Rail in Australia 2004

Adelaide to Darwin - the Northern Link

The Alice Springs to Darwin railway opened for business in 2004. The first south-north transcontinental freight train to Darwin departed Adelaide on 15 January 2004 to arrive in Darwin 2 days later. The 1.3km-long train was headed by two new 2862 kW locos built by EDI Rail in Port Augusta.

While the 2979km line was built mainly for freight traffic, the transcontinental journey from Adelaide is also attracting much passenger interest. The Ghan now operates the completed line from Adelaide. The first Ghan departed Adelaide for Darwin on 1 February, arriving on 3 February. Painted in special indigenous artwork, the two new locomotives hauled the train comprising the two locomotives plus 43 carriages with a total mass of 2000t.

The first passenger train from Adelaide to Darwin defines the new rail scene in 2004. From the concept in 1911, it took close to 100 years to get the railway built. The 1420 km route connects the northern port of Darwin to Alice Springs with connection through the Trans-continental line to all mainland Capital Cities of Australia. Alice Springs has for many years been served by THE GHAN providing passengers with comfort and the opportunity to see Australia's 'red centre'. It now provides weekly service from Adelaide through Alice Springs north to Darwin.

The national network of rail already uses all standard gauge except for Tasmania and most of Queensland, allowing freight uninterrupted movement from Perth to Brisbane via Adelaide, Melbourne or Sydney. This commonality was accepted in USA and Europe in the 19th century but as the year 2000 approached Australian railways only recently had a new ability to run freight nationally. Inter-capital direct routes now connect throughout Australia. Privatisation initally limited national operations, based on each contract's conditions. Australia has since experienced increasing private railroad competition and amalgamation.

 The Shape of Trains to come

April '99 saw Maglev ultra-high speed train MXL01 in Japan set the new World speed record at 552km/h. The MXL01 began running tests on an 18.4 km length track in 1997. In the same year in Germany the Transrapid 08 commenced running tests in Berlin. Sixty years before the German high speed train tests included propeller driven aerodynamic vehicles on monorails. Today the trains use MAGLEV.

The magnetic levitation system has a contact-free support, guidance, propulsion and braking system which is based on the principle of electromagnetic levitation.

Japanese running tests at the Yamanashi tests line is located 100 km west of Tokyo in the Miyazaki Prefecture. A section of the test line is double track where it will be possible to study the dynamics of trains passing each other at a relative speed of 1,000 kph.

Planning for high speed rail in Australia looks to follow the standard provided on high speed routes in Europe. It is no longer sufficient to accept the gradual update of the 100 year old right of way.

 Tilt Train Speed Record

The Queensland TILT train operates on the north-south coastal line. It entered service as the first narrow gauge tilting train system in the world, and has become the World's fastest narrow gauge train. The Australian built train, on Sunday May 23 1999, set a record speed of 210 km/hr ( 130 mph ) making it Australia's fastest train.
The record setting six-car train was the City of Rockhampton, one of the two trains then in service on the 622 kilometre north-south line between Brisbane and Rockhampton. The normal operational top speed is 160 kph which has cut travel time from nine and a half hours to about seven hours. The record braking trains have to negotiate 623 curves which total 212 km in length.  

QR operates on the same line regular freight, passenger and TILT passenger trains so super-elevation was adopted to accommodate the wide speed range.
Depite an excellent operating record and well respected design TILT train, tilted too far on the evening of 16-Nov-04. Initial reports stated that the train was travelling at double the authorised speed for the location. A full investigation will no doubt have much more detail.

The TILT train was constructed by Downer-EDI at Maryborough where QR locos and rolling stock have been constructed for 100 years. In Queensland the TILT trains have provided fast passenger service from Brisbane to Rockhampton and Cairns.

For further notes on Australian railways development  historic and Preserved operating lines.

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