What surprised me most about Melbourne's train system was to learn how much of our suburban system is single track. A couple of relatively recent things have outraged me. Ok, it was back in the 20th century when the electric Gippsland line was converted to diesel. I understand that the government at the time did not want to spend money on new electric locomotives to replace old ones and the line was never electrified past Traralgon, so requiring diesel trains on to the Bairnsdale terminus. De-electrification seems to be a very strange thing to do for the sake of the cost of some new locomotives.
The other outrage was while it was renovated to run trains at a much higher speed, the train line to the regional city of Bendigo was reduced to single track for much of its journey.
Single train tracks may be fine in theory, where trains briefly pause at sidings to allow another train to pass, but they only work when everything runs like clockwork. What a step backwards and what a stupid idea.
So I really was surprised how much of our suburban trains system is single track. I can remember back to when there were short sections of single tram line at suburban termini too, but these have all been duplicated now.
There was a section near Clifton Hill that was single track, Clifton Hill being an inner area. I believe it has now been duplicated. The final sections of the Belgrave and Lilydale lines are single track, as is the last four kilometres of the Upfield line. The Hurstbridge line has a very long length of single track, from Heidelberg to the terminus. This makes the line very unreliable and a pain to use. The government has
And then there is the Altona Loop. A tweeter I follow, Misguided Jennie I think, often points out difficulty with this line. It is a single track diversion from the mainline to Werribee. Without going into great detail, some time trains run to Werribee via the Altona Loop and sometimes they they go directly along the mainline. At times it is only a back and forth shuttle service. It is not a great service. If you want to go to the main city station, Flinders Street, you have to catch three trains. In peak times, it is only a 22 minute service interval. Unfortunately as soon as something goes wrong, it seems the Altona Loop service is cancelled, and it becomes a 44 minute gap between trains. This is outrageous. Being a single track line makes things all the more difficult. Mind, it is a really nice train trip on the day time shuttle from Newport to Laverton. I have made the trip three times and every time I saw rabbits. Yes, they are a pest, but....
So a forty four minute service in peak time is obviously unacceptable, and the same happens on the Upfield line that has a 20 minute peak service. Most of our other train lines have a much more frequent service and while a cancellation means crowding, it is quite different to a forty minute gap between trains.
Of course if the line was duplicated, it could be much better utilised and of great benefit to passengers. There are no plans but oddly the government is funding the removal of a road level crossing that has minimal impact on traffic. It seems the government is at least putting two tracks down as part of the crossing. It is the beginning of duplication of the line but don't hold your breath for completion.