South Morang railway line
|Type||Melbourne suburban service|
|System||Metro Trains Melbourne|
|Connecting lines||Hurstbridge line|
|Former connections||Inner Circle and Whittlesea lines|
|Services||Most services stops all stations and run clockwise through the City Loop. A small number of express services run during peak. Weekend early morning services don't run through the City Loop.|
|Rolling stock||Comeng, X'Trapolis|
|Number of tracks||Double track|
The South Morang railway line is a suburban electric railway in Melbourne, Australia. It branches from the City Loop in the central business district and heads north. The line travels though the northern suburbs of Melbourne, and once extended to the country town of Whittlesea. The line has 21 stations in PTV ticketing Zones 1 and 2. Prior to the line extension to South Morang, the line was known as the Epping railway line.
The South Morang line travels almost due north, traversing gently rising land. It has few curves, few significant grades, and little in the way of earthworks, other than a cutting near Northcote. It has numerous level crossings, and only a few bridges over or under roads. Despite the otherwise fairly straight line, it does include Melbourne's sharpest railway curve, between Rushall and Merri. This curve originally made up the third side of a triangular junction, connecting the two original branches from the now-closed North Fitzroy station. Only this third leg of the triangle remains. The entire line runs through built-up areas of Melbourne's northern suburbs.
Following the late 2011 Epping line works, all stations along the South Morang line, excluding the City Loop, have two platforms, one for each direction. This includes all stations along the section between Clifton Hill and Jolimont, which is shared with the Hurstbridge line.
The line is double track to South Morang. The line is controlled by automatic block signalling (ABS) up to South Morang. There are intermediate terminating facilities at Bell, Keon Park and Epping. Stabling facilities are provided at Epping, which is also the location of a repair centre.
The beginnings of the South Morang line was opened on 8 October 1889, as part of railway extensions into the northern suburbs. What became known as the Inner Circle line was opened from Spencer Street Station (now Southern Cross Station) via Royal Park station, to a station called Collingwood (now called Victoria Park), and then on to Heidelberg. The Epping line branched off at Fitzroy North to Preston Reservoir station (later renamed Reservoir) in 1889, with the line extended to Whittlesea a few months later, on 23 December.
Trains on the line operated via Fitzroy and the Inner Circle, until the opening of the current connection between Victoria Park and Princes Bridge stations in 1901. Passenger services were operated in two tiers: a local train to Preston Reservoir station via Clifton Hill, and a country mixed train to Whittlesea, via Fitzroy. The Epping line was electrified to Reservoir in 1921, with an AEC railmotor providing a shuttle service between Reservoir and the terminus at Whittlesea. Preston Reservoir station was renamed Reservoir in 1909.
The line had a number of Rail Motor Stopping Places along the line, these being a mere nameboard beside the railway line at a convenient public access point. The first were RMSP 8, 9 and 10, which opened on 10 May 1927; followed by Epping Quarries Siding RMSP in January 1928; RMSP 17 in March 1928; RMSP 26 in January 1930; RMSP 33 in July 1932; RMSP 39 in July 1941; and RMSP 77 in October 1949, which was renamed Lalor station in 1952. Direct Whittlesea trains from Flinders Street and Spencer Street station were withdrawn from 1948.
Electrification was extended along 4.4 kilometres (2.7 mi) of single track to Thomastown in 1929, paid for by a land developer, who paid for the works, as well as guaranteeing against operating loses. Keon Park station was opened at the same time, but the Whittlesea shuttle train continued to connect with suburban trains at Reservoir, until 1931. From this time, a double-ended Leyland railmotor was provided, and connections made at Thomastown. Goods trains to Whittlesea were withdrawn in 1955, and goods trains from Epping ended in 1958.
Electric suburban services were extended to Lalor station in November 1959, in addition to duplication of the line from Reservoir to Keon Park, with services beyond this point to Whittlesea discontinued, and the line closed. The line to Epping itself was reopened and electrified in 1964, with the remaining line dismantled in the 1970s. However, the right-of-way beyond South Morang is still in place, and is retained for a future railway extension.
Proposals for the duplication of the line between Keon Park and Epping and an extension to Mernda have dated as far back as 1983. Whittlesea Council submitted a submission to the Victorian Government in 1983, supporting the duplication of the line, and examining an extension to South Morang, and Mernda.
Following the election of the Bracks Government in 1999, a promise was made to restore the service to South Morang, along the former right-of-way by 2003, however no work started at that time. In 2003, a Trainlink bus service was introduced from Epping to South Morang, meeting every train, but the 2005 Meeting Our Transport Challenges plan postponed construction of the railway, until 2021. The restoration of the railway to Mernda is also identified in the Strategic Transportation Study, undertaken by the City of Whittlesea in 2002. In the 2008 State Budget, A$10 million was earmarked for design work on the four kilometre extension, in addition to design work for duplication between Keon Park and Epping stations.
On 1 May 2009, the State Government announced that they had committed $562.3 million in the 2009 State Budget, for the extension of the line to South Morang, covering capital and construction works. The announcement said that tenders would be called later that year, with construction to start in 2010 and be completed by 2013. Work will include duplication of the existing single track between Keon Park and Epping, and the construction of 3.5 kilometres of new double track from Epping to South Morang. No level crossings will exist on the new section of track, with road overpasses to be provided at Cooper Street, Pindari Avenue and Civic Drive. The new South Morang station will have parking for 450 cars.
Major construction on the extension of the Epping railway line commenced in October 2010. The South Morang Rail Extension Project involved 5 km of rail track duplication, between Keon Park and Epping, a rebuilt Thomastown station, with a second platform and a pedestrian overpass, upgrade and expansion of the Epping train maintenance facility, including new stabling roads, relocation of the existing Epping railway station to the north of Cooper Street, 3.5 km of new double rail tracks from Epping to South Morang, and a new railway station at South Morang. The dual track between Keon Park and Epping was commissioned on 28 November 2011.
A shared use path was opened to the public on 5 February 2012. The three metre wide path runs the length of the rail extension and provides connections between the existing bicycle network, through to the new South Morang railway station.
The 2015 State Budget has allocated $9 million to plan the extension of the line to Mernda, with building to be commenced in 2016, and completion due in mid 2019 at the latest. The extension will be dual track, and completely grade separated, with a second station to be built in a location to be confirmed, with community consultation. Mernda station will be on the south side of Bridge Inn Road, integrated with the future Mernda Town Centre shopping centre.
In November 2016, the government announced that a third station called Hawkstowe would be built near Hawkstowe Parade in South Morang as part of the extension.
Doncaster Branch Line
Plans for the Doncaster line first appeared in the 1890s, when the Government was considering a line from Heidelberg station. Plans again re-emerged in 1969, when The Age announced that the Victorian Railways had started detailed planning for the line, which would branch off the Hurstbridge/Epping lines at Victoria Park, and run down the Eastern Freeway median strip, then to Bulleen Road, Bulleen, where it would travel between houses and proposed tunnels to Doncaster East.
During the 2006 State Election, the Victorian Liberal Party promised to extend the number 48 tram to Doncaster Hill, claiming that constructing the heavy rail line would cost around $1 billion, and was deemed too expensive an option.
In 2008, the Victorian Greens released The People Plan, a reflection of their official policies, which includes the Doncaster line, as well as the extension of the number 48 tram. As of 2009, every transport advocacy group and all local councils affected, fully support the construction of the line, in conjunction with the aim of promoting future transit-oriented development.
On Thursday 14 March 2013, the Minister for Public Transport released the Doncaster Rail Study Phase One Draft Recommendations Report. The study estimates daily patronage of up to 56,000 people.
Aurora Branch Line
A proposal also exists for a spur line to be constructed to Epping North, and the new suburb of Aurora, at a cost of between A$76 million and A$300 million. The line would branch off the Epping line at Lalor, with new stations at Epping Plaza, Aurora and Epping North.
All citybound services stops at all stations seven days a week, except two services on weekday afternoon post-peaks that run express from Clifton Hill to Jolimont. Two weekday afternoon pre-peak services originate from Epping instead of South Morang. Most weekday and all weekend outbound services stops at all stations. During the weekday morning peaks, a number of services terminate at Epping instead of South Morang, with four of these Epping services running express between Clifton Hill and Thomastown, stopping only at Preston and Reservoir, and one service running express between Jolimont and Clifton Hill. One service to South Morang also runs express from Jolimont to Clifton Hill during this period.
All services on the South Morang line run clockwise through the City Loop, except weekend early morning services running direct to and from Flinders Street.
Bold stations are termini, where some train services terminate; italic stations are staffed; and stations with an asterisk (*) are manned only during morning peak.
South Morang railway line
- Victorian Railways signal diagram: "North Fitzroy to Merri". www.victorianrailways.net. Retrieved 2008-06-16.
- "VR History". www.victorianrailways.net. Retrieved 2008-05-06.
- Jack McLean (November 1995). "Reservoir - Whittlesea: Signalling and Safeworking". Newsrail. Australian Railway Historical Society (Victorian Division). pp. 333–337.
- "Extracts of 'The Whittlesea Railway' by Robert Aquilina". The Northcote History Group. home.vicnet.net.au. Retrieved 2008-06-16.
- S.E. Dornan and R.G. Henderson (1979). Electric Railways of Victoria. Australian Electric Traction Society. p. 84. ISBN 0 909459 06 1.
- "General News". Newsrail. Australian Railway Historical Society. April 1983. p. 84.
- "Rail extension revived, but locals sceptical - National - theage.com.au". Melbourne: theage.com.au. 6 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-06.
- "STATE BUDGET TO COMMIT $562.3 MILLION FOR SOUTH MORANG RAIL EXTENSION". Media Release: Premier of Victoria, Australia. www.premier.vic.gov.au. 1 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-01.
- "Vic govt commits $562m to rail extension". The Age. 1 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-01.
- "Hawkstowe is go: Third train station announced for Mernda rail extension". The Age. 15 November 2016.
- Stephen Cauchi (February 1998). "Whatever Happened to the Proposed Railway to Doncaster East". Newsrail. Australian Railway Historical Society (Victorian Division). pp. 41–42.
- Moynihan, Stephen (18 October 2006). "Rail line would replace 10,000 cars". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved 2007-07-30.
- Moynihan, Stephen (2008-01-29). "Anger grows over dumped rail extension - National - theage.com.au". Melbourne: theage.com.au. Retrieved 2008-05-06.
- Robert Aquilina (1999). The Whittlesea Railway - A brief history of the Fitzroy and Whittlesea railway 1889-1959 including current day operations. Self published.