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.
Links to maps of the major railway lines in Australia are below.
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.