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South Morang railway line

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Subject: Preston Workshops, Transport Integration Act 2010, Epping, Epping, Essex, Metro Trains Melbourne
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South Morang railway line

South Morang railway line, Melbourne
Line details
Commenced 1889
Completed 1901
Stations 21
Tracks Double track
Used by Metro Trains Melbourne
Service pattern 3 trains per hour
Stopping All Stations
Rolling stock Comeng, X'Trapolis
Connections Hurstbridge line
Former connections Inner Circle and Whittlesea lines
Railways in Melbourne

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 Metlink 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 This curve originally made up the third side of a triangular junction, connecting the two original branches from the now-closed North Fitzroy station.[1] Only this third leg of the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 that 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.


Preston Station

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 (but 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, the line being extended to Whittlesea a few months later on 23 December.[2]

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.[3] 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 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, renamed Lalor station in 1952.[3] Direct Whittlesea trains from Flinders Street and Spencer Street station were withdrawn from 1948.[4]

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.[3] 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.[4]

Electric suburban services were extended to Lalor station in November 1959, in addition to duplication of the line from Reservoir to Keon Park,[5] with services beyond this point to Whittlesea discontinued and the line closed.[2] The line to Epping itself was reopened and electrified in 1964, with the remaining line dismantled in the 1970s. However, the right-of-way is still in place and is retained for a future railway extension.

Major construction on the extension of the Epping railway line commenced in October 2010. The South Morang Rail Extension Project involves 5 km of rail track duplication between Keon Park and Epping, new Thomastown railway 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.

Extension proposals

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,[6] 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.[6] 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.[6]

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.[7]

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.[8][9] 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.[8]

Major construction on the extension of the Epping railway line to South Morang commenced in October 2010. The South Morang Rail Extension Project involves 5 km of rail track duplication between Keon Park and Epping, new Thomastown railway 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 the border of South Morang and a new railway station on the border of Epping and South Morang, a few kilometres short of the original South Morang railway station.

There is further proposals and community pressure to extend the railway line to the rapidly growing area of Mernda to the north,[10] although the government has not committed the project until at least 2027.

Line guide

Bold stations are termini, where some train services terminate; italic stations are staffed; and stations with an asterisk (*) are manned only during morning peak.

Branches from the City Loop at Flinders Street and Parliament.


  1. ^ Victorian Railways signal diagram: "North Fitzroy to Merri". Retrieved 2008-06-16. 
  2. ^ a b "VR History". Retrieved 2008-05-06. 
  3. ^ a b c Jack McLean (November 1995). "Reservoir - Whittlesea: Signalling and Safeworking". Newsrail (Australian Railway Historical Society (Victorian Division)): pages 333–337. 
  4. ^ a b "Extracts of 'The Whittlesea Railway' by Robert Aquilina". The Northcote History Group. Retrieved 2008-06-16. 
  5. ^ S.E. Dornan and R.G. Henderson (1979). Electric Railways of Victoria. Australian Electric Traction Society. p. 84.  
  6. ^ a b c "Rail extension revived, but locals sceptical - National -". Melbourne: 6 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-06. 
  7. ^ "Anger grows over dumped rail extension - National -". Melbourne: 29 January 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-06. 
  8. ^ a b "STATE BUDGET TO COMMIT $562.3 MILLION FOR SOUTH MORANG RAIL EXTENSION". Media Release: Premier of Victoria, Australia. 1 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  9. ^ "Vic govt commits $562m to rail extension". The Age. 1 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  10. ^ "South Morang and Mernda Rail Alliance". Retrieved 19 March 2013. 

Further reading

  • Robert Aquilina (1999). The Whittlesea Railway - A brief history of the Fitzroy and Whittlesea railway 1889-1959 including current day operations. Self published. 

External links

  • Statistics and detailed schematic map at the VicSig enthusiast website
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