Interstate Passenger Trains
7MA8, The Overland, led by NR92 departing Southern Cross station, Melbourne, at the beginning of its journey to Adelaide, 14 January 2017.
Regular interstate passenger trains in Australia are operated by Journey Beyond Rail and NSW TrainLink.
Journey Beyond Rail
Journey Beyond Rail owns and operates the Indian Pacific, The Ghan, Great Southern and The Overland interstate passenger trains. Services for passengers are directed towards the tourism market, particularly on the Indian Pacific, The Ghan and Great Southern, which emphasise the rail travel experience much more than providing a means of reaching a destination. The four trains operated by Journey Beyond Rail are locomotive-hauled. Journey Beyond Rail does not own locomotives, but uses locomotives and locomotive crews provided by Pacific National to haul its trains. Typical motive power is NR Class locomotives. A number of NR Class locomotives are painted in special liveries for hauling the Indian Pacific and The Ghan. NR25, NR26, NR27, NR28, NR29 and NR86 are painted in two different types of blue and yellow Indian Pacific liveries. NR18, NR74, NR75 and NR109 are painted in red The Ghan livery. NR30 and NR31 are painted in orange Great Southern livery. The special livery does not, however, equate to exclusive use on trains that the livery designates: other NR Class locomotives that are not painted in these special liveries are often used to haul the Indian Pacific and The Ghan, and the locomotives in special liveries also operate other services. Stainless steel passenger carriages form most of the Journey Beyond Rail fleet for use on its trains. Passengers on the Indian Pacific, The Ghan and Great Southern can book Platinum Service or Gold Service, while passengers on The Overland can book Red Service or Red Premium Service. More details about service levels can be found on the Travel and Ticketing pages. More details about service levels can be found on the Travel and Ticketing pages.
The Indian Pacific runs on the east-west transcontinental route between Sydney, Adelaide and Perth once a week in each direction. It commenced operating in 1970 following the completion of the standard gauge line across Australia. Prior to this time a journey between Sydney and Perth involved numerous changes of train. The Indian Pacific crosses a range of landscapes on its journey of three days. The trip includes the longest straight section of railway line in the world, a distance of 478 km, located on the Trans-Australian Railway between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie. A single NR Class unit hauls the train between Adelaide and Perth, with assistance from another NR Class or a different type of locomotive between Sydney and Adelaide. The total distance of the journey between Sydney and Perth via Adelaide on the Indian Pacific is 4350 km, and its average running speed is 85 km/h.
Stops are made by the Indian Pacific at Adelaide in both directions to enable passengers to participate in off-train excursions. A stop is made at Rawlinna in the westbound direction and at Cook in the eastbound direction for an outback experience, providing passengers the opportunity to experience a remote outback location.
The number of carriages in the Indian Pacific’s consist varies, but typically averages 30 carriages, which includes passenger carriages, crew quarters, restaurant and lounge cars, and power vans. Its average length is 774 metres and the average weight is 1400 tonnes. The Indian Pacific is named after the Indian and Pacific oceans, which bound the west and east coastlines of Australia. Journey Beyond Rail uses a wedge-tailed eagle as its symbol for the Indian Pacific, its large wingspan representing the journey across the continent.
The Ghan runs on the north–south transcontinental route between Adelaide and Darwin once a week in each direction. It commenced running as far as Alice Springs in 1929 along the narrow gauge line between Port Augusta and Alice Springs via Oodnadatta, making a notoriously slow journey. In 1957 a standard gauge line opened between Port Augusta and Marree. From this time The Ghan operated as a standard gauge train between Port Pirie and Marree, and as a narrow gauge train between Marree and Alice Springs. A new standard gauge line opened in 1980 from Tarcoola, on the Trans-Australian Railway, to Alice Springs, providing a faster and more reliable service. From this time The Ghan operated as a standard gauge service between Port Pirie and Alice Springs. Connection was made at Port Pirie with broad gauge trains to and from Adelaide until standard gauge reached the current Adelaide interstate passenger terminal in 1984. In 2004 the north–south transcontinental railway was finally completed with the opening of the railway line between Alice Springs and Darwin. The total distance of the journey between Adelaide and Darwin on The Ghan is 2970 km, and its average running speed is 85 km/h.
Much of the journey of The Ghan is through the arid landscapes of inland Australia. Stops are made at Alice Springs and Katherine in both directions to enable passengers to participate in off-train excursions. In the northbound direction an outback experience stop is made at Marla, where passengers are able to experience a remote outback location. During the peak tourist season, from May to October, the southbound service stops for around 12 hours in Alice Springs on Thursdays, providing further opportunities for off-train excursions, while a stop is also made to enable passengers to visit Coober Pedy on Fridays. From November to April a stop is made at Manguri in the southbound direction for an outback experience. The Ghan does not operate between mid-December and mid-January.
The number of carriages in The Ghan’s consist varies, but typically averages 30 carriages, which includes passenger carriages, crew quarters, restaurant and lounge cars, and power vans. Its average length is 774 metres and the average weight is 1400 tonnes.
The Ghan was originally named The Afghan Express after the camel drivers who established a route into Australia’s red centre and were thought to be from Afghanistan, although most came to Australia from what is now known as Pakistan. The train’s name was later shortened to The Ghan. Journey Beyond uses a camel and its handler as its symbol for The Ghan, acknowledging the pioneering cameleers.
The Overland provides a daylight service on the interstate route between Melbourne and Adelaide on two days a week. It provides sitting accommodation throughout the journey. Passenger services between Melbourne and Adelaide commenced operating in 1887 following the joining of the railway lines from the two cities at Serviceton (near the Victoria–South Australia border). The name The Overland was given to the train in 1926. Originally the line was broad gauge and the train operated as an overnight service. In 1995 the line between Melbourne and Adelaide was converted to standard gauge and in 2007 the train was re-scheduled to run as a daylight service. A single NR Class locomotive typically hauls the train throughout its journey. The total distance of the journey between Melbourne and Adelaide on The Overland is 833 km, and its average running speed is 85 km/h.
The number of carriages in The Overland’s consist varies, but typically averages seven carriage. Its average length is 189 metres and the average weight is 322 tonnes. Journey Beyond Rail uses an emu as its symbol for The Overland, recognising its speed and grace running through open countryside.
A new service, named Great Southern, operates between Adelaide and Brisbane in December and January. It uses carriages from The Ghan, which does not operate during this time period. The train consists of 28 carriages and is hauled by two locomotives. Great Southern takes three days for the journey between Adelaide and Brisbane, departing Adelaide on Fridays and arriving in Brisbane on Sundays. Off train excursions visit the Grampians National Park in western Victoria, Canberra, and northern New South Wales. The journey from Brisbane to Adelaide is four days in duration, departing Brisbane on Mondays and arriving in Adelaide on Thursdays. Off train excursions include a beachside dining experience in northern New South Wales, the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, and the Twelve Apostles in south-west Victoria.
NSW TrainLink operates interstate services between Sydney and Canberra, Melbourne, and Brisbane. These services are described on the New South Wales pages.