2. ^ "VR History". www.victorianrailways.net. Retrieved 27 March 2008.
  3. ^ "Appendix II Interstate Network Overview" (PDF). ARTC – Access Seeker Network Configuration and Description. www.artc.com.au. Retrieved 28 March 2008.
  4. ^ "VICSIG: Western SG Line". vicsig.net. Retrieved 28 March 2008.
  5. ^ "ARHS Railway Museum: History 1950 – now". www.railwaymuseum.org.au. Retrieved 28 March 2008.
  6. ^ "Operators, Trains and Train Numbers". members.wimmera.com.au. Retrieved 30 July 2008.
  7. ^ "Rail to roll on". Wimmera Mail Times. yourguide.com.au. 28 July 2008. Retrieved 30 July 2008.
  8. ^ "Rail freight woes spark crisis of confidence". ABC News. www.abc.net.au. Retrieved 16 July 2008.
  9. ^ "Three month extension for Wimmera rail freight services". ABC News. www.abc.net.au. 24 April 2008. Retrieved 16 July 2008.
  10. ^ "ARTC Network in Victoria" (PDF). ARTC – Access Seeker Network Configuration and Description. www.artc.com.au. Retrieved 28 March 2008.