The Hurstbridge railway line is a commuter rail passenger train service in Melbourne, Australia. It shares tracks with the Mernda railway line until Clifton Hill, then heads in a north-east direction through the cities of Yarra, Darebin and Banyule, and the Shire of Nillumbik. It serves between Flinders Street in the Melbourne central business district through the northern suburbs including East Melbourne, Richmond, Abbotsford, Clifton Hill, Northcote, Fairfield, Alphington, Ivanhoe, Eaglemont, Heidelberg, Rosanna, Macleod, Watsonia, Greensborough, Montmorency, Eltham, Diamond Creek, Wattle Glen and Hurstbridge. The service is part of the Public Transport Victoria metropolitan rail network.
The Hurstbridge line traverses the rolling landscape of Melbourne's north-eastern suburbs, at times cutting across hills and valleys, resulting in a somewhat winding and undulating track. It includes the only three tunnels on the suburban electrified system, other than the Melbourne City Loop, although none of them are particularly long or deep.
The section from Flinders Street station to Victoria Park was built later than the rest of the line, which was originally connected to the suburban system via the now-closed Inner Circle railway line. There is evidence that the line was originally intended to be connected via this route, but geography and existing suburban development made it a problematic situation. The section to Victoria Park runs through two tunnels under a low ridge just east of the city, but most of the rest runs on an embankment that carries the line above numerous main roads and suburban side streets.
After Clifton Hill the line roughly parallels the north bank of the Yarra River, cutting across a number of watercourses flowing into the river, and the ridges between them. There is a third tunnel just past Heidelberg station. The line then encounters steeper grades until Eltham, after which it follows the valley of the Diamond Creek, with easier grades but a more winding route, some curves having speed limits as low as 40 km/h.
The inner section of the line traverses heavily built-up suburbs, but the suburban environment is less dense between Clifton Hill and Greensborough. The outer end of the line is surrounded by paddocks and patches of bush.
The line features four of the largest bridges on the suburban network: twin bridges over the Merri Creek, between Clifton Hill and Westgarth station, another on the up side of Darebin station, crossing Darebin Creek, and a wooden trestle bridge across the Diamond Creek just on the up side of Eltham. At 195 m in length, this bridge is allegedly the longest curved wooden trestle bridge in use on a revenue railway in the southern hemisphere, and is the only wooden bridge still in use on a revenue railway in Melbourne.
Apart from the first section of the line, there are numerous level crossings, plus a number of private driveway crossings between Diamond Creek and Hurstbridge (and two little-used public roads) that have only passive protection (no operating lights or bells). The line also crosses a number of roads using bridges.
Due to constraints imposed by geography and lack of government investment, Hurstbridge line is both notable and notorious for having several parts of single rail track along the 15 km section between Greensborough and Hurstbridge. Both Eltham and Diamond Creek stations have two platforms, which provide places at which trains can pass. This section of unduplicated track includes a timber trestle bridge near Eltham station that has heritage protection. The bridge has a 40 km/h speed limit. These single-track sections create bottlenecks at which trains must often wait for up to 10 minutes for an oncoming train before proceeding.
Most of this section had earthworks done during the 1970s to allow for a second track, including abutments for bridges. The only places where space for track duplication has not been provided are a cutting on the down side of Montmorency station (though the section under the road bridge crossing the cutting has been widened), the wooden trestle near Eltham station, and a short cutting on the down side of Wattle Glen station.
Until early 2013, the Hurstbridge line was the last electrified railway in Melbourne to use a token system of safeworking. The Greensborough to Eltham section was controlled by the miniature electric staff system, and Eltham to Hurstbridge section by the staff and ticket system. If required, the latter section could be divided into two at Diamond Creek, to allow trains to cross at that station. In conjunction with these systems, trains through Greensborough, Eltham and Hurstbridge stations continued to be controlled by some semaphore signals.
In the first few months of 2013, the staff systems and semaphore signals were replaced by electronic three-position coloured light signalling, controlled remotely from Epping. The Greensborough-Diamond Creek section was converted on 3 February 2013, and the Diamond Creek-Hurstbridge section was converted on 22 March 2013.
Intermediate terminating facilities for trains are provided at Victoria Park (normally used only for trains being stabled there), Heidelberg (used by a handful of peak services), Macleod, and Greensborough. Stabling facilities are provided at Victoria Park (accommodating two six-car trains), Macleod (accommodating three six-car trains), Eltham (accommodating five six car trains), and Hurstbridge (accommodating five six-car trains). The stabling siding at Victoria Park is only used between peaks during the day because it does not have security lighting.
Macleod station is the only station on the Hurstbridge line with more than two platforms. A third platform was provided in the 1970s, and is used during peak periods to provide a place at which trains can originate or terminate.
Line speeds are:
- Flinders Street–Clifton Hill: 55 km/h (34 mph)
- Clifton Hill–Heidelberg: 80 km/h (50 mph)
- Heidelberg–Eltham: 75 km/h (47 mph)
- Eltham–Hurstbridge: 65 km/h (40 mph)
The first section of the Hurstbridge line to open was between Victoria Park (then named Collingwood) and Heidelberg, in May 1888, although there is some evidence that the contractors building the line operated services prior to that. At this time, the line was connected to other lines via a line from Royal Park to Clifton Hill, most of which comprised what was later known as the Inner Circle line. This connection was opened at the same time.
A more direct connection, between Princes Bridge and Victoria Park (as Collingwood was renamed at the same time) was opened in October 1901. In June the following year the line was extended to Eltham, and ten years later (June 1912) to Hurst's Bridge (now Hurstbridge). In 1912 the short Mont Park branch was built branching from Macleod station to serve the Mont Park Asylum.
In April 1921, automatic signalling was implemented between Princes Bridge and Clifton Hill.
A few months later, the line (from Princes Bridge) was electrified to Heidelberg, followed by electrification to Eltham in April 1923 and Hurstbridge in August 1926.
In September 1926, the then single-track section between Clifton Hill and Westgarth was converted to Lever Locking and Track Control signalling, followed by Alphington to Heidelberg in June 1927.
In June 1949, the line between Ivanhoe and Heidelberg was duplicated and provided with automatic signalling. The same was done to the Alphington to Ivanhoe section in December 1951.
Duplication continued between Heidelberg and Macleod in December 1958, except for a short section after Heidelberg where the line crosses a bridge then goes through a tunnel. That section remained single until 2018 when it was duplicated as part of the Level Crossing Removal at Lower Plenty Road.
On two consecutive days in September 1964, automatic signalling was provided between Westgarth and Fairfield, and Fairfield and Alphington.
Weekend services commenced through running to Hurstbridge in April 1985. Previously, weekend services between Eltham and Hurstbridge operated as a shuttle service, with passengers required to change trains at Eltham. Prior to the timetable change, the shuttle service was provided by a double ended motored Tait train, and after their withdrawal in 1984, the shuttle service was provided by a 3 car Hitachi or Comeng.
The short section between Clifton Hill and Westgarth, crossing the moderately-deep valley of the Merri Creek, was duplicated in January 2009. The rarely used centre running line at Clifton Hill was also removed at this time.
As a part of the upgrades undertaken by operator Metro Trains Melbourne, the superstructure of the Burgundy Street bridge near Heidelberg station was replaced in June 2010, costing over $1,000,000.
Several stations on the Hurstbridge line formerly had goods yards or sidings. Those at Fairfield, Alphington, Ivanhoe, Heidelberg and Greensborough have been removed completely (although a single track remained at Heidelberg for many years for stabling defective trains). The former goods yards at Eltham and Hurstbridge are now used as stabling sidings, following modifications to the track layout. The siding at Diamond Creek was originally used for goods purposes (according to the 1926 Curves and Grades book) and was retained for use as a crossing loop. A platform was not built on the loop until 1994, requiring trains to "set back" after using the platform in order to cross.
The name of Wattleglen station is curious, because the town is named Wattle Glen. Platform signs also read "Wattle Glen," but the station appears as Wattleglen on some official railway documents, and is gazetted as such on the State Government VicNames register.
In May 2016, Victorian State Government allocated the funding for duplication of 1.2-kilometre section between Heidelberg and Rosanna stations. Upgrade includes construction of second railway bridge over Burgundy Street in Heidelberg, second tunnel for Flinders Street-bound track under Darebin Street, next to the existing Hurstbridge-bound single-track tunnel and a new elevated Rosanna station. In conjunction with section duplication, two level crossings - at Grange Road in Alphington and Lower Plenty Road, next to Rosanna station, were separated as part of Level Crossing Removal Project.
Early works on the duplication began in June 2016, with major construction started in March 2017. The duplication of the single-track section was completed in May 2018. 35 new and extended weekly train services between Eltham and the city loop took into effect on 26 August 2018.
In May 2019, second stage of track duplication on line was announced. That includes adding second track between Greensborough and Eltham, and between Diamond Creek and Wattle Glen. Greensborough and Montmorency stations will be rebuilt. Eltham Trestle Bridge will be retained, due to its heritage status. Major works will start in late 2020.
On weekdays during the morning peak, citybound services originate at one of Hurstbridge, Eltham, Greensborough, or Macleod stations, with most services originating from the former two stations running express from Clifton Hill to Jolimont. Four services from Hurstbridge run express from Heidelberg to Jolimont, stopping only at Ivanhoe and Clifton Hill. Outbound services also terminate at one of the above four plus Heidelberg stations. The only Heidelberg service runs express from Clifton Hill to Heidelberg, stopping at Ivanhoe. Most Eltham services stops all stations, with one runs to the same pattern as the only Heidelberg service. A few Hurstbridge services runs express from Jolimont to Clifton Hill. All other services stops all stations.
On weekday afternoon peaks, citybound services originate at Hurstbridge, Eltham, Greensborough or Macleod. All services from Greensborough, Macleod and almost all services from Hurstbridge stop at all stations, with one service from Hurstbridge running express Clifton Hill to Jolimont. Most services from Eltham stop at all stations, with three services from Eltham operate express from Heidelberg to Jolimont, stopping at Ivanhoe and Clifton Hill. Outbound services also terminate at one of the above four stations, either stopping all stations, running express from Jolimont to Clifton Hill, or operating express from Jolimont to Heidelberg, stopping at Clifton Hill and Ivanhoe.
All other weekday services and all weekend services stop at all stations, with every second service usually originating and terminating at Eltham. All services run clockwise through the City Loop, except weekend early morning services which runs direct to and from Flinders Street and originating and terminating at Hurstbridge.
Almost all Hurstbridge citybound and outbound services operate through the City Loop. Trains run direct from Jolimont to Flinders Street and clockwise through the loop, seven days a week. This does not include night services.
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- "Hurstbridge Line". Vicsig. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
- "Works". Newsrail. Australian Railway Historical Society. April 1978. p. 69.
- "General News". Newsrail. Australian Railway Historical Society. July 1985. p. 214.
- "Duplicated Hurstbridge Line Will Run More Trains". www.premier.vic.gov.au. 27 April 2016. Retrieved 22 June 2016.