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Flemington Racecourse line

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Flemington Racecourse
Railways in Melbourne
Service typeCommuter rail
SystemMelbourne railway network
StatusOperational; special events only
LocaleMelbourne, Victoria, Australia
First service28 February 1861; 163 years ago (1861-02-28)
Current operator(s)Metro Trains
Former operator(s)
TerminiFlinders Street
Flemington Racecourse
Distance travelled7.8 km (4.8 mi)
Average journey time~17 minutes
Service frequency4–60 minutes during special events
Line(s) usedFlemington Racecourse, Albury (Craigieburn)
Rolling stockComeng, Siemens, X'Trapolis 100
Track gauge1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in)
Electrification1500 V DC overhead
Track owner(s)VicTrack

The Flemington Racecourse line is a commuter railway line in the city of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.[1] Operated by Metro Trains Melbourne, it is the city's shortest metropolitan railway line at 7.8 kilometres (4.8 mi). The line runs from Flinders Street station in central Melbourne to Flemington Racecourse station, situated next to the racecourse in the city's north west, serving a total of 5 stations.[2] The line operates only during special events, with services as frequent as every 4 minutes during peak periods of those special events.[3][4] Trains on the Flemington Racecourse line run with two three-car formations of Comeng, Siemens Nexas, or X'Trapolis 100 trainsets.[5]

The Flemington Racecourse line originated in 1861 as a branch of the Melbourne and Essendon Railway Company, designed to link the Melbourne rail network with Flemington Racecourse.[6] The racecourse, established in 1840, gained its railway connection in 1861 but closed in 1864 due to financial issues.[7] The Victorian Railways took over and reopened the line in 1867.[7] Notably, the line was electrified in 1918, making it Melbourne's first electrified route.[8] Automatic signalling was introduced in 1919, though the connection between points and signals ceased in the 1980s or 1990s with the closure of sidings.

Since the 2010s, only minor upgrades have taken place, including upgrades of signalling, the replacement of sleepers, and station accessibility upgrades.


19th century[edit]

The Flemington Racecourse line opened as a branch from Newmarket by the Melbourne and Essendon Railway Company in February 1861.[7] The line was constructed to connect the Melbourne rail network with Flemington Racecourse, the main horse racing facility in Melbourne.[6] The racecourse was originally opened in 1840 and received its rail connection 21 years later in 1861.[9] Three years later, in July 1864, the line was closed after the company faced financial difficulties. The line was taken over by the Victorian Railways and reopened in November 1867.[9]

20th century[edit]

The line was electrified in 1918 for the testing of electric trains, and therefore became the first electrified line in Melbourne. The first electric train ran a test trip from Newmarket to Flemington Racecourse station on 6 October 1918.[8]

Automatic signalling, using two-position signals, was provided in September 1919.[10] When passenger services were operated on the line, the points were connected to the signal boxes and the signals were brought into use.[10] This arrangement finished in the 1980s or 1990s when the sidings were closed.

21st century[edit]

During the 2017 Melbourne Cup, a group of activists drove onto and blocked the rail tracks in an effort to protest refugee detention centres on Manus Island.[11] The disruption caused major delays on the line during its busiest period of the year, causing racegoers to exit the train with assistance from emergency services and walk along the tracks to access the racecourse.[12]

Network and operations[edit]


Services on the Flemington Racecourse line operate only during special events, including during the Melbourne Cup, Oaks Day, the Royal Melbourne Show, university exams (at Victoria University located nearby), or any other large events.[13] In general, during special events, train frequency is 4–60 minutes depending on the size of the crowd and the flow of passengers.[14] As the line only operates during special events, services do not run 24 hours a day on Friday nights and weekends.[15]

Train services on the Flemington Racecourse line are also subjected to maintenance and renewal works, usually when the line isn't in use for special events. In the event that maintenance does need to occur during a special event, shuttle bus services are provided throughout the duration of works for affected commuters.[16]

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
Services do not operate via the City Loop

  • ● – All trains stop
  • ◐ – Some services do not stop
  • | – Trains pass and do not stop
Flemington Racecourse Services
Station Zone Show special Race special
Flinders Street 1
Southern Cross
North Melbourne
Showgrounds |
Flemington Racecourse


The Flemington Racecourse line has had a total of 7 operators since its opening in 1861. The majority of operations throughout its history have been government run: from the acquisition of the service from private operator Melbourne and Essendon Railway Company in 1867 until the 1998 privatisation of Melbourne's rail network, four different government operators have run the line.[17] These operators, Victorian Railways, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the Public Transport Corporation, and Hillside Trains have a combined operational length of 133 years. Hillside Trains was privatised in 1999[18] and later rebranded Connex Melbourne. Metro Trains Melbourne, the current private operator, then took over the operations in 2009. Both private operators have had a combined operational period of 26 years.[19]

Past and present operators of the Flemington Racecourse line:
Operator Assumed operations Ceased operations Length of operations
Melbourne and Essendon Railway Company 1861 1864 3 years
Victorian Railways 1867 1983 116 years
Metropolitan Transit Authority 1983 1989 6 years
Public Transport Corporation 1989 1998 9 years
Hillside Trains (government operator) 1998 2000 2 years
Connex Melbourne 2000 2009 9 years
Metro Trains Melbourne 2009 incumbent 14 years (ongoing)


Interactive map of Flemington Racecourse line in northern Melbourne.
Flemington Racecourse (physical track)
StatusOperational with passenger services from Flinders Street to Flemington Racecourse
LocaleMelbourne, Victoria, Australia
Connecting linesAll metropolitan, regional, and interstate
  • 5 current stations
  • 2 former sidings
ServicesFlemington Racecourse
Commenced28 February 1861 (1861-02-28)
  • Southern Cross to Newmarket on 21 October 1860 (1860-10-21)
  • Newmarket to Flemington Racecourse on 28 February 1861 (1861-02-28)
  • Flinders Street to Southern Cross on 29 November 1891 (1891-11-29)
Completed28 February 1861 (1861-02-28)
ReopenedNorth Melbourne to Flemington Racecourse on 31 October 1867 (1867-10-31)
  • Testing – Newmarket to Flemington Racecourse on 6 October 1918 (1918-10-06)
  • Service – Flinders Street to Flemington Racecourse on 28 May 1919 (1919-05-28)
ClosedNorth Melbourne to Flemington Racecourse on 1 July 1864 (1864-07-01)
Line length8.092 km (5.03 mi)
Number of tracks
  • Six tracks: Flinders Street to North Melbourne
  • Four tracks: North Melbourne to Kensington
  • Triple track: Showgrounds to Flemington Racecourse
  • Double track: Kensington to Showgrounds
Track gauge1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in)
Electrification1500 V DC overhead
Operating speed65 km/h (40 mph) – Electric
SignallingAutomatic block signaling
Maximum incline1 in 50 (2%)

The Flemington Racecourse line forms a mostly linear route from the Melbourne central business district to its terminus at Flemington Racecourse. The route is 7.8 kilometres (4.8 mi) long and is fully double tracked. Exiting the city, the line only has minor earthworks, with some sections of the line being elevated or lowered into a cutting to eliminate level crossings.[20] Despite some removals, there are a number of level crossings still present with no current plans to remove them.[21]

The line follows the same alignment as multiple other lines, with the Flemington Racecourse line splitting off at North Melbourne. The Flemington Racecourse line continues on its western alignment, whereas the other lines continue onto a northern, western, or south-western alignment.[22] Most of the rail line goes through built-up suburbs and event facilities.[22]


The line serves 5 stations across 7.8 kilometres (4.8 mi) of track. The stations are a mix of lowered and ground level designs.[23]

Station Accessibility Opened Terrain Train connections Other connections
Flinders Street Yes—step free access 1854[24] Lowered Trams Buses
Southern Cross 1859[24] Ground level Trams Buses Coaches SkyBus
North Melbourne 1859[24] Ground level Buses
Showgrounds No—steep ramp 1883[24]
Flemington Racecourse 1861[24]
Station histories
Station Opened[25] Closed[25] Age Notes[25]
Flinders Street 12 September 1854 169 years
  • Formerly Melbourne Terminus
Southern Cross 17 January 1859 165 years
  • Formerly Batman's Hill
  • Formerly Spencer Street
North Melbourne 6 October 1859 164 years
Kensington 1 November 1860 1 July 1864 3 years
9 October 1871 152 years
  • Not a stop
Newmarket 1 November 1860 1 July 1864 3 years
9 October 1871 152 years
  • Not a stop
Showgrounds 7 November 1883 140 years
Flemington Racecourse 28 February 1861 1 July 1864 3 years
31 October 1867 156 years


Rolling stock[edit]

The Flemington Racecourse line uses three 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.[26] Siemens Nexas EMUs are also widely featured on the line, originally built between 2002 and 2005. These train sets feature more modern technology than the Comeng trains.[27] The final type of rolling stock featured on the line is the X'Trapolis 100 built by Alstom between 2002 and 2004, and 2009 and 2020.[28] All of these rolling stock models are widely used on other lines across the metropolitan network and work as the backbone of the network.[29]

Alongside the passenger trains, Flemington Racecourse line tracks and equipment are maintained by a fleet of engineering trains. The four types of engineering trains are:[30]

  • 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
  • The infrastructure evaluation carriage; designed for general infrastructure evaluation.

Most of these trains are repurposed locomotives previously used by V/Line, Metro Trains, and the Southern Shorthaul Railroad.[30]

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 include features designed to increase passenger comfort like quicker doors, allowing for reduced boarding times, passenger information systems to display relevant information about the train and its journey, designated bicycle storage areas, and 6 cars that are fully walk through.[31] For reliability, the trains have a higher energy efficiency to work with a lower network voltage.[31] Finally, accessibility is improved through new interior designs featuring fold-up seating to allow additional space for wheelchair users and passenger operated automatic wheelchair ramps (located behind the two driver cabs).[31]


In compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act of 1992, all stations that are new-built or rebuilt are fully accessible and comply with legal guidelines.[32] Three of the five stations on the corridor are fully accessible, but the others have not been upgraded to meet these guidelines. These stations feature ramps with gradients greater than 1 in 14, the maximum slope for stations lacking at-grade paths or lifts.[33] Fully accessible stations typically also feature tactile boarding indicators, independent boarding ramps, wheelchair accessible myki barriers, hearing loops, and widened paths.[33][34]

Projects improving station accessibility have included individual station upgrade projects, which may include station rebuilds or upgrades.[35][36] These works have made significant strides in improving network accessibility, with more than 60% of Flemington Racecourse line stations classed as fully accessible. Future station upgrade projects will continue to increase the number of fully accessible stations overtime.[35]


The Flemington Racecourse line uses three-position signalling, which is widely used across the Melbourne train network.[37] Three-position signalling was first introduced in 1924, with the final section of the line converted to the new type of signalling 90 years later in 2014.[38] The Flemington Racecourse line had Melbourne's last remaining example of two-position automatic signalling, apart from a section of the Hurstbridge line between Greensborough and Hurstbridge stations.[39]


  1. ^ "Showgrounds – Flemington Racecourse Line". Public Transport Victoria. Archived from the original on 7 September 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2023.
  2. ^ "Metro's paper timetables mess". Daniel Bowen. 3 September 2017. Archived from the original on 9 December 2022. Retrieved 9 December 2022.
  3. ^ "Showgrounds/Flemington via Southern Cross Station 11.08.2023 until 13.08.2023" (PDF). Public Transport Victoria. n.d.
  4. ^ "Showgrounds/Flemington via Southern Cross Station 18.08.2023 until 20.08.2023" (PDF). Public Transport Victoria. n.d.
  5. ^ Carey, Adam (7 November 2014). "Trains are working better but seating not guaranteed". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 6 February 2023. Retrieved 6 February 2023.
  6. ^ a b "Official Site | Victoria Racing Club". www.vrc.com.au. Retrieved 16 August 2023.
  7. ^ a b c Harrigan, Leo J. (1962). Victorian Railways to '62. Melbourne: Victorian Railways Public Relations and Betterment Board. pp. 65–67.
  8. ^ a b Ian Cook (May 2019). "Centenary of the Inauguration of Electric Train Services". Newsrail. Vol. 47, no. 5. Vic: ARHS Victoria Division. p. 134. ISSN 0310-7477. OCLC 19676396.
  9. ^ a b "FLEMINGTON RACECOURSE IMPROVEMENTS". Leader. 23 October 1886. Archived from the original on 16 April 2023. Retrieved 16 April 2023.
  10. ^ a b "SAFER SIGNALLING". Age. 5 April 1911. Archived from the original on 16 April 2023. Retrieved 16 April 2023.
  11. ^ "9News – Latest news and headlines from Australia and the world". www.9news.com.au. Archived from the original on 16 April 2023. Retrieved 16 April 2023.
  12. ^ "Activists target Melbourne Cup as protest halts train to races". ABC News. 7 November 2017. Archived from the original on 16 April 2023. Retrieved 16 April 2023.
  13. ^ "Getting to Flemington | Victoria Racing Club". www.vrc.com.au. Archived from the original on 16 April 2023. Retrieved 16 April 2023.
  14. ^ "New timetable train line information – Public Transport Victoria". 1 March 2021. Archived from the original on 1 March 2021. Retrieved 18 December 2022.
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  16. ^ "Where do train replacement buses come from?". ABC News. 15 November 2016. Archived from the original on 14 December 2022. Retrieved 18 December 2022.
  17. ^ "Melbourne's Rail Network to be Split" Railway Digest November 1997 page 12
  18. ^ Richard Allsop. "Victoria's public transport – Assessing the results of privatisation" (PDF). Retrieved 17 August 2023.
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  20. ^ Woodcock, Ian; Stone, John (2016). "The Benefits of Level Crossing Removal: lessons from Melbourne's historical experience". University of Melbourne/RMIT University: 13. Archived from the original on 6 December 2022. Retrieved 6 December 2022 – via RMIT Researchbank.
  21. ^ "Managing the Level Crossing Removal Program". Victorian Auditor-General's Office. Retrieved 16 August 2023.
  22. ^ a b Wray, Tyson (19 January 2017). "Melbourne's train lines definitively ranked from best to worst". Time Out Melbourne. Archived from the original on 12 December 2022. Retrieved 12 December 2022.
  23. ^ Lee, Robert S. (2007). The railways of Victoria 1854–2004. Rosemary Annable, Donald S. Garden. Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Publishing. ISBN 978-0-522-85134-2. OCLC 224727085. Archived from the original on 8 May 2022. Retrieved 29 December 2022.
  24. ^ a b c d e "What year did your railway station open? | Public Transport Users Association (Victoria, Australia)". 3 August 2018. Archived from the original on 9 December 2022. Retrieved 9 December 2022.
  25. ^ a b c Anderson, Rick (2010). Stopping All Stations. Clunes, Victoria: Full Parallel Productions. ISBN 978-0646543635. OCLC 671303814.
  26. ^ "archive.ph". archive.ph. Archived from the original on 8 September 2012. Retrieved 6 February 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  27. ^ "Siemens AG – Siemens Transportation Systems wins major contract in Australia". 22 November 2005. Archived from the original on 22 November 2005. Retrieved 6 February 2023.
  28. ^ Jacks, Timna (15 July 2019). "New train designs revealed, but contract under threat". The Age. Retrieved 16 August 2023.
  29. ^ "Department of Transport: Who's who in Victoria's public transport network". Department of Transport, State Government of Victoria, Australia. Archived from the original on 23 May 2009. Retrieved 14 January 2010.
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  31. ^ a b c Jacks, Timna (15 July 2019). "New train designs revealed, but contract under threat". The Age. Retrieved 6 February 2023.
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  33. ^ a b "Station accessibility features". Metro Trains Melbourne. 2023. Archived from the original on 8 December 2022. Retrieved 3 January 2023.
  34. ^ "Accessing public transport". City of Melbourne. n.d. Archived from the original on 6 December 2022. Retrieved 3 January 2023.
  35. ^ a b "Left behind: the fight for accessible public transport in Victoria". the Guardian. 12 June 2022. Archived from the original on 3 January 2023. Retrieved 3 January 2023.
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  38. ^ "National Code 3-Position Speed Signalling" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 7 February 2023. Retrieved 8 April 2023.
  39. ^ Last Semaphore Signal on the Hurstbridge Line – February 2013, archived from the original on 21 March 2023, retrieved 21 March 2023

External links[edit]