Railway and Tramway Networks

SCT008, SCT015, SCT006 with an Adelaide bound container train passing through Belair in the Adelaide Hills, 28 September 2012.

Railway networks reach across Australia from east to west and from north to south. They include busy urban lines with trains passing every few minutes, heavy freight railways bearing huge tonnages of minerals, interstate and regional lines carrying passenger and freight services, branch lines that see minimal traffic, and a series of 610 mm gauge lines in Queensland for conveying cut sugar cane to processing mills. In 2016 the National Transport Commission reported that Australian railway networks consisted of a total of 41,461 kilometres of track (Who moves what where: freight and passenger transport in Australia, p. 62); however, not all of these lines were operational. The total length of operational heavy railways using the three major railway gauges in Australia in 2020 was 32,868 route kilometres, of which around 10 per cent was electrified.

A breakdown of operational heavy railways by gauge and state or territory is indicated in the following table.

Total route kilometres of railways open in each state and territory of Australia in September 2020


State or Territory                            1067 mm        1435 mm        1600 mm        Dual               Other              Total

New South Wales                                    0                 7128                    73                 0                     1                 7202

Victoria                                                   16                1904                 2309               32                   30                 4291

Queensland                                        8146                  117                       0               36                     4                 8303

Western Australia                               2970                4558                       0             207                     0                 7735

South Australia                                     184                2561                   253               22                     0                 3020

Tasmania                                              611                      0                       0                  0                    7                    618

Northern Territory                                     3                 1690                      0                  0                    0                  1693

Australian Capital Territory                       0                      6                       0                  0                    0                        6

Total                                                11,930              17,964                 2635              297                  42              32,868


Source: Australian infrastructure statistics yearbook 2020, Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development, Canberra,

     2020, p. 128.

The figures in the above table do not include the sugar cane railways in Queensland, which have a total length of around 4000 km.

Five states have electrified railway lines: New South Wales had a total of 673 km of electrified railway lines in September 2020; Victoria had 383 km; Queensland had 2173 km; Western Australia had 181 km; and South Australia had 44 km. The total length of electrified railway lines in Australia was 3430 km. Electrified railways in Victoria and New South Wales use 1.5 kV (kilovolts) DC, while those in Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia use 25 kV AC.

The total length of operational tramways and light rail lines in Australia in 2020 was 298 route kilometres, and these lines are located in the four cities of Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and the Gold Coast. All lines are standard gauge. Melbourne has by far the largest network, with 250 route km of double track.

A breakdown of tramways and light rail lines in Australia is indicated in the following table. These figures do not include heritage and tourist tramways.


Total route kilometres and number of stops of tramways and light rail lines open in Australia in September 2020

City                                   Route km                                   Stops

Melbourne                          250                                             1717

Sydney                                 25                                                 42

Adelaide                               17                                                 29

Gold Coast                           20                                                 19

Canberra                              12                                                 13

Newcastle                              3                                                   6

Total                                   327                                             1826


Source: Trainline 8 Statistical Report, Department of Infrastructure, Transport Regional Development and Communications, Canberra, 2021, p. 68.

Links to the major railway and tramway networks in Australia are below. Some short sections are not listed, which are mainly those solely operated by heritage and tourist railways, as well as short private lines and sidings.


New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory



Western Australia

South Australia and Northern Territory