top of page
Various 42.jpg

Spencer Street Station with 2-4-0 locomotive No .64, about 1870. Source: Venn, M, Engineers & Politicians: The Victorian Railways 1854–1904, 2022, <>.

Spencer Street Station and Yard in 1880. Source: Venn, M, Engineers & Politicians: The Victorian Railways 1854–1904, 2022, <>.

Various 41.jpg

Southern Cross Station, Melbourne

David Matheson

 11 March 2024

Southern Cross railway station is Melbourne’s terminus for regional train services. It is also a busy suburban station and has a coach terminal underneath. Southern Cross is the second busiest station in Melbourne, after Flinders Street. The station is located at the western edge of the central business district and is close to a wide range of commercial, retail, cultural and sporting facilities. It serves over 1.2 million people each week.


Batman’s Hill

The first railway station at the location where Southern Cross station stands today was known as Batman’s Hill, although it was at times simply referred to as Melbourne. The station was located to the north of Batman’s Hill, a geographical feature that has since been removed. The station featured a temporary timber and iron building measuring 160 feet (49 metres) in length and 42 feet (13 metres) in width. Its entrance was on Spencer Street, between Collins and Little Collins Streets. The building contained a booking hall with five booking windows, staff offices, Station Master’s residence, waiting rooms, a coffee room and a refreshment room. Outside the building was a platform measuring 540 feet (165 metres) in length.


The Melbourne, Mount Alexander and Murray River Railway Company commenced constructing the railway line between Melbourne and Echuca, as well as a branch to Williamstown, but work was completed by the Board of Land and Works. By the end of 1858 the line had been completed between Melbourne and Sunbury and the line to Williamstown was also ready for use. Both lines were officially opened on 13 January 1859. Batman’s Hill station was decorated for the occasion and there was a crowd of three to four thousand people, including numerous government officials and other eminent citizens. The official train conveyed the Governor, Sir Henry Barkly, to Williamstown back to Footscray and then to Sunbury. Public services commenced operating on 17 January to Williamstown and on 10 February to Sunbury. Trains were also running to Essendon by 21 January 1860.


The first station at Batman’s Hill had been intended as a temporary station, and as railway traffic increased pressure grew for a larger station. To provide more space the actual Batman’s Hill was demolished and swampy land was built up. By 1870 a long goods shed and a locomotive shed were constructed. Also, by 1872 a First Class booking hall had been added to the station at the Collins Street end, the arrivals section had been extended, and a dock siding had been added.


Spencer Street

There was no definitive date when the station’s name became Spencer Street, named after the street that runs along its eastern side. The annual report of the Board of Land and Works refers to Batman’s Hill in its report for the year ending 30 June 1875, but there were no references to Batman’s Hill for the year ending 30 June 1876. Both reports had various references to Melbourne Terminus. A timetable issued in 1879 listed both Melbourne and Spencer Street. It appears that Batman’s Hill went out of use as a station name by 1876, with Melbourne continuing to be used for a few more years. Spencer Street came into usage from about 1878, overlapping with Melbourne.


Various newspaper articles were using the name Spencer Street by 1872, with some references extending back to 1860. It is likely that the name Spencer Street was in general usage among the public some time before it was given that name officially.


It took until 1875 for a second platform for passenger trains to be added to the station, and over the next five years a new goods shed and a new engine shed were built. In 1891 a viaduct was completed that linked Spencer Street station with Flinders Street station. The opening of the viaduct resulted in increased railway traffic at both Flinders Street and Spencer Street stations. A new island platform was opened at Spencer Street in 1894.


A large new station was completed at Flinders Street in 1910 and it became the main terminus for suburban services. Spencer Street eventually became Melbourne’s major terminus for country train services, and also goods trains.


Electric passenger train services in Melbourne officially commenced between Sandringham and Essendon on 28 May 1919. The passenger railway network in the city was electrified by 15 April 1923, including all of the platforms at Spencer Street station. Platforms 11 to 14 were built at this time to cater for the increase in suburban traffic. This necessitated demolishing the 1870 goods shed. Three new country platforms were added around 1925.


Plans for a new station building in the 1930s were curtailed because of a lack of funds. Further plans for a new façade and station refurbishment were shelved with the onset of the Second World War. Although some changes to the station were made over the subsequent years there was no substantial building work undertaken.


From the inception of railways in Victoria trains had operated on broad gauge (1600 mm) tracks. A small number of Victorian narrow (762 mm) lines opened from 1899 to 1911, and some private railways used other gauges, but the majority of the railway network continued to use broad gauge. In 1962 a standard gauge line opened between Melbourne and Albury, and thus connected Melbourne and Sydney with a direct standard gauge railway for the first time. Spencer Street station was rebuilt in conjunction with the opening of the standard gauge railway, and the first standard gauge trains began to use the station on 13 April 1962, although work had been only partially completed. A new 1355-feet (413-metre)-long interstate platform was built between the Spencer Street roadway and existing platforms Nos 1 and 2 to accommodate the new overnight express train, the Southern Aurora. Dual standard and broad gauge track was laid at the new platform and also platform Nos 1 and 2. In 1964 the interstate platform was extended to 1650 feet (503 metres).


At the same time as work was being done to cater for standard gauge trains, major work was undertaken to redevelop Spencer Street station. A new street level terminal concourse was built near the interstate platform. It featured interstate and country booking offices, waiting area, information desk, refreshment and newspaper stalls. A basement concourse provided toilets, showers and lockers. On the first floor was a cafeteria and waiting area, while offices were on the second floor. An existing subway under the suburban platforms was extended underneath the country platforms, also leading to ramps connecting with the main concourse and Spencer Street. A larger car parking area was built, as well as now parcels and lost property offices.


In the early 1960s the platforms at Spencer Street were reconfigured and renumbered as follows:

  • Platform 1: 1962-built single-sided, dual gauge interstate platform

  • Platform 2: 1888-built single-sided dual gauge platform

  • Platforms 3 and 4: 1868-built broad gauge island platform

  • Platforms 5 and 6: newly-built broad gauge island platform

  • Platforms 7 and 8: broad gauge island platform, with platform No. 7 being built as single-sided around 1925 and platform 8 built on the back of it in 1962

  • Platforms 9 and 10: around 1925-built broad gauge island platform, originally used for country trains but now used for suburban trains

  • Platforms 11 and 12: around 1924-built broad gauge island platform

  • Platforms 13 and 14: around 1924-built broad gauge island platform

The redevelopment of Spencer Street station took around four and a half years to complete and was finished in early 1965.


A notable feature in the main concourse of Spencer Street station was a large History of Transport mural. The first section was officially unveiled on 2 July 1974 and the mural was completed in 1978. Commissioned by the Victorian Government, it was painted by artist Harold Freedman. The mural depicts the development of transport in Victoria between 1835 and 1935 on five panels, each measuring 36.6 metres long and 7.3 metres high. The mural was in storage for some time but is on display at the station today, although it has been relocated to the back of a retail area and not given the prominence it once was.


Construction of apartments and Colonial Stadium in the nearby Docklands area beginning in 1998 led to the building of a new pedestrian bridge. The new bridge was 250 metres long and 20 metres wide, and necessitated some of the platform verandahs being removed so that piers could be erected. Access to the platforms was provided by escalators. The new bridge was completed by February 2000.


Southern Cross

By the year 2000 Spencer Street station was again in need of renewal. Congestion, lack of comfortable seating and open platforms were no longer acceptable to the 55,000 passengers passing through each weekday. The station was substantially rebuilt in the early 2000s.


On 2 July 2002 it was announced that a $700 million redevelopment would proceed, with a redeveloped station as the centrepiece. The contract was awarded to the Civic Nexus consortium. When completed the station would be able to easily cater for 30,000 passengers at peak times and have the capacity for 35 million passengers annually in the future. The design included two new platforms which became platform Nos 15 and 16. Completion was scheduled for April 2005, which would enable settling in prior to the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in March 2006. As part of the contract the consortium would operate and maintain the station for 30 years after construction work was finished.


The design of the new station featured a huge wave-form roof spanning 37,000 square metres, with a maximum height of 23 metres. Work commenced in October 2002 and proceeded with Spencer Street remaining as an operational station. Some platforms were closed at times and passing trains were restricted to speeds of 30 km/h.


There was controversy about the redevelopment project, particularly the design of the roof. The project encountered difficulties with issues including cost blowouts, running behind schedule and scaling back some of the original plans. On 31 July 2004 the first stage of the new concourse was opened, providing facilities for interstate and regional passengers. Work continued with regular closures of suburban platforms from 10.00 pm on weekday nights. The project missed its original completion target of March 2005, but various platforms were re-opened at different times throughout 2005.


The main entrance to the station at the corner of Spencer Street and Collins Street was officially opened on 13 December 2005 by the Victorian Premier, Steve Bracks. At the same time the station as renamed Southern Cross. Work continued in subsequent months, with more platforms and public areas re-opening and retail spaces being fitted out. By the middle of March, the station had been substantially completed and was ready for the Commonwealth Games, which took place from 15 to 26 March 2006. Nevertheless, work to finish the redevelopment continued throughout 2006. In 2002 when the project was announced the total cost of the redevelopment and ongoing maintenance and operation of the station for 30 years was expected to be a total cost to the state budget of $1.02 billion. In 2006 this figure had been revised to $1.84 billion. Although the cost to the taxpayer was considerably higher than expected, the final station meets the needs of passengers and the public.



‘Affairs at Spencer-Street station’, The Age, 12 November 1872, p. 3.

Brown, S, ‘Batman’s Hill to Southern Cross via Spencer Street’, Newsrail, vol. 30, no. 11, November 2002, pp. 335–47.

Brown, S, ‘Southern Cross Station at Spencer Street’, Newsrail, vol. 34, no. 12, December 2006, pp. 380–99.

‘History of transport mural’, Heritage Council Victoria, <>.

‘Opening of the Melbourne and Mount Alexander line of railway’, The Age, 14 January 1859, p. 5.

‘Proposed central railway station’, The Age, 12 December 1860, p. 6.

Southern Cross Station <>.

‘Sudden death at Spencer-Street station’, The Herald, 17 July 1872, p. 3.

Victorian Railways, Report of the Board of Land and Works for the year ending 30th June 1875, Government Printer, Melbourne, 1875.

Victorian Railways, Report of the Board of Land and Works for the year ending 30th June 1876, Government Printer, Melbourne, 1876.

Victorian Railways, Service timetable, 1 November 1879, Government Printer, Melbourne, 1879.

‘VR unveils Spencer Street transport mural’, Railways of Australia Network, vol. 11, no. 122, July 1974, p. 4.

Victorian Railways, Service timetable, 1 November 1879, Government Printer, Melbourne, 1879.

‘VR unveils Spencer Street transport mural’, Railways of Australia Network, vol. 11, no. 122, July 1974, p. 4.


Trains at Southern Cross station, 15 January 2017.


7MA8, The Overland, led by NR92 departing Southern Cross station, Melbourne, at the beginning of its journey to Adelaide, 14 January 2017.

bottom of page