The Indian Pacific is an Australian passenger rail service that operates between Sydney, on the Pacific Ocean, and Perth, on the Indian Ocean. It is one of the few truly transcontinental trains in the world. The train first ran in February 1970 after the completion of gauge conversion projects in South and Western Australia.
The service was originally operated jointly by the New South Wales Government Railways, South Australian Railways, Commonwealth Railways and Western Australian Government Railways, until February 1993 when Australian National took full ownership. In October 1997 the Indian Pacific was sold to Great Southern Rail.
A one-way trip originally took 75 hours, but with line and efficiency improvements it now takes 65 hours. The train currently has four classes, branded as Platinum, Gold Service and Red Service Sleeper and Red Service Daynighter and also a motorail service to convey passengers' motor vehicles.
The first Indian Pacific service left Sydney on 23 February 1970, becoming the first direct train to cross the Australian continent, made possible by the completion of the east-west standard gauge project a few months earlier.
The service was originally operated jointly by the four operators whose networks it traversed with revenues and costs apportioned New South Wales Government Railways (28.5%), South Australian Railways (10%), Commonwealth Railways (45%) and Western Australian Government Railways (16.5%).
Locomotives and crews were provided by the New South Wales Government Railways between Sydney and Broken Hill, South Australian Railways between Broken Hill and Port Pirie, the Commonwealth Railways between Port Pirie and Kalgoorlie and Western Australian Government Railways between Kalgoorlie and Perth. With the formation of Australian National in July 1975, it provided locomotives and crews from Broken Hill to Kalgoorlie. Locomotives were changed at Lithgow, Broken Hill, Port Pirie and Kalgoorlie.
On-board crews were originally provided between Sydney and Port Pirie by Commonwealth Railways on one service and New South Wales Government Railways on the other services, Commonwealth Railways between Port Pirie and Kalgoolie and West Australian Government Railways between Kalgoolie and Perth.
The train originally operated twice per week. In July 1973 a third service was introduced followed in July 1975 by a fourth, these later two being extensions of existing Trans Australian services. By 1983, the service had been reduced to three times weekly.
The service was suspended from 2 December 1982 to 25 April 1983 due to an industrial dispute over staffing levels in South Australia. From August 1986, the train commenced operating via Adelaide.
In February 1993, Australian National took over operation of the service throughout after agreement was reached with the State Rail Authority and Westrail in 1992. From January 1994 the service was operated throughout by Australian National CL class locomotives. Australian National restored a second weekly service.
As part of the privatisation of Australian National, the Indian Pacific, along with The Ghan and The Overland, was sold to Great Southern Rail in October 1997. Motive power provision was contracted to National Rail. Today the Indian Pacific operates weekly, with a second service between September and November.
The route leaves Sydney and travels via the Western and Broken Hill lines to Broken Hill. It then crosses into South Australia on the Broken Hill to Crystal Brook line before heading south to Adelaide. Before the conversion of the Crystal Brook to Adelaide line to standard gauge, passengers for Adelaide had to change at Port Pirie. However, from August 1986, the Indian Pacific was diverted to make an out-and-back trip to Adelaide adding 390 kilometres (240 mi) to the journey. From Crystal Brook it heads north to Port Augusta and then via the Trans-Australian Railway to Kalgoorlie including travelling over the world's longest straight stretch of railway track on the Nullarbor Plain measuring 478 kilometres (297 mi). It then heads via the Eastern Goldfields and Eastern lines to its terminus at East Perth.
In 1970 the journey took 75 hours. With subsequent infrastructure improvements and reductions to the time needed to change locomotives and crew, the journey now takes 65 hours despite the longer distance.
Motive power for the Indian Pacific is a Pacific National NR class diesel-electric locomotive, often one of the five (NR18, NR25-NR28) that have been repainted in Indian Pacific livery. The lead locomotive is assisted by a DL class or a second NR class between Sydney and Adelaide. In 2014, NR25-NR28 were repainted in a new livery that is much closer to that of Pacific National.
To operate the service, a fleet of 22.92-metre (75.2 ft) stainless steel carriages, power vans and luggage vans was built by Commonwealth Engineering, Granville in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Originally the services operated in consists of 12 carriages. Today the weekly service consists of up to 25 carriages and two motorail wagons. Because of its length, the train is split in two when stabled at Sydney Central station.
The train originally offered only 52 first-class sleeping berths and 96 second-class sleeping berths. The train was limited to 144 passengers as this was the number that could be serviced by three sittings in the 48-seat dining car.
From 1973 the accommodation was altered to provide 88 first-class sleeping berths and 64 second-class. The club-cafeteria car also provided a small number of second-class seats for short-distance travelers on the Commonwealth Railways segment.
From 1975 Australian National provided full sitting carriages west of Port Pirie on two journeys per week. The New South Wales Government Railways initially resisted providing sitting accommodation over the whole journey, but State Rail Authority HUB/RUB sitting carriages were included between Sydney and Port Pirie from 1980, with Australian National providing sitting carriages further west. Sitting carriages provided by Australian National became part of the full through service from Sydney to Perth in 1988.
The train currently has four classes, branded as Platinum, Gold Service, Red Service Sleeper and Red Service Daynighter. The Platinum Service was introduced in 2008 as a premium class of travel. The Gold Service, the former first-class service, features either roomette or twinette sleeper cabins, with complimentary meals in the restaurant car.
Red Service, the equivalent of economy class, features either dual-berth shared sleeper cabins, or airline-style 'sit-up' seats similar to other Australian trains. It also has its own restaurant car.
The train also has a Motorail service to carry passengers' motor vehicles. This facility was available throughout the journey until November 2015, when it was reduced to only operate between Adelaide and Perth.
Following the conversion of the Adelaide to Melbourne railway line to standard gauge in 1995, the Indian Pacific made a promotional trip from Perth to Brisbane via Melbourne over 6 days in June of that year.
In recent years, the Indian Pacific has operated a Christmas Train with a notable music personality on board.
Some of the performers on board have been: David Campbell (2007), Human Nature (2006), Guy Sebastian (2005), Jimmy Barnes (2004), John Paul Young (2003), Marcia Hines (2002), John Williamson (2001) and Nikki Webster (2000).
- 24 December 1975: 14 of the 25 carriages on the eastbound train derailed due to a collapsed bogie on the leading carriage, between the remote Nullarbor sidings of Haig and Nurina. Three of the 200 passengers were injured, and they were flown from Forrest to Adelaide.
- 18 August 1999: Zanthus train collision - the westbound train was accidentally directed into a crossing loop occupied by an eastbound train at Zanthus.
- 3 December 1999: Glenbrook train disaster - a CityRail Intercity train ran into the back of the eastbound train at Glenbrook in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. Seven people died, all on the CityRail train.
- Indian Pacific Timetable Great Southern Rail
- Facts about the Nullabor Plain Outback Australia Travel Guide
- Indian Pacific fares 2013 - 2014 Great Southern Rail
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- "Western Report" Railway Digest September 1986 page 281
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- Media related to Indian Pacific at Wikimedia Commons
- Great Southern Rail
- Trans Australian/Indian Pacific railway ephemera—collected and digitised by the National Library of Australia
- Indian Pacific celebrates 40th year, Australian Geographic