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Melbourne CBD railways

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Craigieburn and Upfield lines

To Sydenham, Williamstown, and Werribee

North Melbourne

Flagstaff and Melbourne Central


To South Morang and Hurstbridge

Flinders Street, Princes Bridge, and Jolimont

Richmond, to Lilydale, Belgrave, Alamein, and Glen Waverley

To Port Melbourne

and St. Kilda

To Sandringham, Frankston, and Dandenong

The Central Business District (CBD) of Melbourne is circled by railways and includes five stations, three of which are underground.


Early development

The first station to open was Flinders Street, in September 1854 as the terminus of the first railway in Australia, to Sandridge (later Port Melbourne), opened by the Melbourne and Hobson's Bay Railway. Flinders Street station was situated on the west side of Swanston Street. Another line, branching off the Sandridge line, opened in May 1857 to St. Kilda. When the Melbourne and Suburban Railway built the first part of their line, eastwards to Richmond, the terminus of their lines to Williamstown and Sunbury was built on the east side of Swanston Street, and was named Princes Bridge station. It opened in February 1859.

The third city terminus to open was Batman's Hill station (now Southern Cross), which although planned by the Melbourne, Mount Alexander, and Murray River Railway, was opened by the government as they had taken over the company.

A connection between Flinders Street and Princes Bridge station under Swanston Street was made soon after, but a connection between Flinders Street and Spencer Street (as Batman's Hill was then known) stations took much longer. The first connection was a "tramway" at ground level which operated only at night time, which opened in December 1879 It was replaced in November 1891 by a double-track viaduct (although there was only a single track for the first month), and although used initially only by goods trains, was used for passenger trains also from December 1894. The viaduct was widened to take four tracks in December 1917.

The line from Princes Bridge via Jolimont was opened in 1901.

Underground lines

Flinders Street station grew to become a very busy station, with most traffic being on the lines to the east of Flinders Street. Also on the east side of the station was the main stabling yards for suburban trains, known as Jolimont Yard. This meant that most trains bringing commuters to work each morning arrived from the east, then had to return to the east or shunt out to Jolimont Yard in the face of other arriving trains, leading to considerable congestion of the network at that point.

Melbourne long had plans to build an underground railway around the CBD, and one goal of the line was to relieve congestion at Flinders Street by allowing trains from the east to circle the city and arrive at Flinders Street from the west, then continue through to Jolimont Yard or back to the lines they arrived from, without having to reverse. The underground railway opened in stages from 1980 to 1985, along with three new underground stations.

The underground line is actually four separate single-track lines, each serving one group of lines.

The first line planned to open was for the Burnley group of lines (the Lilydale, Belgrave, Alamein, and Glen Waverley lines). It begins from Richmond Junction, west of Richmond, and runs through Parliament, Melbourne Central, and Flagstaff to Southern Cross. Although it was to open first, by the time it was ready, so was the second line, so they both opened together.

The other line that opened at the same time serves the Caulfield group of lines, those to Pakenham, Cranbourne, Frankston, and Sandringham. It follows the same route as the Burnley tunnel.

The third line to open was that serving the Clifton Hill group (the Epping and Hurstbridge lines). It runs from Jolimont via Parliament, Melbourne Central, and Flagstaff to Southern Cross, but also has a connection from Parliament to Flinders Street, to allow for a Flinders Street-to-Flinders Street circle service.

The last line to open serves the Northern group of lines, those running through North Melbourne. It runs from North Melbourne via Flagstaff, Melbourne Central, and Parliament to Flinders Street.

There are no track connections between the four underground lines, so it is impossible, for example, for trains to run from North Melbourne to Jolimont via Melbourne Central.

In conjunction with the underground loop project, the existing four tracks between Flinders Street and Spencer Street were supplemented by an extra two tracks on a new viaduct next to the existing four-track viaduct, and the older viaduct was resignalled to make each track two-way running, with each track effectively a single-track continuation of one single-track underground loop. The new viaduct was opened in December 1978, with the resignalling of the older viaduct complete in November 1980.

Underground loop services

When the underground loop lines were opened, services through all loops followed the same pattern:

To Flinders Street From Flinders Street
Weekday mornings Via the underground loop Direct
Weekday afternoons
and weekends
Direct Via the underground loop

"Direct" means that trains travel direct between Flinders Street and Richmond or Jolimont, or between Flinders Street and North Melbourne via Southern Cross.

As a result, three loop lines operated clockwise and one anti-clockwise, or vice versa.

Initially, only some peak period services ran via the loops, with others continuing, as before, to run direct, and the early morning trains also ran direct. But gradually more and more services were altered to run via the loop, until all services on a given line in a given direction used the underground loops.

The first change to the direction of loop operation came with the Caulfield loop being reversed to operate in the other direction on weekends.

With more frequent services being provided to cater for growing patronage, and reliability decreasing as a result, the network started moving towards greater separation of services. Two significant alterations were made to ease network congestion. One was to remove Williamstown and Werribee services from the loop. This reduced the need for services having to cross other tracks to get to their destination.

The second was to operate the Clifton Hill loop in a clockwise direction all day on weekdays. A problem with these services as they were was that inbound services had to cross the track of outbound services at Jolimont. Reversing the direction of morning services on this loop also provided uncongested services for passengers using the Werribee and Williamstown services, who could now change at Southern Cross to Clifton Hill loop trains to travel to the three underground stations. At the same time, weekend services in the Clifton Hill loop were altered to run anti-clockwise. This change was reversed in December 2013, when the Clifton Hill loop was altered to run the same direction (clockwise) as on weekdays.

After this, most weekday Frankston services were altered to run direct, and to run through to the Werribee and Williamstown lines.

In the May 2011 timetable, Glen Waverley morning trains were altered to run direct, and Alamein and Blackburn trains altered to run via the underground loop. This also avoided each of these trains crossing the tracks of the other, thereby reducing network congestion.


Flinders Street

For more information, see Flinders Street station (Melbourne).

The iconic Flinders Street station is the hub of Melbourne suburban services, with almost all trains either starting or finishing their journeys there. Even when a train arrives from one direction and continues through to the other direction, this is considered two separate trips, and reliability statistics include how late or otherwise the train was in arriving at Flinders Street.

The station has 12 through platforms and one single-ended platform. Flinders Street station is situated between Flinders Street and the Yarra River, and adjacent to Swanston Street. As such, it serves the CBD of Melbourne and the Southbank redevelopment on the other side of the river and provides connections to the very busy tram routes along St. Kilda Road, as well as tram routes on Flinders Street and Elizabeth Street.

Princes Bridge

For more information, see Flinders Street station (Melbourne)).

Princes Bridge was opened in February 1859 as the terminal of the Melbourne and Suburban Railway's line to Punt Road (Richmond), but later came to be considered part of Flinders Street station. The final version of the station comprised three platforms below street level with office towers above the station. Two of the platforms were dead-end platforms accessible from the Jolimont end, and the third was a through platform which was a continuation of No. 1 platform at Flinders Street. Princes Bridge was finally closed for demolition in February 1997 (along with demolition of the office towers) to allow construction of Federation Square, although its through platform, with access from Flinders Street platform 1 only, was retained for emergency use.

Southern Cross

For more information, see Southern Cross station (Melbourne).

Southern Cross is the hub of regional and interstate services. It has 15 platforms, including six for suburban services, although some platforms used by regional services are long enough to be used by more than one train at a time, increasing the effective number of platforms. Two of the platforms are served by dual gauge track to cater for both broad-gauge regional services, and the standard-gauge interstate services.

In the mid 2000s, the station underwent a major rebuilding program, which transformed the station into a modern facility with an overall roof covering all but the northern ends of some platforms.

As well as bordering the western edge of the traditional CBD, the station borders the eastern edge of the Docklands redevelopment, and serves the adjacent Docklands Stadium. Many of Melbourne's tram routes run past the station, including those to Port Melbourne and St. Kilda which replaced the original railway lines to those locations.


Richmond is the junction of the Burnley and Caulfield groups of lines, as well as being an important interchange point for passengers changing between trains running via the underground loop and those running direct to and from Flinders Street. It also serves the nearby Melbourne Cricket Ground and other sporting facilities.

The station, which is built partly above Punt Road, has three pedestrian subways connecting the platforms. The eastern one, connected to the platforms by ramps, is also the main station entrance, which is off Swan Street. The centre subway, reached by stairs, connects the platforms only. The western subway, connected to the platforms by ramps, normally also connects platforms only, but has gates allowing entry and exit from the station which are used when required for nearby sporting events.

The station, which has ten platforms, is the fourth station on the approximate site. Because funds were short and the government required that the railway cross Punt Road on a bridge, the first station was built on the west side of Punt Road, as a temporary station until the bridge was built. This opened in February 1859, and closed in December the same year when the line was extended to the permanent station adjacent to Swan Street, about 1000 feet304.8 metres
333.332 yards
666.668 cubits
15.152 chains
further on. This station was named Swan Street, but was renamed Richmond in January 1867. In 1885 this station was rebuilt in conjunction with the line being regraded to cross Swan Street with a bridge.

Then beginning in February 1959, the current Richmond station was built just on the west side of the old station, with platforms that extend across the Punt Road bridge. This was part of a project to provide extra tracks on both the lines branching from Richmond, and individual platforms opened on different dates as the platforms were ready and the extra tracks provided. The new station had ten platforms, compared to the six platforms of the station it replaced. The last platform to open, platform 10, opened in June 1966.

North Melbourne

North Melbourne is the junction of the lines to Footscray, Craigieburn, and Upfield, and an important interchange point for passengers changing between trains running direct to and from Flinders Street or regional trains running to and from Southern Cross, and trains running via the underground loop.

The station received a new concourse at the southern end in 2010, partly to improve passenger interchange, as previously this could only be done at the very northern end of the station, and partly to make the station compliant with disability regulations, as the ramps to the original northern-end concourse were too steep for wheelchairs. The original concourse and ramps remain in use as an alternative, however.

The station has also become a interchange point for a bus service connection directly to Melbourne University, avoiding the need to travel into the CBD then catch a tram to the university.

The station has six platforms, although is likely to receive more as part of a project to provide separate tracks for regional trains.


Jolimont opened with the line in October 1901. It comprises two side platforms, and serves adjacent residential and commercial areas, as well as the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the Fitzroy Gardens. With the opening of the underground loop it became an interchange point for passengers wanting to change between direct and loop trains, and to cater for this express trains were altered to stop at Jolimont. This interchange ceased when all remaining direct trains were altered to run via the underground loop, although the stop for express trains remained. With the reversal of the direction of operation of the Clifton Hill loop on weekday mornings, many passengers with destinations in the eastern end of the CBD decided to alight at the station either to change to trams which run along the adjacent road, or to walk through the Fitzroy and Treasury Gardens.

Underground stations

The three underground stations (Parliament, Melbourne Central, and Flagstaff) were all part of the design for the underground lines, but were opened at different times as work progressed. Each station is situated below one of Melbourne's main streets (Parliament below Spring Street and Melbourne Central and Flagstaff below La Trobe Street). The platforms are arranged as two island platforms stacked vertically, with a concourse level above the uppermost platforms. The top island platform serves the Clifton Hill and Caulfield loops, and the bottom island platform serves the Northern and Burnley loops.


Parliament, on the eastern edge of the CBD, is the deepest (below ground level) of the three underground stations, and therefore the one with the longest escalators. It opened in January 1983, the second of the three underground stations to open.

The platform levels at Parliament were built using mining methods, boring out a tunnel for each platform and its track, as well as cross tunnels connecting the two platforms on the same level, and the escalator shafts. The concourse was constructed by boring shafts from the street and filling the shafts with concrete. These became the pillars holding up the roof and the roadway above. The the roof was constructed on top of the pillars, with the roadway reinstated on the roof. After this, the ground below the roof was excavated to create the concourse level.

Melbourne Central

Melbourne Central was the first of the underground loop stations to open, when the loop opened in January 1981. Unlike the other two underground stations, it was built by the cut-and-cover method, with the road above, including tram lines, being diverted while the station was being excavated. Consequently, also unlike the other two stations, the platforms of each level are not in separate tunnels connected by cross tunnels, but the space between platforms on each level is completely open.

The station was originally named Museum, as the state museum was then adjacent, but in 1997 was renamed Melbourne Central after the shopping centre built next to the station.

As well as serving one of Melbourne's main retail shopping areas, Melbourne Central serves the state library and RMIT university. It also adjoins tram services on three roads (Swanston, La Trobe, and Elizabeth Streets), one of which also takes passengers a couple of blocks to Queen Victoria Market, and another about 1 km0.621 miles
49.71 chains
to the University of Melbourne.


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