The Upfield line is a commuter railway line in the city of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.[1] Operated by Metro Trains Melbourne, it is the city's fifth shortest metropolitan railway line at 20.1 kilometres (12.5 mi). The line runs from Flinders Street station in central Melbourne to Upfield station in the north, serving 19 stations via North Melbourne, Brunswick, Coburg, and Fawkner.[1] The line operates for approximately 19 hours a day (from approximately 5:00 am to around 12:00 am) with 24 hour service available on Friday and Saturday nights. During peak hours, headways of up to 15 minutes are operated with services every 20–30 minutes during off-peak hours.[1] Trains on the Upfield line run with a two three-car formations of Comeng or Siemens Nexas trainsets.

Railways in Melbourne
Moreland station on the Upfield line.
Upfield line train in Brunswick.
Service typeCommuter rail
SystemMelbourne railway network
LocaleMelbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • Coburg (1884–1889)
  • Somerton (1889–1903)
  • Coburg (1903–1914)
  • Fawkner † (1906–1914)
  • Fawkner (1914–1920)
  • Fawkner ^ (1920–1959)
  • Somerton § (1928–1956)
^ are electric services

† cemetery traffic only

§ railmotor service
First service9 September 1884; 139 years ago (1884-09-09)
Current operator(s)Metro Trains
Former operator(s)
TerminiFlinders Street
Stops19 (including City Loop stations)
Distance travelled20.1 km (12.5 mi)
Average journey time36 minutes (not via City Loop)
Service frequency
  • 15–20 minutes weekdays peak
  • 20 minutes weekdays off-peak
  • 20 minutes weekend daytime
  • 30 minutes nights
  • 60 minutes early weekend mornings
Line(s) usedUpfield
Rolling stockComeng, Siemens
Track gauge1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in)
Electrification1500 V DC overhead
Track owner(s)VicTrack

Services on the line began in 1884 when a line opened from North Melbourne to Coburg.[2] In October 1889, it was extended to Somerton, with track, signalling, and other upgrade works taking place.[2] In 1961, the section from Upfield to Somerton was closed, and remains this way into the 21st century.[3] Operations on the Upfield line were in serious doubt in the late 1980s and early 1990s with proposals for the line to be converted into a light rail line or a full closure.[3][4] The 2018 Victorian Rail Plan has identified the need to reopen the Somerton link and return it to metropolitan services alongside an extension of the line in the near future.[5]

Since the 2010s, due to the heavily utilised infrastructure of the Upfield line, improvements and upgrades have been made. Works have included replacing sleepers, upgrading signalling technology, the removal of level crossings, the introduction of new rolling stock, and station accessibility upgrades.[6]

History Edit

19th century Edit

The Upfield line originally began as a line from North Melbourne to Coburg.[7] The line was opened by the Governor of Victoria Henry Loch in September 1884, with the line costing £53,000 at the time.[7][8] In October 1889, it was extended to Somerton, with duplication works already underway with the additional track being provided to Royal Park in September 1888, to South Brunswick (now Jewell) in May 1889, Brunswick to Coburg in December 1891, and from South Brunswick to Brunswick in August 1892.[9]

20th century Edit

Early upgrades (1900–1950) Edit

AEC railmotor near Fawkner.

The Coburg to Somerton section closed in July 1903, but reopened as far as Fawkner in December 1906.[10][2] The reopening was for funeral trains only, in conjunction with the opening of the adjacent Fawkner Cemetery.[2][11] Passenger services were extended to Fawkner in 1915, with the line electrified by December 1920.[12]

In March 1928, despite strong resistance from the Railways Commissioners, the state government ordered the reopening of the section from Fawkner to Somerton for passengers.[13][14] Services were provided by an AEC railmotor, which connected with electric trains at Fawkner.

Upfield—Somerton link (1950–1970) Edit

In May 1956, the line from Fawkner to Somerton was again closed, but only three years later, in July 1959, the Upfield to Somerton section reopened for goods trains. Also in 1959, the section from Coburg to Fawkner was duplicated and in the following month, the section from Fawkner to Upfield was reopened, after being electrified, to cater for workers at the new Ford automotive factory next to the station.[4] In September 1958, Sunday evening services on the line after 6pm were withdrawn, being replaced by adjacent tram routes, particularly the North Coburg line (now Route 19). At the outer end of the railway line, a bus service was provided, connecting with trams in North Coburg.[15] In June 1961, that arrangement was extended to apply for the whole of Sunday and in October 1961 it was further extended to include services after 7:30pm between Monday's and Saturday's.[15]

In January 1963, the line from Somerton to the Ford factory was re-laid as dual gauge gauntlet track, a year after the North East standard gauge line through Somerton opened.[16] In October 1968, electric staff working was introduced on the Upfield to Somerton section.[16]

The track continues past Upfield to rejoin the North East line near Somerton. In the 1960s, that section was re-laid as dual gauge gauntlet track to provide a connection with the interstate standard gauge line to New South Wales.[16] However, that part of the line, which included four industrial sidings, has not been used for some time and is out of commission. As of 2018, there have been proposals to reactivate this section of track, however, no significant progress has been made other than minor mentions in planning documents.[5]

Proposed light rail conversion and modernisation efforts (1970–2000) Edit

Automatic signalling advanced a little further along the line in August 1971, with Royal Park to Jewell being converted.[17] In April 1972, the Macaulay to Royal Park section was similarly converted.[17] By May 1988, serious consideration was given to proposals to convert the line to light rail, following the conversion of the St Kilda and Port Melbourne lines in 1987.[2][3][4] A report submitted to the Cain government determined that the route suffered from low passenger numbers, redundancy with the Route 19 tram, outdated signalling systems, manned boom gates well past their prime, and that substantial investments would be required to modernise the line to meet modern standards.[18] After discussions with local councils, unions, the public, and the Metropolitan Transit Authority, two options were floated. These options included:[19]

  • The conversion of the entire line, or part of the line to light rail
  • The closure of large amounts of the line and instead running the light rail via Sydney Road
Tinning Street crossing was permanently closed in 1998, with ~20 people gathered at the site during the final train service, including local members of state and federal parliament Carlo Carli and Kelvin Thomson.

These proposals were put to rest in April 1995, when it was announced that $23 million would be spent upgrading the line.[19][4] The work included the provision of power signalling for the whole line, and the installation of boomgates at all level crossings, except for a few that were closed instead.[19] At the time, many of the numerous level crossings on the line were still controlled by gatekeepers, who opened and closed the gates manually for every train.[19]

21st century Edit

During the 2006 Commonwealth Games, Royal Park station played a critical role in the running of the games, as it was centrally located to the athletes village and the State Netball and Hockey Centre.[20] The line and station became heavily utilised during the games, with increased security and staff presence at the station.

Future Edit

Level Crossing Removals Edit

Coburg station was rebuilt in conjunction with the removal of 4 crossings.

The Level Crossing Removal Project has announced the removal of 13 level crossings on the line, to be completed in stages from 2017 to 2027.[6][21][22][23][24] In 2017, one level crossing was removed at Camp Road, Campbellfield. The crossing was removed by lowering the rail line underneath the road.[25] A skyrail from Coburg to Moreland stations was constructed in 2020 to remove four level crossings. Crossings were removed at Bell Street, Moreland Road, Munro Street, and Reynard Street, with both Coburg and Moreland stations rebuilt as part of these removals.[6][21][22][23] The final batch of crossings to be removed will be a group of eight crossings from Anstey to Jewell stations via another rail bridge. Crossings will be removed at Albert Street, Albion Street, Brunswick Road, Dawson Street, Hope Street, Union Street, Victoria Street, and Park Street. In addition, Anstey, Brunswick, and Jewell stations will also be rebuilt as part of the project.[24] At the end of these removals, the Upfield line will have 10 remaining crossings on the corridor that aren't slated for removal.

Wallan extension Edit

Highlighted in the 2018 Victorian Rail Plan, a proposal exists for the Upfield line to be extended via the current Somerton link to the Craigieburn line, then onto Wallan. The 2018 Victorian Rail Plan has proposed the following projects take place as part of the Wallan extension:[5][26]

Stage Project Notes
Stage 2 (Metro Tunnel Day One) Rerouting of Seymour and Shepparton services via the Upfield line instead of the Craigieburn line This project is meant to be completed by the opening of the Metro Tunnel in 2025, however, as of 2023 there hasn't been any progress
Stage 3 Somerton to Craigieburn quadruplication
Stage 4 Extension of the Upfield line to Wallan
  • Electrifying the Somerton link
  • Electrifying the regional track between Craigieburn and Wallan
  • Upgrading Wallan and Donnybrook stations
  • Constructing a new station at Lockerbie
  • Reopening Beveridge station

In 2018, the government announced that a business case would be completed to further investigate the possibility for these series of projects to commence.[5] A business case was completed, however, it wasn't released to the public. Since the business case in 2018, there have been little developments despite the 'Metro Tunnel Day One' milestone of the 2018 Plan fast approaching.[27]

Network and operations Edit

Services Edit

Services on the Upfield line operates from approximately 5:00 am to around 12:00 daily.[1] The Upfield line has one of the least-frequent peak-period services in Melbourne's railway network, with train frequency being every 15–20 minutes while outside the peak the frequency is reduced to 20–30 minutes throughout the entire route.[1][5][20] On Friday and Saturday nights, services run 24 hours a day, with 60-minute frequencies available outside of normal operating hours.[28]

Train services on the Upfield line are also subjected to maintenance and renewal works, usually on selected Fridays and Saturdays. Shuttle bus services are provided throughout the duration of works for affected commuters.[29][30][31]

Stopping patterns Edit

Legend — Station status

  • Premium Station – Station staffed from first to last train
  • Host Station – Usually staffed during morning peak, however this can vary for different stations on the network.

Legend — Stopping patterns
Some services do not operate via the City Loop

  • ● – All trains stop
  • ◐ – Some services do not stop
  • | – Trains pass and do not stop
Upfield Services[32]
Station Zone Local
Flagstaff 1
Melbourne Central
Flinders Street
Southern Cross
North Melbourne
Flemington Bridge
Royal Park
Batman 1/2
Gowrie 2

Operators Edit

The Upfield line has had a total of 7 operators since its opening in 1884. The majority of operations throughout its history have been government run: from its first service in 1884 until the 1999 privatisation of Melbourne's rail network, four different government operators have run the line.[33] These operators, Victorian Railways, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the Public Transport Corporation, and Bayside Trains have a combined operational length of 121 years.

Bayside Trains was privatised in August 1999 and later rebranded as M>Train. In 2002, M>Train was placed into receivership and the state government regained ownership of the line, with KPMG appointed as receivers to operate M>Train on behalf of the state government.[34][35][36] Two years later, rival train operator Connex Melbourne took over the M>Train operations including the Frankston line. Metro Trains Melbourne, the current private operator, then took over the operations in 2009. The private operators have had a combined operational period of 24 years.[37]

Past and present operators of the Upfield line:
Operator Assumed operations Ceased operations Length of operations
Victorian Railways 1884 1983 105 years
Metropolitan Transit Authority 1983 1989 6 years
Public Transport Corporation 1989 1998 9 years
Bayside Trains (government operator) 1998 1999 1 year
M>Train 1999 2004 5 years
Connex Melbourne 2004 2009 5 years
Metro Trains Melbourne 2009 incumbent 13 years (ongoing)

Route Edit

Interactive map of the Upfield line in northern Melbourne.
Upfield (physical track)
StatusOperational with passenger services from Flinders Street to Upfield
LocaleMelbourne, Victoria, Australia
Connecting linesAll metropolitan, regional, and interstate
Former connectionsInner Circle
  • 19 current stations
  • 2 former station
  • 2 siding
  • 6 former sidings
Commenced9 September 1884 (1884-09-09)
  • Southern Cross to North Melbourne on 17 January 1859 (1859-01-17)
  • To Coburg on 9 September 1884 (1884-09-09)
  • To Somerton on 8 October 1889 (1889-10-08)
  • Flinders Street to Southern Cross on 29 November 1891 (1891-11-29)
Completed29 November 1891 (1891-11-29)
  • Coburg to Fawkner (Cemetery traffic only) on 10 December 1906 (1906-12-10)
  • Coburg to Fawkner on 1 October 1914 (1914-10-01)
  • Fawkner to Somerton on 5 March 1928 (1928-03-05)
  • Upfield to Somerton on 19 July 1959 (1959-07-19)
  • Fawkner to Upfield on 17 August 1959 (1959-08-17)
  • Flinders Street to North Melbourne on 28 May 1919 (1919-05-28)
  • North Melbourne to Fawkner on 2 December 1920 (1920-12-02)
  • Fawkner to Upfield on 17 August 1959 (1959-08-17)
  • Coburg to Somerton on 13 July 1903 (1903-07-13)
  • Fawkner to Somerton on 5 May 1956 (1956-05-05)
Line length23.289 km (14.47 mi)
Number of tracks
Track gauge1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in)
Electrification1500 V DC overhead
Operating speed
  • 80 km/h (50 mph) – Electric
  • 65 km/h (40 mph) – Diesel
SignallingAutomatic block signaling
Maximum incline1 in 50 (2%)

The Upfield line forms a linear route from the Melbourne central business district to its terminus in Upfield. The route is 20.1 kilometres (12.5 mi) long, making it the fifth shortest line on the Melbourne metropolitan network.[38] The line is double tracked from the city to Gowrie station with the line only having a single track past that point till Upfield. The only underground section of the Upfield line is in the City Loop, where the service stops at three underground stations.[39] Exiting the city, the Upfield line traverses mainly flat country with few curves and fairly minimal earthworks for most of the line. Some sections of the line have been elevated or lowered into a cutting to eliminate level crossings. Despite some removals, there are a number of level crossings still present with no current plans to remove them. Rare in Melbourne, the line travels underneath the CityLink toll road beside the Moonee Ponds creek for a portion of the line, before rising up a lengthy hill in Royal Park until it reaches Jewell railway station.[2]

The line follows the same alignment as multiple lines with the Upfield line splitting off at North Melbourne. The Upfield line continues on its northern alignment, whereas the other lines continue onto a western or south-western alignment.[1] Most of the rail line goes through built-up suburbs and some industrial areas.

Stations Edit

The line serves 19 stations across 20.1 kilometres (12.5 mi) of track. The stations are a mix of elevated, lowered, underground, and ground level designs. Underground stations are present only in the City Loop, with the majority of elevated and lowered stations being constructed as part of level crossing removals.[40][41] From 2027, Anstey, Brunswick, and Jewell stations will be elevated as part of level crossing removal works. Notably, the line has one of the lowest proportion of premium stations amongst Melbourne's railway lines, with only three stations past the North Melbourne junction classified as premium stations.[42]

Station Accessibility Opened Terrain Train connections Other connections
Flinders Street Yes—step free access 1854[43] Lowered    
Southern Cross 1859[43] Ground level        
Parliament 1983[43] Underground  
Melbourne Central 1981[43]    
Flagstaff 1985[43]  
North Melbourne 1859[43] Ground level  
Macaulay 1887[43]
Flemington Bridge No—steep ramp 1885[43] Elevated    
Royal Park Yes—step free access 1884[43] Ground level
Jewell No—steep ramp
Brunswick Yes—step free access
Anstey 1926[43]
Moreland 1884[43] Elevated
Batman 1889[43] Ground level    
Gowrie 1928[43]
Upfield 1889[43]
Station histories
Station Opened[38] Closed[38] Age Notes[38]
Flagstaff 27 May 1985 38 years
Melbourne Central 26 January 1981 42 years
  • Formerly Museum
Parliament 22 January 1983 40 years
Flinders Street 12 September 1854 169 years
  • Formerly Melbourne Terminus
Southern Cross 17 January 1859 164 years
  • Formerly Batman's Hill
  • Formerly Spencer Street
North Melbourne 6 October 1859 163 years
Macaulay Stabling Sidings and Light Repair Centre ?
Arden Street Sidings ? ?
Macaulay 1 December 1887 135 years
  • Formerly Macaulay Road
  • Located under CityLink
Flemington Bridge 10 April 1885 138 years
  • Formerly Flemington
Royal Park 9 September 1884 139 years
Jewell 9 September 1884 139 years
  • Formerly South Brunswick
Brunswick 9 September 1884 139 years
Anstey 13 December 1926 96 years
  • Formerly North Brunswick
Moreland 9 September 1884 139 years
Coburg 9 September 1884 139 years
Batman 8 October 1889 13 July 1903 13 years
  • Was originally Bell Park
1 October 1914 109 years
  • Reopened as Batman
Merlynston 8 October 1889 13 July 1903 13 years
  • Formerly North Coburg
1 October 1914 109 years
Fawkner 8 October 1889 13 July 1903 13 years
12 December 1906 116 years
  • Reopened as Fawkner Cemetery
RMSP 13 5 March 1928 5 May 1956 28 years
  • Approx. near Box Forest Road
Gowrie c. 16 October 1928 Approx. 94 years
  • Formerly RMSP 21
RMSP 23 c. 16 July 1929 5 May 1956 Approx. 26 years
  • Approx. near Camp Road
Campbellfield 8 October 1889 13 July 1903 13 years
5 March 1928 5 May 1956 28 years
  • Reopened as Campbellfield RMSP
RMSP 18 c. 24 April 1928 5 May 1956 Approx. 28 years
  • Incorrectly numbered RMSP 15 in 1928
  • Approx. near Sunshine Street
RMSP 14 5 March 1928 5 May 1956 28 years
  • Approx. near Herbert Street
Upfield 8 October 1889 13 July 1903 13 years
  • Was originally North Campbellfield
5 March 1928 5 May 1956 28 years
  • Reopened as North Campbellfield RMSP
17 August 1959 64 years
  • Reopened as Upfield
Tubemakers of Australia Ltd. Sidings 28 August 1962 ?
  • Formerly Metters Clow Siding
  • Formerly Station Pipes Australia Siding
Ford Sidings (broad gauge) 19 July 1959 2 May 1997 37 years
  • Dual gauge
Ford Sidings (standard gauge) 11 January 1963 ?
Union Steel Pty. Ltd. Sidings 21 January 1975 2 May 1997 22 years
  • Standard gauge only
Kauri Timber Co. Ltd. Siding 18 September 1969 2 May 1997 27 years
  • Dual gauge
  • Formerly Shaw's Siding
Clyde Industries Ltd. Siding 10 December 1959 ?
  • Broad gauge only
  • Formerly Martin & King's Siding
Somerton 15 May 1881 24 September 1963 82 years
  • Between 1889 and 1903 connected to platform.
  • Between 1928 and 1956 railmotor stop near platform (not connected to platform)
Somerton Yard 8 October 1889 5 October 1903 13 years
24 January 1912 111 years

Infrastructure Edit

Rolling stock Edit

The Upfield line uses two different types of electric multiple unit (EMU) trains that are operated in a split six-car configuration, with three doors per side on each carriage. The primary rolling stock featured on the line is the Comeng EMUs, built by Commonwealth Engineering between 1981 and 1988.[44] These train sets are the oldest on the Melbourne rail network and subsequently will be replaced by the late 2020s.[45][46][47][48] The second type of rolling stock is the Siemens Nexas EMUs which are also widely featured on the line, originally built between 2002 and 2005 these train sets feature more modern technology than the Comeng trains.[49]

Alongside the passenger trains, Upfield line tracks and equipment are maintained by a fleet of engineering trains. The four types of engineering trains are: the shunting train; designed for moving trains along non-electrified corridors and for transporting other maintenance locomotives, for track evaluation; designed for evaluating track and its condition, the overhead inspection train; designed for overhead wiring inspection, and the infrastructure evaluation carriage designed for general infrastructure evaluation.[50] Most of these trains are repurposed locomotives previously used by V/Line, Metro Trains, and the Southern Shorthaul Railroad.[50]

Planned rolling stock Edit

From the middle of 2020s, the next generation of the X'Trapolis family of electric EMUs—the X'Trapolis 2.0—will be introduced. This new model will fully replace the existing fleet of Comeng EMUs currently operating on the line currently with new, modern, and technologically advanced trains. The new trains will feature:[51]

  • Modernised doors to reduce the boarding times at stations to under 40 seconds
  • Passenger information systems to display that train's journey in real time
  • Higher energy efficiency to work with a lower network voltage, to fit in line with modern rail systems overseas
  • New interior designs including tip-up seating to allow space for wheelchair spaces.
  • Designated bicycle storage areas
  • Passenger operated automatic wheelchair ramps located behind driver cabs
  • 6 car fully walk through carriages

Accessibility Edit

In compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act of 1992, all stations that are new-built or rebuilt are fully accessible and comply with these guidelines.[52][53][54] The majority of the stations on the corridor are fully accessible, however, there are some stations that haven't been upgraded to meet these guidelines.[55] These stations do feature ramps, however, they have a gradient greater than 1 in 14.[55] Stations that are fully accessible feature ramps that have a gradient less than 1 in 14, have at-grade paths, or feature lifts.[55] These stations typically also feature tactile boarding indicators, independent boarding ramps, wheelchair accessible myki barriers, hearing loops, and widened paths.[55][56][57]

Projects improving station accessibility have included the Level Crossing Removal Project, which involves station rebuilds and upgrades, and individual station upgrade projects.[58][59] These works have made significant strides in improving network accessibility, with more than 90% of Upfield line stations classed as fully accessible.[55] Future station upgrade projects are planned to increase the number of fully accessible stations overtime.[41]

Signalling Edit

The Upfield line uses three-position signalling which is widely used across the Melbourne train network. Three-position signalling was first introduced in 1928, with the final section of the line converted to the new type of signalling in 1972.[15]

References Edit

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  3. ^ a b c "Melbourne's Upfield tram line – union & community action". Tribune. 10 May 1989. Archived from the original on 11 April 2023. Retrieved 11 April 2023.
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