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T4 Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra Line

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The T4 Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra Line is a commuter rail line serving the eastern and southern suburbs of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The line forms part of the Sydney Trains network and is coloured blue on maps and informational material.

Today the railway consists of three connected lines:


Eastern Suburbs Line

The Suburbs Line runs between Bondi Junction in Sydney's east and Eveleigh, just south of the Sydney central business district. It is mostly underground, and consists of 7 kilometres of bored tunnels and 1.5 kilometres of cut and cover tunnels, with only 2 kilometres above ground.[1] In the Eastern Suburbs, three tunnels proceed in a westerly direction from Bondi Junction via Edgecliff and Kings Cross; in each of these tunnels there are stations. Between Bondi Junction and Edgecliff there is a short open-air cutting in Woollahra, and between Edgecliff and Kings Cross there is a short viaduct over the suburb of Rushcutters Bay.

From Kings Cross, the line proceeds west towards the Sydney Central Business District on a viaduct that passes over the suburb of Woolloomooloo. The line then passes into a tunnel underneath the Art Gallery of New South Wales to a station underneath Martin Place. Turning south, the line proceeds through Town Hall, Central and Redfern stations, before emerging behind the Eveleigh Railway Workshops.[2] The line is double track throughout, with turnback sidings at Martin Place and Bondi Junction for citybound trains, and at Central for trains from Bondi Junction.[1]

Illawarra & Cronulla Lines

The Illawarra Line commences at Illawarra Junction at Redfern and travel on the 'Illawarra' (eastern pair) tracks. A dive tunnel allows Intercity services from the South Coast Line to cross underneath the main suburban lines to access Central station. The Illawarra lines are also connected at this point to the Illawarra Relief Lines which emerge from underground and lead to the Eastern Suburbs Line.

From Illawarra Junction, four tracks head south through Erskineville and St Peters to Sydenham station. The 'main' pair of tracks are used by Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra Line and South Coast Line trains and the 'local' pair by T3 Bankstown Line and peak hour T8 Airport & South Line trains. At Sydenham, the Bankstown railway line branches off, but trains from the T8 Airport & South Line continue along the Illawarra line until Wolli Creek, where a junction to the East Hills line exists. South of Wolli Creek station, a crossover allows trains from the 'main' pair of tracks to switch to the 'local' pair. This is used by peak hour all-stations Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra Line trains. The four track section ends at Hurstville. The line then continues as two tracks south towards Sutherland, crossing the Georges River via the Como railway bridge between Oatley and Como. At Sutherland the Cronulla line branches in an easterly direction.

The main line then heads in a southerly direction, parallel to the Princes Highway to the west and bordering the Royal National Park on its eastern side until Waterfall, the last suburb in the Sydney metropolitan area. The track continues south from here through the Royal National Park towards the Illawarra region.


Illawarra line construction

The Illawarra line route was approved by the New South Wales Government in 1880. This route originated near the inner-city locality of Macdonaldtown and ran to Kiama via the locality of "Bottle Forest", a distance of 109km. The route selected comprises the present-day route of the Macdonaldtown to Waterfall section of the Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra Line.[3] On 6 April 1881, Governor Augustus Loftus assented to Act 44 Vic. No. 28, which provided £1,020,000 for the construction of this railway, and proposed that the first section of 37km, constituting approximately the present suburban route, be completed by 30 September 1884.[3] Almost immediately, concerns were raised about the new route's viability, most specifically over the cost of tunnelling between Waterfall and Otford to reach Wollongong. Work was suspended past the 24 kilometre point at Como, and Government surveyors were instructed to re-survey a route via the Port Hacking River that had originally been surveyed in 1873. Their work allayed concerns about the new route: although the new route had more tunnelling, excavation and sharp curves, the total cost of the "Bottle Forest" route was estimated at £130,175 less than the original Port Hacking route. The Minister for Works eventually agreed on this new route, although construction was again briefly halted when the contractors refused to recommence work on the disputed section.[4] With new contractors hired, the line was complete to Hurstville by 15 October 1884, Waterfall by 9 March 1886,[5] and the whole line to Kiama was opened officially in Wollongong on 22 June 1887.[4]

According to the official papers on the line's construction, when the line first opened for trains between Sydney and Sutherland construction was not quite complete, so excursion services initially ran on weekends only until the entire line was handed over. The first official train ran within the modern-day suburban area on 9 December 1885, although the line was closed once again between December 1885 and January 1886 to permit testing on the new bridge over the Georges River.[4]

Amplification and electrification

The line was originally constructed as double track between Illawarra Junction and Hurstville with single track thereafter; however, its rising use meant that the line required duplication soon afterwards. The line was duplicated between Hurstville and Loftus Station (with the exception of the Como bridge over the Georges River) in April 1890, then southward to Waterfall by 12 December 1890. The section of track between Illawarra Junction and Hurstville was quadruplicated between 1913 and 1925.[6]

After duplication in 1890, the original lattice-girder Como Bridge across the Georges River was laid as gauntlet track.[7] This arrangement remained in place for many decades, causing a notorious bottleneck on the line, until a new, double track bridge opened in November 1972.[8] The old bridge, as well as a former alignment of the line between Mortdale and Oatley replaced in 1905, is now used as a rail trail for pedestrians and cyclists.[9]

The Illawarra Line was the first railway electrified in New South Wales, and was electrified in conjunction with the construction of the City Railway between Central and St James, opening on 1 March 1926, a few months before the line was connected to the new underground railway.[6][10] By November 1926 the electric overhead had passed Sutherland and continued to the branch line constructed to the Royal National Park.[6] The line between Loftus and Waterfall remained unelectrified until 1980 and was serviced by steam trains and then diesel railcars.

Cronulla line

A single track tramway line, with four stations and a goods siding, was opened on 12 June 1911 at a cost of £37,505. The route commenced at the southern end of Sutherland station, proceeded north-east to the Princes Highway, east along the Kingsway, then south past the site of the present rail terminus to Shelly Park in the centre of Cronulla.[11]

By 1932 the Cronulla tramway had closed. Competing bus services had begun to run with unrestricted competition, and the tram line by this time was so full with services that trams often ran late due to holdups at the crossing loops and passengers missed their connections at Sutherland. The line suffered large losses in its later years, and the effect of the Great Depression at the time forced it to cease its services, the last passenger service operating on 3 August 1931. The goods service continued until 12 January of the next year.[12]

Although the closure of the tramway allowed planning to go ahead for a railway, the planning for the replacement railway line suffered various delays in the 1930s due to funding issues: the line's construction competed with a proposal to electrify the Illawarra Line to Waterfall, and there were disputes over the point at which the line would connect to the main line. Two early proposals to join the line at Como and north of Sutherland Station were rejected.[13] Despite the delays, Parliament finally gave approval to the line on 2 March 1936, and a route with five new stations was surveyed that would connect with the main line at the southern side of Sutherland station. The new line was opened on 16 December 1939.[14][15]

Eastern Suburbs line

In 1916, a plan for the city railways, and an Eastern Suburbs extension was drawn up by the Chief Engineer of the Melbourne Railway Construction, John Bradfield. It was given subsequent approval by Parliament. Bradfield's plan entailed building a City Circle loop, with an extension through to the Eastern Suburbs by means of a viaduct over Woolloomooloo. The line was to extend to Rosebery and Waterloo, with ten stations, linking with the Illawarra Line near Erskineville station.[16]

Upon the passing of the City and Suburban Electric Railways (Amendment) Act in 1947, construction finally commenced on a variation of the Bradfield's proposal.[17] Two lines would be built: one proceeding on a viaduct out to Kings Cross, then eventually to Bondi Beach. Another line would head from St James station via Taylor Square and the Sydney Cricket Ground, extending to Kingsford, with a proposal to extend from Taylor Square to Coogee. Construction commenced on sites around Central station but ceased in 1952 due to a recession.[16] Work remained abandoned for over a decade.

In 1967 construction again commenced on yet another variation on Bradfield's design. This involved the earlier route used towards Bondi Junction through Woolloomooloo, then an extension towards Kingsford with five extra stations at Charing Cross, Frenchmans Road, Randwick, University and Kingsford. The New South Wales Government awarded the contract for the civil and structural design to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority.[17] An official Legislative Assembly inquiry in 1976, however, recommended that costs on the project be cut, and the extension to Kingsford, a proposed station at Woollahra,[18] and the expansion of concourse areas at Bondi Junction and Martin Place stations did not proceed.[16] Nonetheless, it was resolved to fully integrate the railway with the Illawarra line. The Eastern Suburbs Railway opened between Central and Bondi Junction on 23 June 1979. Initially trains ran as shuttle services; it was not until a year later that work was finished to integrate the line with the broader network. A double-track junction with the Illawarra Line at Erskineville south of Illawarra Junction, twin single track tunnels connecting to the Eastern Suburbs Railway platforms at Central, a set of underground platforms at Redfern and a turnback tunnel at Martin Place opened to complete the project on 20 July 1980.[19]

Since 1980

Although crossing loops were installed at Caringbah and Gymea stations when the Cronulla line was opened, the single track line prevented the expansion of services to the Cronulla peninsula, and so in the 1980s it was decided to duplicate a 3.5 kilometre section of the line between Gymea and Caringbah, with Gymea, Miranda and Caringbah all receiving island platforms. The new section was opened on 15 July 1985.[20]

In 2002, former CityRail chairman Ron Christie released a report, the "Long-term strategic plan for rail", which outlined the critical infrastructure that would need to be built between then and 2050 to ensure the long-term survival and operation of the CityRail network. The report highlighted the problems facing the network at that time and noted that capacity on Illawarra Line trains was often at 120%, and that 180% was not unexpected.[21] Christie said that by 2011 there would be no capacity on the Eastern Suburbs Line for trains coming from the Illawarra Line.[22] To address this, the New South Wales Government constructed the Bondi Junction Turnback. Bondi Junction had originally been intended only as an intermediate turnback station before the extension to Kingsford was abandoned. As part of the Rail Clearways Program, the $77 million Bondi Junction Turnback project saw a new rail crossover was built between the single-track tunnels, enabling 20 trains an hour, up from 14, to use the station.[23][24] The work allowed for the introduction of a new timetable in May 2006 which reduced the overcrowding.[25][26]

A second project, the full duplication of the Cronulla branch line, was completed in 2010.[27] This increases the capacity of the branch line from four to eight trains per hour.[28] The line between Oatley, Sutherland and Cronulla also received signalling upgrades to allow more services to run at shorter intervals.[28][29] A new timetable with extra services was introduced in October 2010.[30]

The CityRail brand was dissolved in July 2013, as Sydney Trains took over operation of suburban services and the New South Wales Government's transport authority, Transport for NSW, took control of planning and branding of services. In October of that year, the line was given the number T4. This was part of a broader program to number all Sydney Trains, Sydney Ferries and Sydney Light Rail lines.



In addition to Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra Line trains, the Illawarra railway line carries interurban and freight traffic. The Cronulla branch line and the Eastern Suburbs Railway are exclusively used by passenger trains.

Historically, passenger services were provided to the Sydney Central by steam locomotives. The first services to Hurstville were run by steam locomotives of the Q.158 and R.285 classes.[31] When the City Underground opened to St James in 1926, a new electric service was provided to run there. From the time when the line to the Royal National Park was electrified, passengers received a steam train service at first, then when this became expensive, it was replaced by a rail motor service. This arrangement continued until the line was electrified to Waterfall, and the Eastern Suburbs Line was opened.[12] In 1979 the Eastern Suburbs Line being the first line to only use S set double-decker rolling stock.[1] The current running operations for passenger services have remained generally unchanged since 1981 with the integration of the Illawarra line and the Eastern Suburbs Railway. Suburban services utilise Erskineville Junction and proceed to Central and Bondi Junction.


T4 Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra Line stations
Name Distance from
Central (km)[32]
Opened[32] Railway line Sydney Trains interchanges Other interchanges*
Bondi Junction 6.76 1979 Eastern Suburbs none none
Edgecliff 4.82 1979
Kings Cross 3.41 1979
Martin Place 2.10 1979
Town Hall 1.21 1932[33]
Central (underground) 0 1979
Redfern (underground) 1.32 1980 Illawarra Relief
(T8 peak hours only)
Sydenham 5.30 1884 Illawarra
(T8 peak hours only)
Tempe 6.84 1884 none
Wolli Creek 7.30 2000[34]
Arncliffe 8.42 1884 none none
Banksia 9.60 1906
Rockdale 10.41 1884
Kogarah 11.61 1884
Carlton 12.74 1887
Allawah 13.69 1925
Hurstville 14.84 1884
Penshurst 16.12 1886 none
Mortdale 17.06 1897
Oatley 18.28 1886
Como 21.24 1885
Jannali 22.22 1931
Sutherland 24.46 1885
At Sutherland, the line branches. The southern branch is towards Waterfall, and the eastern branch is towards Cronulla.
To Waterfall
Loftus 26.29 1886 Illawarra none none
Engadine 30.75 1920
Heathcote 33.15 1886
Waterfall 38.74 1886
To Cronulla
Kirrawee 26.64 1939 Cronulla none none
Gymea 27.94 1939
Miranda 29.51 1939
Caringbah 31.51 1939
Woolooware 33.60 1939
Cronulla 34.81 1939

* Most stations are served by connecting bus services. Some additional stations may be served by intercity trains at certain times.

Stopping patterns

The stopping patterns on the Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra Line have generally been determined by several different termini. The steam era saw these termini change quite frequently as more terminating facilities were constructed: the first trains on the line after the Waterfall extension in 1887 either ran to Hurstville (16 per day), Sutherland (two per day) and Waterfall (two per day), with all trains stopping at every intermediate station. By 1907, however, Como and Oatley had been added to the list of termini, with nine and seven trains per day respectively. Seven trains per day at this time also ran to Sutherland, and one to Waterfall. Most trains terminated at Hurstville.[12]

Since electrification, the terminus stations for suburban trains have remained consistent. From 1926 trains terminated at either Hurstville, Sutherland and The (Royal) National Park. With the opening of the Cronulla branch in 1939, Cronulla become the fourth major terminus. In 1980 Waterfall was electrified and replaced The Royal National Park as a terminus, having been served by a diesel-operated shuttle service until then.[12]


The following table shows the patronage of Sydney Trains network for the year ending 30 June 2019.

2018-19 Sydney Trains patronage by line[n.b. 1] [35]
Line Figure

Sydney Trains patronage by line last financial year.png

  1. Figures based on Opal tap on and tap off data.
    = T1 North Shore, Northern & Western Line was split into the T1 North Shore & Western Line and T9 Northern Line in April 2019. These figures group the T1 Northern Line with those of the T9 Northern Line instead of the T1. Additionally, the Northern Line route was changed in Septermber 2018 when the Epping to Chatswood line was closed. This resulted in a decrease in Northern Line and an increase in North Shore Line patronage from October.

Metro proposal

Ron Christie's "Long-term strategic plan for rail" report from 2001 suggested that several "metro" lines be built to service new areas and to relieve capacity on existing lines. These included a metro line to supplement the Illawarra Line. The route would go from Cronulla to Miranda along the existing tracks, then along a reserved corridor for the F6 Southern Freeway up to Sydney Airport. The line would then extend to the Sydney CBD then to Sydney's Northern Beaches via Chatswood. Christie suggested that even if the entire line were not to be built, the first stage between Cronulla, the Airport and the City would provide "essential capacity relief" for the Illawarra line which would be "severely capacity-constrained" within two decades. Both heavy rail and light rail were mooted as transport suggestions.[36]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Public Transport Commission of New South Wales (1979), The story of the Eastern Suburbs Railway. Public Transport Commission of New South Wales: Sydney page 13.
  2. Rail Corporation New South Wales, Illawarra Line Track Diagram. Retrieved 9 September 2002.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Forsyth, J.H. (ed.) (1988–93), Stations & Tracks; Vol. 1: "Main Suburban & Branches – Illawarra & Branches". State Rail Authority of New South Wales: Sydney, p. 171.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Forsyth, J.H. (ed.) (1988–93), Stations & Tracks; Vol. 1: "Main Suburban & Branches – Illawarra & Branches". State Rail Authority of New South Wales: Sydney, p. 172.
  5. Bozier, Rolfe, "New South Wales Railways: Waterfall Railway Station". Retrieved 11 January 2007.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Forsyth, J.H. (ed.) (1988–93), Stations & Tracks; Vol. 1: "Main Suburban & Branches – Illawarra & Branches". State Rail Authority of New South Wales: Sydney, p. 100.
  7. Dewick, Craig, "Railzone FAQ#2: What is gauntlet track?" Template:Webarchive. Retrieved 11 January 2007.
  8. Forsyth, J.H. (ed.) (1988–93), Stations & Tracks; Vol. 1: "Main Suburban & Branches – Illawarra & Branches". State Rail Authority of New South Wales: Sydney, p. 121.
  9. "RailTrails Australia: Como Railway Bridge – Trail Description". Retrieved 11 January 2007.
  10. Lukaszyk, Anita, "Neety's Train Page – Electrification" Template:Webarchive (Table sourced from Historic Electric Traction). Railpage Australia: Melbourne. Retrieved 11 January 2007.
  11. Forsyth, J.H. (ed.) (1988–93), Stations & Tracks; Vol. 1: "Main Suburban & Branches – Illawarra & Branches". State Rail Authority of New South Wales: Sydney, pp. 208–10.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Neve, Peter (1997), "Railways (and tramways) in the Sutherland Shire": (Sutherland Shire Studies No. 6) Template:Webarchive , Sutherland Shire Council. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
  13. Forsyth, J.H. (ed.) (1988–93), Stations & Tracks; Vol. 1: "Main Suburban & Branches – Illawarra & Branches". State Rail Authority of New South Wales: Sydney, p. 211.
  14. Bozier, Rolfe, "New South Wales Railways: Cronulla Line: History". Accessed 11 January 2007.
  15. Forsyth, J.H. (ed.) (1988–93), Stations & Tracks; Vol. 1: "Main Suburban & Branches – Illawarra & Branches". State Rail Authority of New South Wales: Sydney, p. 216.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Public Transport Commission of New South Wales (1979), The story of the Eastern Suburbs Railway. Public Transport Commission of New South Wales: Sydney, pp. 5–6.
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Australasian Tunnelling Society: Eastern Suburbs Railway - Sydney" Template:Webarchive . Retrieved 4 March 2013.
  18. "Trendy's Train Page: Woollahra Station". Retrieved 11 January 2007.
  19. Forsyth, J.H. (ed.) (1988–93), Stations & Tracks; Vol. 1: "Main Suburban & Branches – Illawarra & Branches". State Rail Authority of New South Wales: Sydney, p. 42.
  20. Forsyth, J.H. (ed.) (1988–93), Stations & Tracks; Vol. 1: "Main Suburban & Branches – Illawarra & Branches". State Rail Authority of New South Wales: Sydney, p. 206.
  21. Goodsir, Darren & Kerr, Joseph, "Exposed: Fast Track To Rail Chaos", Sydney Morning Herald, 25 February 2002, p. 1.
  22. Christie, Ron, "Long-term strategic plan for rail: overview report: Greater Sydney metropolitan region" – Chapter 4.4, Action for Public Transport New South Wales, June 2001. Retrieved 11 January 2007.
  23. Transport Infrastructure Development Corporation, "Bondi Junction Turnback: Project Profile" Template:Webarchive. Retrieved 11 January 2007.
  24. "Bondi rail project 'to boost efficiency'", Sydney Morning Herald, 17 April 2006. Retrieved 11 January 2007.
  25. Australian Associated Press, "Trains running on time for timetable day two", 6 September 2005. Retrieved 11 January 2007.
  26. Transport Infrastructure Development Corporation, "Media Release: Bondi Junction Clearways Project Completed", 1 May 2006. Retrieved 11 January 2007.
  27. Timetable and platform changes on the Cronulla branch line Template:Webarchive CityRail. Retrieved 4 March 2013
  28. 28.0 28.1 "CityRail Xpress", edition 126, 21 April 2010.
  29. New South Wales State Government, "New South Wales State Plan" Template:Webarchive, 2006, Appendix, pp. 2, 3 & 5. Retrieved 30 December 2006.
  30. "2010 timetable". Archived from the original on 20 August 2010. 
  31. Forsyth, J.H. (ed.) (1988–93), Stations & Tracks; Vol. 1: "Main Suburban & Branches – Illawarra & Branches". State Rail Authority of New South Wales: Sydney, p. 174.
  32. 32.0 32.1 Sourced from Forsyth, J.H. (ed.) (1988–93), Stations & Tracks; Vol. 1: "Main Suburban & Branches – Illawarra & Branches". State Rail Authority of New South Wales: Sydney, pp. 42–44, 101–128, 206–208 passim, except where noted.
  33. The Eastern Suburbs Railway platforms for Town Hall and Central stations were first used in 1979. Cited in Forsyth, J.H. (ed.) (1988–93), Stations & Tracks; Vol. 1: "Main Suburban & Branches – Illawarra & Branches". State Rail Authority of New South Wales: Sydney, pp. 42–43.
  34. Bozier, Rolfe, "New South Wales Railways: Airport Line: History". Retrieved 24 January 2007.
  35. "Train Patronage - Monthly Figures". Transport for NSW. Retrieved 23 August 2019. 
  36. Christie, Ron, "Long-term strategic plan for rail: overview report: Greater Sydney metropolitan region" – Chapter 5, Action for Public Transport New South Wales, June 2001. Retrieved 11 January 2007.


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This article incorporates text from the following revision of the English Wikipedia article "Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra Line":

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