Bringing Adelaide’s suburban rail network into the city

Previously I’ve made comment about some potential transport infrastructure projects that I believe are worth considering including tunnels as part of Adelaide’s north-south corridor to replace South Road, and a new suburban line to the proposed Buckland Park development from Salisbury. The next vision I have is the expand the existing suburban rail network into the heart of the city.

Adelaideans who are well familiarised with the layout of central Adelaide will know that the main train station is located on North Terrace. So isn’t the city centre already served by the railway network? I don’t believe it is.

There are a lot of key destinations in the city centre that are a long walk from Adelaide Station. These include the Central Markets, Victoria Square and the East End. While it’s possible to connect to the free tram service outside Adelaide Station to reach some of these destinations, doing so is hardly convenient. In fact, it’s often quicker to take a bus to some city destinations than a train from certain railway stations, and the trams aren’t exactly quick either. It is this lack of accessibility by rail that often results in commuters choosing the bus over the train when given the choice. At the same time, it is also difficult to undertake cross suburban travel as all trains start and terminate at Adelaide Station, while many buses run suburb to suburb.

As Adelaide’s city centre and the number of commuters heading to the city centre grows, its single station will become ineffective at serving the city if patronage grows significantly when electric trains are introduced to the network. Adelaide railway station is to the metropolitan rail system what a hinge is to a door. If the hinge breaks down or has issues, the door malfunctions. A single derailment, signal malfunction or other incident around the station is all it takes to create delays or cause the entire network to shut down.

The Melbourne rail network is a perfect case of a vulnerable system with a hinge with every line running through the same city stations. On July 27 2010, an incident on Melbourne’s City Loop caused the entire Melbourne rail system to shut down for several hours, caused by a snapped wire above tracks between the city’s two busiest stations – Flinders Street and Southern Cross. See this footage for more about the incident.

If the experience of Perth’s electrification in the early 90’s is any indication of how patronage might grow, it may double within a few years. In Perth’s case, patronage increased from 7 million trips per year in 1992 to 30 million in 1997, although much of this growth resulted from the opening of a new line into Perth’s northern suburbs. Currently, Adelaide railway station serves over 40,000 movements a day. Following electrification, this may more than double. However, without other improvements to the rail system including improved accessibility to the city, electrification alone may not see the dramatic jumps in patronage experienced by Perth’s system.

To improve access to the city by rail, an underground line between Adelaide Gaol to Goodwood via the city could be constructed to provide new stations in the city, increase capacity and improve connectivity and flexibility to the operation of the rail system. The line would consist of two twin deep level tunnels with underground island platforms at Adelaide station (Central), Gawler Place, King William Street south (South Adelaide) and Wayville. Goodwood station would also be upgraded as part of the project and the junctions at Goodwood and North Adelaide reconfigured.

A scheme for building tunnels to improve rail accessibility to the city centre and improve flexibility of operations.

In regular service, this underground line would be served by the extended Seaford line, Tonsley line, Gawler line and the Buckland Park line which I suggested in a previous post. However, in emergencies or other circumstances, the tunnels could also be reached by the other lines. The Belair line would continue to serve Keswick and Mile End which would be bypassed by other lines. Trains would run through the tunnels and city without terminating, allowing for cross-suburban services from Seaford and Tonsley all the way to Gawler and Buckland Park, and vice versa.

The underground platforms at Adelaide station would be located under North Terrace, just east of Morphett Street. Exits would be to the existing Adelaide station, to Hindley Street and the Convention Centre. The line then swings around and follows Gawler Place heading south before reaching Gawler Place station, located between Grenfell and Pirie Streets. Exits here would be to the plaza adjacent the Grenfell Centre, Rundle Mall and Pirie Street. The line then travels diagonally through to Victoria Square and follows King William Street, reaching South Adelaide, located at the corner of Halifax and King William Streets. Exits would be built here and at Victoria Square. Wayville station would be located under Rose Terrace at Goodwood Road and would serve the Wayville Showgrounds, replacing the temporary station presently used.

Goodwood Station would be rebuilt with four platforms, each allowing cross-platform interchange between the Belair line and the tracks for the Seaford and Tonsley lines. In addition, platforms would be built on the tram line above the station to provide improved connectivity and a key transport interchange to Adelaide’s inner southern suburbs.

Finally, the junctions at Goodwood Station and the River Torrens near North Adelaide would need to be altered to remove conflicts between suburban trains on the TransAdelaide network and interstate trains on the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) network at these locations through grade separation to improve the movement of freight across the ARTC network, which is currently in planning.

It should be noted that this is not an official proposal, it is merely an idea and vision for improving the accessibility and flexibility of operations on Adelaide’s rail system, particularly in central Adelaide. This plan would also benefit the greater metropolitan rail network.


Transperth Patronage


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4 Responses to “Bringing Adelaide’s suburban rail network into the city”

  1. brisurban Says:

    It would be good to get through-running train services and also a decent interchange with bus and tram at the stations. Adelaide has an excellent straight-line road network which is great for running fast arterial bus services along.

    Auckland is doing a similar thing. Brisbane’s ‘central station’ isn’t really central at all, which is a problem.

    • Andrew Says:

      This is one of the biggest issues with using public transport in Adelaide. There’s so many services which run to the city centre, but only a handful run cross-suburban routes. With the rail services only running to the city, there are some bus routes which run significantly longer distances than some train lines with the buses being crowded while some rail lines have a lot of spare capacity (for reference, this mainly applies to the Tonsley Line).

      I’ve been monitoring projects taking place in Brisbane, and I note that the Cross River Rail project is one of the big ones in planning which is partly what inspired my vision. Hopefully it does go ahead eventually.

  2. Remember this idea? « Urban Rediscovery: Creating Better Communities Says:

    […] of this blog may recall a long term vision I imagined for bringing Adelaide’s suburban rail system into the heart of the… in the same way many of the rail systems in other Australian cities […]

  3. James Ian Mathews Says:

    Well I would be a great idea but you know that it would extend the network to Norwood and also with that also makes Adelaide a better place to get around, this would also have a benefit if there was and underground to The Race circuit for Clipsal which would be a apart of a Norwood line but you’d have to build many of them.

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