History of rail transport in Australia


History of rail transport in Australia

:"This article is part of the history of rail transport by country series"

Following the British model, Australians generally assumed in the 1850s that railways would be built by the private sector. Private companies built railways in the then colonies of Victoria, opened in 1854, and New South Wales, where the company was taken-over by the government before completion in 1855, due to bankruptcy. South Australia's railways were government owned from the beginning, including a horse-drawn line opened in 1854 and a steam-powered line opened in 1856. In Victoria, the private railways were soon found not to be financially viable, and existing rail networks and their expansion was taken over by the colony. Government ownership also enabled railways to be built to promote development, even if not apparently viable in strictly financial terms. The railway systems spread from the colonial capitals, except in cases where geography dictated a choice of an alternate port.

The colonial railways were built to three different gauges, which became a problem once lines of different systems met at Albury, New South Wales in 1881 and Wallangarra, Queensland in 1888. In the 20th century, the lines between major cities were converted to standard gauge and electrified suburban networks were built in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. In the second half of the 20th century, many rural branch lines were closed to passenger traffic or altogether in all states. On the other hand, long heavy-haul railways were built to transport iron ore in Western Australia and coal in Queensland to ports. In Western Australia these railways are privately owned.

In the 1990s and the early 21st century, the traditional networks were reorganised and partially privatised. The interstate standard gauge network came largely under the control of the Australian Rail Track Corporation and private companies were allowed to operate on it for the first time. Some non-metropolitan intrastate networks became privately controlled and the operation of private freight and passenger trains commenced. Queesland Rail was left as the only government-owned operator of freight or rural passenger trains. The Melbourne suburban railways became the first urban rail system to be operated by private sector franchisees.

Development of State networks

When the first mainline railway, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was opened in 1830, European settlement had not commenced in the current states of Victoria and South Australia and in New South Wales it had only begun spreading outside the County of Cumberland—which surrounds Sydney—following Gregory Blaxland's crossing of the Blue Mountains in 1813. Bathurst was established in 1815 and Goulburn was established in 1833, with both becoming centres for the growing of wool, Australia's first major export commodity. In 1848, the "Sydney Railway Company" was established to connect Goulburn and Bathurst to Sydney, mainly to convey wool for export to the United Kingdom. It had considerable difficulty in raising sufficient funds to commence construction and none of the proposed standard gauge (RailGauge|ussg) line was opened until 1855, when the line was opened between Sydney and Granville in what is now Sydney's western suburbs, the first section of what is now the Main Southern line. In fact, the "Sydney Railway Company" went bankrupt building it and as a result the line was taken over by the government, leading to the establishment of the New South Wales Government Railways. Part of the reason for the delay in starting construction and the Company's eventual bankruptcy and was the start of the Australian gold rushes in 1851—these created a labour-shortage and forced up prices.cite web
url=http://www.ahc.gov.au/publications/linking-nation/chapter-4.html
work=Linking a Nation
title=Chapter 4: Building Australia's First Railways, 1848-1873
publisher= Australian Heritage Council
accessdate=2008-04-08
] cite web
url=http://www.infrastructure.gov.au/rail/trains/history.aspx
title=History of Rail in Australia
publisher=Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government
accessdate=2008-03-29
] cite web
url=http://www.warrenfahey.com/rail-folklore/rail-lore-2.html
title=William Webster - the first railway engineer
publisher=The Iron Road www.warrenfahey.com
accessdate=2008-04-06
] In fact the railway did not reach Goulburn until 1869 and Bathurst until 1876, both lines having had to cross difficult topography.cite web
url=http://www.nswrail.net/lines/show.php?name=NSW:main_south&mode=history
title=Main South Line
publisher=NSWrail.net
accessdate=2008-04-10
]

Victoria was the main beneficiary of the gold rushes, with the major discoveries in Victoria and Bendigo (then called "Sandhurst") in 1851. While this also created a labor shortage in Victoria, it also caused great development in Melbourne, first settled in 1835 and declared a city in 1847. As a result Australia's first steam-powered railway was a suburban line opened by the Melbourne and Hobson's Bay Railway Company from Melbourne to Sandridge (now Port Melbourne) in 1854.cite web | title = ARHS Railway Museum: History 1839 - 1900 | work = ARHS Railway Museum | url = http://www.railwaymuseum.org.au/history.html | format = HTML | accessdate = 2008-04-05 ] This line and almost all subsequent Victorian lines were built to broad gauge (RailGauge|5ft3in, gauge). In 1856, the government-owned South Australian Railways opened its first line (1600 mm gauge) from Adelaide to Port Adelaide. The three major Australian colonies at the time failed to follow advice from the British Government to adopt a uniform gauge in case the lines of the various states should ever meet. The original Irish engineer, Sir Francis Shields persuaded the Parliament of New South Wales to require that all railways in the colony be of the Irish broad gauge. Subsequently a Scots engineer persuaded the legislature to change to standard gauge. Unfortunately New South Wales failed to inform Victoria and South Australia of the change until, "after" the other states had ordered broad gauge rolling-stock. Both states subsequently refused to follow this change. [ [http://www.adelaidereview.com.au/archives/2004_04/issuesandopinion_story7.shtml Article on Australian railway history in "The Adelaide Review"] ]

Queensland's first line (RailGauge|42 feet gauge—known in Australia as "narrow gauge") from Ipswich to Bigges Camp, the first stage of a railway between Brisbane and Toowoomba, opened in 1865.cite web
url=http://www.corporate.qr.com.au/history/beginnings/beginnings.asp
work=QR History
title=Beginnings
publisher=Queensland Rail
accessdate=2008-04-08
] This gauge was intended to save money and was subsequently followed by Tasmania and Western Australia.cite web
url=http://www.corporate.qr.com.au/history/choice_of_a_different_guage/choice_different_gauge.asp
work=QR History
title=The choice of a different gauge
publisher=Queensland Rail
accessdate=2008-04-08
] As a result, in the middle of the 20th century Australia had almost equal amounts of each gauge. Tasmania's first (1600 mm gauge) line opened in 1871 from Deloraine to Launceston and was converted to 1067 mm gauge in 1888. Finally, Western Australia opened its first Government-owned line in 1879 between Geraldton and Northampton. Lines spread in all the states from these first lines, connecting ports to farmland and ports.

The mainline systems of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland met (albeit with three breaks of gauge) in the 1880s. Only Victoria and South Australia shared a common gauge, and even so they opted to change engines at the border. The other mainland colony, Western Australia, was isolated by 2,000 km of desert.The first break of gauge was created when the New South Wales and Victorian lines met at Albury in 1883. The railways of Victoria and South Australia meet at Serviceton in 1887, but these lines were both broad gauge. cite web | title = ARHS Railway Museum: History 1839 - 1900 | work = ARHS Railway Museum | url = http://www.railwaymuseum.org.au/history.html | format = HTML | accessdate = 2008-02-05 ] In 1888 the railways of New South Wales and Queensland meet at Wallangara. Meanwhile, in 1889, the first line (1067 mm gauge) in the Northern Territory was opened from Darwin to Pine Creek. In 1914, an eight kilometre extension of the New South Wales Railways from Queanbeyan to Canberra was opened to create the Australian Capital Territory's first and only line.cite web
url=http://www.nswrail.net/lines/show.php?name=NSW:canberra&mode=history
title=Canberra Branch history
publisher=NSWrail.net
accessdate=2008-04-10
]

New South Wales

New South Wales' railways were standard gauge lines built to connect the ports of Sydney and Newcastle to the rural interior. The first railway was built from Sydney to Parramatta Junction and after two decisions to change the rail gauge, problems in raising capital and difficulties in construction, the line was opened in 1855. The Main Southern line was built in stages from Parramatta Junction to the Victorian border at Albury between 1855 and 1881 and connected to the Victorian Railways at a break-of-gauge in 1883. The standard gauge connection from Albury to Melbourne was finally completed in 1962. Meanwhile, the Main Western line was built in stages to the north west of the state, starting in 1860 at Parramatta Junction and reaching Bourke in 1885.cite web
url=http://www.nswrail.net/lines/show.php?name=NSW:main_west&mode=history
title=Main Western Line
publisher=NSWrail.net
accessdate=2008-04-06
]

The Main North line was built from Newcastle to Wallangarra on the Queensland border and connecting with Queensland Railway's line to Brisbane at a break of gauge between 1857 and 1888. Sydney and Newcastle was finally connected in 1889. Construction of the shorter and single-gauge North Coast railway line between Sydney and Brisbane commenced in 1905 and was completed in 1932 with the completion of the bridge at Grafton. cite web
url=http://www.nswrail.net/lines/show.php?name=NSW:north_coast&mode=history
title=North Coast Line
publisher=NSWrail.net
accessdate=2008-04-10
] cite web
url=http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/constructionmaintenance/downloads/clarenceriverfeasibilitystudyreport140203.pdf
title=Additional Crossing of the Clarence River - Feasibility Study Report
publisher=Roads and Traffic Authority
Date=February 2003
accessdate=2008-04-06
p1 ]

The last main line, the Broken Hill line was completed to Broken Hill in 1927, connecting with the South Australian Railways at a break of gauge. cite web
url=http://www.nswrail.net/lines/show.php?name=NSW:broken_hill&mode=history
title=Broken Hill Line
publisher=NSWrail.net
accessdate=2008-04-10
] Meanwhile branch lines proliferated over the settled east of the state, including the Illawarra line to Wollongong and Nowra completed in 1893. cite web
url=http://www.nswrail.net/lines/show.php?name=NSW:south_coast&mode=history
title=South Coast Line
publisher=NSWrail.net
accessdate=2008-04-06
] In 1926 work began on electrifying Sydney's urban railways and connecting them together via new lines.

Victoria

Victoria's first railway was a suburban railway opened from Melbourne to Port Melbourne in 1854. The Melbourne and Suburban Railway Company's line from Princes Bridge railway station to Punt Road (Richmond) opened in 1859. cite web | title = VR timeline | work = http://www.victorianrailways.net/ | publisher = Mark Bau | url = http://www.victorianrailways.net/vr%20history/history.html | format = HTML | accessdate = 2008-04-05 ] In the same year the Geelong and Melbourne Railway Company opened its line from Melbourne to Geelong.cite web | title = Geelong Line | work = Rail Geelong | publisher = Marcus Wong | url = http://railgeelong.com/lineguide.php?line=geelong | format = HTML | accessdate = 2008-02-05 ] Subsequently the Victorian Railways built new railways to connect farming and mining communities to the ports of Melbourne, Geelong and Portland. In 1862 lines reached the great gold rush towns of Bendigo and Ballarat. In 1864 a line was opened to the Murray River port of Echuca. In 1883 the first connection with another State's rail system was made when the North East line was completed to the New South Wales Government Railways's station at Albury, requiring a break-of-gauge to New South Wales's RailGauge|ussg standard gauge Main Southern line.cite journal
year = 1990
month = March
title = Tracks Across the State
author = Sid Brown
journal = Newsrail
publisher = Australian Railway Historical Society (Victorian Division)
volume = 18
issue = 3
pages = pages 71–76
] In 1887, Victorian Railways met South Australian Railways at Serviceton, although both systems used broad gauge.cite web | title = Victorian Railway Maps 1860 - 2000 | work = Victorian Railways Resources | publisher = Andrew Waugh | url = http://www.vrhistory.com/VRMaps/ | format = HTML | accessdate = 2008-04-05 ]

In 1919, electrification and development of the Melbourne suburban lines commenced.cite web | title = ARHS Railway Museum: History 1900 - 1950 | work = ARHS Railway Museum | url = http://www.railwaymuseum.org.au/history2.html | format = HTML | accessdate = 2008-04-05 ] Minor extensions to suburban lines have continued, but patronage has fallen as road transport gained favour from the 1960s. In 1981, Melbourne's only underground railway, the Melbourne City Loop was opened. On the country network, a large number of uneconomic branch line railways have been closed since the 1950s, leaving a skeleton network by the time of the Lonie Report of 1980. Privatisation of the Victorian railway network was carried out by the Kennett Government in the 1990s, with freight, suburban and country rail services split into separate companies. This was later followed by the Regional Fast Rail project that saw track upgrades, new trains, and an improved timetable to major regional cities.

Queensland

The first line opened in 1865 from Ipswich to Grandchester, a temporary terminus in the foothills of the Darling Downs. It was built to narrow gauge (1067mm — RailGauge|42) in order to reduce costs through the steep escarpment. This was subsequently applied to all the railways built in Queensland, except for the Sydney-Brisbane standard gauge line and the Weipa mining railway, both built in the 20th century. This was the first 1067mm railway in the world, but the gauge subsequently spread to Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, Japan, Indonesia and several Afican countries. The line was extended from Grandchester to Toowoomba at the top of a steep climb in 1867cite web
url=http://www.corporate.qr.com.au/history/imported_railway/imported_railway.asp
work=QR History
title=An imported railway
publisher=Queensland Rail
accessdate=2008-04-08
] and was connected from Ipswich to Brisbane in 1875.cite web
url=http://www.corporate.qr.com.au/history/building_bush/building_bush.asp
work=QR History
title=Building to the bush
publisher=Queensland Rail
accessdate=2008-04-08
] From Toowoomba it was extended in stages to meet the New South Wales standard gauge line at Wallangarra in 1887 and to Charleville in outback southern Queensland in 1888.cite web
url=http://www.corporate.qr.com.au/history/common_carrier/common_carrier.asp
work=QR History
title=The common carrier
publisher=Queensland Rail
accessdate=2008-04-08
]

Independent lines were commenced from the east coast ports of Maryborough, Bundaberg, Gladstone, Rockhampton, Mackay, Bowen, Townsville, Cairns and Cooktown. The central line opened from Rockhampton to Westwood in 1887 and reached Winton in central western Queensland in 1928. The northern line opened from Townsville to Charters Towers in 1882 and reached Mount Isa in 1929. cite web
url=http://www.corporate.qr.com.au/history/unified_rail_system/unified_rail_system.asp
work=QR History
title=Towards a unified rail system
publisher=Queensland Rail
accessdate=2008-04-08
] cite web
url=http://www.corporate.qr.com.au/history/vision_splendid/vision_splendid.asp
work=QR History
title=A vision splendid
publisher=Queensland Rail
accessdate=2008-04-08
] cite web
url=http://www.corporate.qr.com.au/history/competition/competition.asp
work=QR History
title=Rail as foremost mode of travel
publisher=Queensland Rail
accessdate=2008-04-08
] In 1888 the east-west lines began to be connected with the opening of the first section of the North Coast line to Petrie. It was not until 1924 that this line finally reached Cairns—Cooktown was never connected.

Many heavy haul coal lines were built in the late 20th century from the ports of Gladstone (beginning in 1968) and Hay Point (beginning in 1971). Electrification of some of the heavy haul coal lines commenced in 1986. cite web
url=http://www.corporate.qr.com.au/history/ongoing_investment/ongoing_investment.asp
work=QR History
title=Modern competitive railway
publisher=Queensland Rail
accessdate=2008-04-08
] Finally an electrified rail system was developed in suburban Brisbane from 1979. Eventually the North Coast line between Brisbane and Rockhampton was electrified. This, together with the central Queensland mining railway, constitutes Australia's only significant rural rail electrification.

Western Australia

The first railway in Western Australia was a private timber railway opens from Lockville to Yoganup, south of Perth. In 1879, Western Australian Government Railways opened a 1067 mm (3 ft 6 in) gauge to connect the copper mine at Northampton and the port of Geraldton. Subsequently lines also developed from the ports of Fremantle (the port of Perth), Bunbury, Albany and Esperance, mainly for carrying grain and minerals. The line between Fremantle, Perth and Guildford (about 15km further east) was opened in 1881. In 1893, Perth was connected to the port of Bunbury, 175 kilometres south of Perth. In the following year the Midland Railway Company opened a line from Perth to Walkaway, which connected with the Government line to Geraldton, 424 km north of Perth. In 1896, the railway connected Perth to Kalgoorlie, where gold had been discovered in 1893.

In the 20th century, Perth was finally connected to the eastern states. In 1917, the standard gauge Trans-Australian Railway connected eastern Australia with the narrow gauge network at Kalgoorlie. The rationalisation of non-paying branch lines started in 1957, with the closure of many lines. Commencing in the 1960s, a number of long distance heavy-haul railways have been built in the Pilbara region by major iron mining companies, particularly BHP Billiton and Hamersley Iron. New lines are still being built in this area, particularly to supply the booming Chinese market. In 1986, the electrification of Perth suburban lines with a 25 kV AC overhead power supply commenced. The longest new line was opened on 23 December 2007 from Perth to Mandurah.

outh Australia

In 1854 South Australia opened a horse-drawn tramway from the port of Goolwa on the Murray River to an ocean harbour at Port Elliot, which later became part of the steam-powered network and it can thus claim to have built Australia's first railway. On the other hand a horse-drawn tramway was built in New South Wales in 1831 to connect the coal mines of the Australian Agricultural Company to wharves on the Hunter River, although it was never open to general traffic. The South Australia line was later extended to a safer harbour at Victor Harbor.

The first South Australian steam-operated line was built as a broad gauge (1600 mm) line in 1856 between the city and Port Adelaide stopping at Bowden, Woodville and Alberton. Gradually, a network of lines spread out from Adelaide, Port Wakefield, Wallaroo, Port Broughton, Port Augusta, Kingston SE, Beachport, Whyalla, Port Pirie and Port Lincoln. Some of these were built initially to carry ore, particularly copper. They later carried freight from the Murray River and grain from the broadacre lands. cite web
url=http://www.natrailmuseum.org.au/common/nrm_a01_index.html
title=A History of Rail in South Australia
publisher=National Rail Museum
accessdate=2008-04-11
] All but the lines radiating from Adelaide were initially narrow (1067 mm) gauge lines. The first narrow gauge line was completed in 1870 from Port Wakefield to Hoyleton.

The first interstate connection was completed in 1887, when the South Australian and Victorian broad gauge railways met at Serviceton, Victoria. In 1888 a narrow gauge line was opened from Port Pirie to Broken Hill, New South Wales, with a connection at Peterborough to Adelaide. The broad gauge line was completed from Adelaide to Terowie in 1880. cite web
url=http://www.aussieheritage.com.au/listings/sa/Terowie/TerowieUrbanConservationArea/11845
title=Terowie Urban Conservation Area, Terowie, SA, Australia
work=Australian Heritage Database
publisher=Aussie Heritage
accessdate=2008-04-11
] The line north of Terowie was built as a narrow gauge line in stages to Peterborough and Quorn in 1882 cite web
url=http://www.aussieheritage.com.au/listings/sa/Peterborough/PeterboroughRailwayRoundhouseandTurntable/11165
title=Peterborough Railway Roundhouse and Turntable, Railway Tce, Peterborough, SA
work=Australian Heritage Database
publisher=Aussie Heritage
accessdate=2008-04-11
] and Oodnadatta in 1891. This was extended to Alice Springs by Commonwealth Railways in 1929, when it was renamed the Central Australia Railway.

Tasmania

The first railway in Tasmania was a broad gauge (1600 mm) line opened between Deloraine and Launceston in 1871 by the Launceston and Western Railway. It quickly went bankrupt and was effectively taken over by the Tasmanian Government in 1872. In 1876 the Tasmanian Main Line Company opened a narrow gauge (1067 mm) line from Hobart to Evandale (near Launceston), connecting with an extension of the Launceston and Western line at a break-of-gauge. Further gauge confusion was added in 1885 when the Tasmanian Government built a narrow gauge line west of Deloraine to Devonport. This was resolved in 1888 by the conversion of the Launceston–Deloraine line to narrow gauge.

The Tasmanian Government bought the Tasmanian Main Line Company in 1890, creating the Tasmanian Government Railways. In 1901 the line to Devonport line was extended to Burnie, connecting with the Emu Bay Railway's line to Zeehan. Other branches were built but the Tasmanian system has always been small and unprofitable. It currently carries no regular passenger services and its freight services are not profitable without subsidies for the maintenance and upgrading of its infrastructure, which is currently controlled by Pacific National.

Off network gauges

Development of the national network

In the 19th Century, railways were created to enable agricultural and minerals traffic to be carried to ports for export, and to allow passenger and freight operations between colonial capitals and regional areas. Coastal shipping handled most passenger and freight traffic between the colonies. John Whitton was appointed Engineer in Chief of the New South Wales Government Railways in 1856 and immediately advised his government that the short railway that had been opened in Sydney be converted to broad gauge in case the railways of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia ever joined, but he was refused because "... his political masters ... were unable to envisage intercolonial traffic ever developing." cite web
url=http://www.ahc.gov.au/publications/linking-nation/chapter-5.html
work=Linking a Nation
title=Chapter 5: The Railway Age, 1874-1920
publisher=Australian Heritage Council
accessdate=2008-04-08
] However, the problem of different gauges became apparent with the meeting of lines of the different systems at Albury in 1883 cite web
url=http://www.nswrail.net/lines/show.php?name=NSW:main_north&mode=history
title=Main North Line
publisher=NSWrail.net
accessdate=2008-04-10
] and Wallangarra in 1888.

In the 1890s, the establishment of an Australian Federation from the six colonies was debated. One of the points of discussion was the extent that railways would be a federal responsibility. A vote to make it so was lost narrowly, instead the new constitution allows "the acquisition, with the consent of a State, of any railways of the State on terms arranged between the Commonwealth and the State" (Section 51 xxxiii) and "railway construction and extension in any State with the consent of that State" (Section 51 xxxiv). However, the Australian Government is free to provide funding to the states for rail upgrading projects under Section 96 ("the Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit"). []

The Australian Government has full responsibility for railways in the federal territories, although the Northern Territory's railway is now owned and operated by the private AustralAsia Rail Corporation and the only railway in the Australian Capital Territory, the Canberra-Queanbeyan railway is now operated by the Rail Corporation New South Wales.

In 1910, a conference of Railway commissioners chose RailGauge|ussg to be the standard gauge. Over the decades, many plans were floated to fix the break of gauge. These failed, mainly because they were too ambitious and proposed to convert all lines, even lines of little economic value.

Creating a standard gauge network

In the 20th century, the different state rail systems became more integrated, initially creating more breaks of gauge. In 1917, the Federal Government's standard gauge Trans-Australian Railway was completed between Kalgoorlie, Western Australia and Port Augusta, South Australia. However, this required a break of gauge at Kalgoorlie to reach Perth and breaks of gauge at both Port Augusta and Terowie to reach Adelaide. In 1927, the last section of the Sydney–Broken Hill line was completed between Trida and Menindee meeting the South Australian Railways line at a break of gauge and requiring a further break of gauge at Terowie to reach Adelaide. In 1932 the first progress in reducing the gauge conflict was made with the completion of the standard gauge Sydney-Brisbane railway with the opening of a bridge at Grafton. The first standard gauge line in South Australia, Trans-Australian Railway, was completed in 1917 between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, requiring break-of-gauges at Terowie, Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie to reach Perth. This line was extended to Port Pirie in 1937 and the broad gauge line from Adelaide to Redhill was extended to Port Pirie, removing one break-of gauge.

In the 1950s, a parliamentary committee chaired by William Wentworth recommended a much more modest and affordable plan to gauge convert the three main missing links:

* Albury to Melbourne standard gauge track added parallel to broad gauge to complete the Sydney-Melbourne railway.
* Kalgoorlie to Perth - narrow gauge converted to standard gauge.
* Broken Hill to Port Pirie - narrow gauge converted to standard.

In 1962 the Albury to Melbourne standard gauge line was opened, completing the Sydney-Melbourne railway. In 1966, a new mixed standard and narrow gauge Eastern Railway route was completed through the Avon Valley, east of Perth. In 1968 the Kalgoorlie to Perth line was completed and in 1969 the Broken Hill to Port Pirie standard gauge railway were opened, completing Sydney-Perth railway.

A standard gauge line was built between Port Augusta and Whyalla in 1972. In October 1980, a new standard gauge railway was completed from Tarcoola, South Australia to Alice Springs, replacing the former narrow gauge railway. Adelaide was connected to the standard gauge network with the opening of the line to Crystal Brook, South Australia in 1982 and the Melbourne-Adelaide railway was converted to standard gauge in 1995. Meanwhile, the Tarcoola, South Australia to Alice Springs standard gauge railway was opened in 1980 and extended to Darwin in 2004 to complete the Adelaide-Darwin railway.

Private railways

There have always been niches for private railways in most colonies, such as:
*mining - private iron mining railways alone now account for most Australian rail freight by tonnage, but private coal railways have been important since the ealy years of coal mining in the mid 19th century
*quarrying
*major factory sites, such as steel works
*temporary lines at construction sites
*agriculture, especially the sugar industry

Mining railways

Starting in the 1960s, four heavy duty railways were developed in the Pilbara region of the far north of Western Australia for the haulage of iron ore from several mines to the nearest ports. These railways are isolated from each other and from the national system, carrying no other traffic.

The very heavy traffic on these lines, up to 100 million tonnes per year, push wheel/rail technology to its limits, and has resulted in considerable research and development that has been of value to railways worldwide.

These iron ore railways are all 1435mm gauge, and started off using American standards for track, locomotives and wagons.

In 2008, Fortescue commenced operating a fifth iron ore railway in the Pilbara.

1990s and recent developments

Privatisation

In 1992, the largely Federal Government-owned National Rail Corporation took over interstate rail freight operations from the Australian National Rail Commission, and commenced operations on the interstate network. National Rail Corporation's freight operations and rolling stock (not infrastructure) were combined with the New South Wales Government-owned FreightCorp and sold to Toll Holdings and Patrick Corporation as Pacific National in 2002.

The Australian National Rail Commission was privatised in 1997. Its Tasmanian operations and infrastructure (TasRail) were sold to Australian Transport Network Limited, which was taken over by Pacific National in 2004. South Australian branch lines were sold to Genesee and Wyoming Inc. Its passenger operations were taken over by Great Southern Railway.

State freight and country passenger operations were privatised, except in Queensland. Urban passenger trains remained in government ownership, except in Victoria, because such services are politically sensitive and these operations could not operate profitably.

New train operating companies (TOC) appeared, including wheat trains operated by wheat exporting companies. At least one company (Chicago Freight Car Leasing Australia) appeared to lease locomotives and rolling stock to any TOC that wanted them. These companies include :
*Australian Railroad Group
*Southern Shorthaul Railroad
*South Spur Rail Services
*Patrick Rail Operations
*Specialised Container Transport
*FreightLink
*Silverton Rail

Licensing of personnel with nationally recognised credentials facilitates the transfer of those people from one state or operator to another, as traffic demands.

eparation of infrastructure and operations

Construction and maintenance of network infrastructure were consolidated into non-profit government bodies, in the case of the interstate network and the non-urban railways of New South Wales (Australian Rail Track Corporation) and Western Australia (WestNet Rail). This was intended to provide access to new and existing players.

The interstate rail network of the former Australian National Railways Commission was transferred to the newly established Australian Rail Track Corporation in 1998. In 2002, the Tarcoola–Alice Springs line was leased to the AustralAsia Rail Corporation. The ARTC track consists of the track from Kalgoorlie to Broken Hill and Serviceton, Victoria. The ARTC also manages under lease the interstate standard gauge rail network in New South Wales and Victoria and has rights to sell access between Kalgoorlie and Kwinana to interstate rail operators under a wholesale access agreement with the Western Australian track owner and operator, WestNet Rail. It also "has a working relationship with Queensland Rail about the use of the 127 kilometres of standard gauge line between the Queensland border and Fisherman Island. ARTC intends to start discussions with Queensland about leasing this track once the NSW arrangements are bedded down". [cite web
url=http://www.ministers.dotars.gov.au/ja/releases/2003/december/artc_summary.htm
title=Media release, December 2003
publisher=John Anderson, Minister for Transport and Regional Services
accessdate=2006-04-27
] The ARTC also maintains the NSW rural branch lines under contract.

Other railways continue to be integrated, although access to their infrastructure is generally required under National Competition Policy principles agreed by the Federal, State and Territory governments:
* Queensland - Queensland Rail
* Tasmania - Pacific National
* Victorian non-interstate lines - Pacific National
* Western Australian non-interstate lines - Australian Railroad Group
* South Australian non-interstate lines - Genesee and Wyoming Australia
*Darwin-Tarcoola railway - FreightLink

Much maintenance of tracks were contracted out.

Australian Government funding

While, the Australian Government has provided substantial funding for the upgrading of roads, since the 1920s, it has not regularly funded investment in railways except for its own railway, the Commonwealth Railways, which was established in 1911 to build the standard gauge Trans-Australian Railway between Kalgoorlie, Western Australia and Port Augusta, South Australia, and to take over the 1067mm gauge railways between Port Augusta and Oodnadatta (used by the old "Ghan") and the Palmerston and Pine Creek Railway. Commonwealth Railways became part of the Australian National Railways Commission in 1975, which was privatised in 1997. Although the Australian Government has considered the funding of railways owned by State Government to be a State responsibility, it has made loans to the States for gauge standardisation projects from the 1920s to the 1970s. From the 1970s to 1996, the Australian Government has provided some grant funding to the States for rail projects.

One Nation program

Under the Keating Government's One Nation program:
*the Melbourne-Adelaide line was converted to standard gauge in 1995.
*the 1067mm gauge line to the Port of Brisbane was converted to dual 1435/1067 mm gauge and extended in parallel with the duplicated passenger line to Dutton Park.
*a standard gauge link was built to the port at Fremantle, Western Australia.
*new standard gauge sidings were provided at Adelaide Outer Harbor.
*a separate freight line was built between Macarthur and Glenfield as the first stage of what is now known as the Southern Sydney Freight Line. Its planned extension to the Chullora - Enfield freight line near Sefton is being bult by the Australian Rail Track Corporation with funds provided by the Australian Government under AusLink.
*the Sydney-Brisbane line was upgraded with longer passing loops, the replacement of wooden trestles with concrete bridges, concrete resleepering, some minor deviations and bank stabilisation.
*passing loops were extended between Wodonga and Melbourne.

Alice Springs to Darwin railway

In 2004, the long awaited 1420 km Alice Springs to Darwin railway was opened by the AustralAsia Rail Corporation with assistance from the Australian Government and the governments of South Australia and the Northern Territory. The Northern Territory expects that this railway line will open up many mining ventures that would otherwise be uneconomic without a heavy duty rail line.

"See Rail transport in Australia for current Australian Government rail funding."

See also

* History of rail transport by country
* Rail transport in Australia

References

External links

* [http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-an11434053 John L. Buckland collection of railway transport photographs] / National Library collection that covers all aspects of Australian railway history


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