Werribee railway line
The line traverses the flat plains of Melbourne's western suburbs, and after leaving Footscray, has no significant earthworks. The area around the outer end of the line has seen significant residential growth in recent years.
The Werribee line is made of multiple tracks (shared with other lines) from the City Loop until South Kensington, where it reverts to double track. From shortly after Newport, the two tracks are signalled for bidirectional operation, although it is rare for trains to not use left-hand running. At Altona Junction, just after the start of bidirectional operation, the Altona branch diverges. This is a single-track branch, which rejoins the main line at Laverton. A passing loop is provided at Westona.
Automatic Block Signalling applies to Newport South (beside the Champion Road level crossing), and from Newport South through to Werribee (and all the way to Geelong), the line is controlled by Automatic and Track Control safeworking via Westona and the main lines. Terminating facilities are provided at Newport and Laverton. Newport is also the location of the Newport Workshops, formerly the main workshops of the Victorian Railways. Stabling facilities are provided at Newport Workshops, and trains are also stabled overnight in the platform at Werribee.
Early in 1857, the Geelong and Melbourne Railway Company opened the Werribee to Little River section of the line they were building between Newport and Geelong, then in June of that year, opened the section between Werribee and a temporary station near Newport, known as Greenwich. The intention was to connect to the Williamstown line being built by the Melbourne, Mount Alexander and Murray River Railway Company, with whom they had arranged permission to run the former company's trains over the latter company's tracks to Melbourne, but the Williamstown line was not yet ready.
However, by October 1857, construction of the Williamstown line was sufficiently advanced to allow the Geelong trains to run to the terminus at Williamstown Pier, so Greenwich was closed and a connection was made to the Williamstown line towards Williamstown. From Williamstown Pier, passengers could connect to a ferry across Hobsons Bay to Port Melbourne.
The Williamstown line opened in January 1859, so the connection near Newport towards Williamstown was removed and replaced with a connection to Newport, and through running of Geelong trains to Melbourne commenced.
In April 1885, a short branch was opened off the Werribee line just past Newport to Williamstown Racecourse, and in November 1888, a branch was opened off the Racecourse branch to Altona, terminating at a station named Altona Beach. This branch was opened by the Altona and Laverton Bay Freehold and Investment Co. Ltd. in order to encourage people to buy their land in the area. However, the line closed less than two years later, in August 1890.
A portion of the Altona Beach line near Williamstown Racecourse was leased by the Victorian Railways (VR) in 1906 to store race trains, and sometime between 1911 and 1919, the line must have been reopened for goods trains, as a siding was built from Altona Beach to the Melbourne and Altona Colliery Co. mine. From November 1917, the VR worked the line on behalf of the then owners, Altona Beach Estates Ltd., but to a relocated Altona Beach station, short of the original terminus.
The VR electrified the Williamstown line and the branch to Williamstown Racecourse in August 1920. In October 1924 the VR took total control of the Altona Beach line, and electrified it in October 1926.
Automatic Block Signalling was commissioned between South Kensington and Yarraville in August 1927, and then on to Newport. The Automatic and Track Control system was installed from Newport South towards Geelong, enabling bidirectional use of the then single track line.
The Williamstown Racecourse branch closed in May 1950.
Duplication of the Werribee line occurred in the 1960s, the first section being between a crossing loop named Rock Loop and Laverton in May 1965, followed by Newport B Box to Rock Loop in October 1967, and Laverton to Werribee in September 1968. The Altona branch was converted to Automatic Block Signalling in October 1967.
First announced by the then Transport Minister, Joe Rafferty in 1977, electrification was extended from Altona Junction to Werribee in September 1983, whilst in January 1985, the Altona line was extended to Westona. In April 1985, Altona to Westona, which had temporarily been operated by Staff and Ticket safeworking, was converted to Automatic and Track Control, and a few days later, the line was extended to Laverton on the Werribee line. Initially almost every Werribee suburban train ran via Westona, but a complete timetable re-write in May 2011 has seen this section converted to a separate service most of the time.
The line used to be shared between Metro and V/Line services, but beyond the completion of the Regional Rail Link in June 2015 this is no longer the case. However, the line is still available to be used by V/Line services in special circumstances should the Regional Rail Link lines be out of action for some reason.
All early morning and late night services, as well as all weekend services, stops all stations between Flinders Street and Werribee via the Altona loop. Daytime and early evening weekday services operate express between North Melbourne and Laverton, making additional stops at Footscray and Newport. Services also operate between Flinders Street and Laverton via the Altona loop, stopping at all stations.
Multiple express service patterns operate during the morning peak. Citybound from Werribee services operate express between Laverton and Footscray, stopping at Newport, during morning peak. Most outbound services at this time follow the same express pattern, with select services running express between Footscray and either Williams Landing or Werribee, always stopping at Newport and Laverton. A few outbound services start at Laverton,and stop all stations to Werribee.
During the evening peak, citybound services operate express between Laverton and North Melbourne, stopping at Newport and Footscray. Outbound services operate express between Footscray and Laverton, stopping at Newport. All Altona loop services stop all stations citybound and skipping South Kensington outbound.
On weekdays and early weekend mornings, all services operate to and from Flinders Street via Southern Cross, without serving Flagstaff, Melbourne Central and Parliament stations. All services also extend past Flinders Street to Frankston, as the Frankston line, on weekdays. Weekend services, excluding early mornings, operate clockwise through the City Loop.
Unfortunately, the frequency of the trains in this line is quite less and to make things worse there are frequent cancellations and signalling problems.
- "Works". Newsrail. Australian Railway Historical Society. October 1977. p. 228.
- "Werribee Line". Public Transport Victoria.
- Statistics and detailed schematic map at the VicSig enthusiast website
- History of the Geelong line (of which the Werribee line is a subset)
- The Altona Line Lyell, A.R. Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, July, 1959, pp. 97–100