Upfield railway line
The Upfield railway line is a commuter rail service operating between Flinders Street in the Melbourne central business district through Melbourne's northern suburbs including West Melbourne, North Melbourne, Parkville, Brunswick, Coburg, Coburg North, Hadfield, Glenroy and Coolaroo. The future of the Upfield line was in serious doubt in the late 1980s and early 1990s with proposals for the line to be converted into a light rail line or even closure. However, the future of the line was secured in 1995 with the upgrading of the signalling, closure or upgrade of the numerous level crossings, and duplication of the track between Fawkner and Gowrie.
The line is double track as far as Gowrie station, with the final section to Upfield station being single track. There are train terminating facilities at Coburg, as well as at Gowrie and Upfield, and four stabling sidings are provided at Upfield. The whole line is controlled by power signalling, with Coburg and Gowrie being remotely controlled from Upfield.
The track continues past Upfield to rejoin the North East line near Somerton. In the 1960s that section was re-laid with dual-gauge track to provide a connection with the interstate standard gauge line to New South Wales. However, that part of the line, which included four industrial sidings, has not been used for some time and is out of commission.
The line from North Melbourne to Coburg opened in September 1884, and in October 1889 it was extended to Somerton. Meanwhile, duplication had already started, being provided to Royal Park in September 1888, to South Brunswick (Jewell) in May 1889, Brunswick to Coburg in December 1891, and South Brunswick to Brunswick in August 1892.
Coburg to Somerton closed in July 1903, but reopened as far as Fawkner in December 1906, for funeral trains only, in conjunction with the opening of Fawkner Cemetery adjacent to the station. Full services were extended to Fawkner in 1915.
In December 1920 the line was electrified, then in March 1928, the section from Fawkner to Somerton reopened with passenger services provided by an AEC railmotor connecting with electric trains at Fawkner.
In May 1956, Fawkner to Somerton was again closed, but only three years later, Upfield to Somerton reopened (in July 1959) for goods trains, and on the same date Coburg to Fawkner was duplicated. The following month, Fawkner to Upfield was reopened and electrified, to cater for workers to and from the new Ford factory next to the station. Only one train each way was provided, although a second train was added the following month. Shortly before this, however, (in September 1958), Sunday evening services after 6 p.m. were withdrawn, being replaced by rail tickets being accepted on adjacent tram routes, particularly the North Coburg line, and, for the outer end of the railway line, a bus service connecting with trams at North Coburg. In June 1971, this arrangement was extended to apply for the whole of Sundays, and in October 1981, it was further extended to include services after 7:30 p.m. on Mondays to Saturdays.
In January 1963 Somerton to the Ford factory at Upfield was converted to dual gauge, one year after the North East standard gauge line opened, and in October 1968 Upfield to Somerton was converted to Electric Staff working.
Automatic signalling crept a little further along the line, with Royal Park to Jewell being converted in August 1971 and Macaulay to Royal Park in April 1972.
By May 1988, proposals were underway to convert the line to light rail, following the conversion of the St Kilda and Port Melbourne railway lines in 1987. After discussions with local councils, unions and the Met, a number of ideas were floated, included converting the entire line to light rail, partial conversion, or closing parts of the line and running the light rail via Sydney Road. These proposals were finally put to rest in April 1995 when it was announced that $23 million would be spent upgrading the line. This work included the provision of power signalling for the rest of the line, and boomgates at all level crossings, except for a few crossings that would be closed instead. Many of the level crossings at this time were still under the control of gate keepers who opened and closed the gates manually for every train.
Automatic signalling extended from Jewell to Brunswick in September 1998, Moreland to Batman in October, and Batman to Upfield in November. This last section coincided with extension of duplication from Fawkner to Gowrie.
Electrification to Wallan railway station will extend the Upfield railway line from its current terminus at Upfield railway station to Wallan railway station, and the line will then be merged with the Sandringham railway line to become the North-South Line, as part of the PTV Network Development Plan. The North-South Line will be finished by 2032 or earlier.
The Upfield line has one of the least-frequent peak-period services in Melbourne's railway network, with trains operating every 18 minutes during the morning peak, and 20 minutes during the remainder of the day on weekdays (including peak periods) and weekends, and every 30 minutes during early morning, Sundays and throughout the later evening through to the last train. Until the late 1990s, when the line was under threat of closure or conversion to light rail, late evening and Sunday services were provided by nearby tram lines and a bus service that connected with the end of the nearby tram line.
In mid-2004, the majority of peak services were increased from 3-carriage to 6-carriage trains.
The line also has one of the lowest proportion of premium stations amongst Melbourne's railway lines, there being only three stations on the line (past the junction at North Melbourne) classified as Premium stations. These are Coburg, Gowrie and Upfield. Brunswick was initially announced as one of the host stations throughout Melbourne's network, however up until November 2006 this has not occurred. During the 2006 Commonwealth Games the area around Royal Park station was home to various event venues as well as the athlete's village, and as such this station was heavily staffed during the Games.
Bold stations are termini, where some train services terminate; italic stations are staffed.
Upfield railway line
- "Somerton" (PDF). Victorian Signalling Histories. Andrew Waugh. Retrieved 22 January 2008.
- "General News". Newsrail. Australian Railway Historical Society. May 1988. p. 142.
- W A Doubleday (June 1989). "Upfield - Train or Light Rail?". Newsrail. Australian Railway Historical Society (Victorian Division). pp. 173–175.