Indian Pacific

Indian Pacific
Service type Transcontinental passenger rail
Status Operating
Locale Australia
First service 23 February 1970
Current operator(s) Great Southern Rail
Former operator(s) New South Wales Government Railways
South Australian Railways
Commonwealth Railways
Western Australian Government Railways
Australian National
Start Sydney Central
End East Perth
Distance travelled 4,352 kilometres
Average journey time 65 hours
Service frequency 1 per week
2 per week (Sep-Nov)
Line used Main Western
Broken Hill
Broken Hill-Crystal Brook
Crystal Brook-Adelaide
Eastern Goldfields
On-board services
Seating arrangements Yes
Sleeping arrangements Yes
Auto-rack arrangements Yes
Rolling stock Commonwealth Railways stainless steel carriage stock
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Operating speed 110 km/h
Route map

Indian Pacific

East Perth
Southern Cross
Western Australia
South Australia
Port Augusta
South Australia
New South Wales
Broken Hill
Euabalong West
Sydney Central

The Indian Pacific is an Australian passenger rail service that operates between Sydney, on the Pacific Ocean, and Perth, on the Indian Ocean.[1] It is one of the few truly transcontinental trains in the world. The train first ran in February 1970 after the completion of gauge conversion projects in South and Western Australia.

The train's route includes the world's longest straight stretch of railway track, a 478-kilometre (297 mi) stretch of the Trans-Australian Railway over the Nullarbor Plain.[2]

The service was originally operated jointly by the New South Wales Government Railways, South Australian Railways, Commonwealth Railways and Western Australian Government Railways, until February 1993 when Australian National took full ownership. In October 1997, the Indian Pacific was sold to Great Southern Rail.

A one-way trip originally took 75 hours, but with line and efficiency improvements it now takes 65 hours. The train currently has two classes, branded as Platinum and Gold Service.[3] A motorail service conveys passengers' motor vehicles between Adelaide and Perth.


The first Indian Pacific service left Sydney on 23 February 1970, becoming the first direct train to cross the Australian continent,[4] made possible by the completion of the east-west standard gauge project a few months earlier.

The service was originally operated jointly by the four operators whose networks it traversed, with revenues and costs apportioned New South Wales Government Railways (28.5%), South Australian Railways (10%), Commonwealth Railways (45%) and Western Australian Government Railways (16.5%).

Locomotives and crews were provided by the New South Wales Government Railways between Sydney and Broken Hill, South Australian Railways between Broken Hill and Port Pirie, the Commonwealth Railways between Port Pirie and Kalgoorlie and Western Australian Government Railways between Kalgoorlie and Perth. With the formation of Australian National in July 1975, it provided locomotives and crews from Broken Hill to Kalgoorlie. Locomotives were changed at Lithgow, Broken Hill, Port Pirie and Kalgoorlie.

On-board crews were originally provided between Sydney and Port Pirie by Commonwealth Railways on one service and New South Wales Government Railways on the other services, Commonwealth Railways between Port Pirie and Kalgoolie and West Australian Government Railways between Kalgoolie and Perth.

The Indian Pacific featured in an episode of BBC Television's Great Railway Journeys of the World series in 1980, presented by Michael Frayn.

The train originally operated twice per week. In July 1973, a third service was introduced followed in July 1975 by a fourth, these later two being extensions of existing Trans Australian services. By 1983, the service had been reduced to three times weekly.[5]

The service was suspended from 2 December 1982 to 25 April 1983 due to an industrial dispute over staffing levels in South Australia.[6] From August 1986, the train commenced operating via Adelaide.[5][7]

In June 1991, the service was cut from three times a week to two.[8] This was reduced to weekly in January 1992 between Sydney and Adelaide with two services a week between Adelaide and Perth.[9]

In February 1993, Australian National took over operation of the service throughout after agreement was reached with the State Rail Authority and Westrail in 1992.[10][11] From January 1994 the service was operated throughout by Australian National CL class locomotives.[12] Australian National restored a second weekly service.

As part of the privatisation of Australian National, the Indian Pacific, along with The Ghan and The Overland, was sold to Great Southern Rail in October 1997.[13] Motive power provision was contracted to National Rail. Today the Indian Pacific operates weekly.[14] A second service operated between September and November until 2015.[15]


NR27 with an eastbound Indian Pacific in suburban Perth, 2013.
NR27 with an eastbound Indian Pacific in suburban Perth in November 2013

The route leaves Sydney and travels via the Western and Broken Hill lines to Broken Hill. It then crosses into South Australia on the Broken Hill to Crystal Brook line before heading south to Adelaide. Before the conversion of the Crystal Brook to Adelaide line to standard gauge, passengers for Adelaide had to change at Port Pirie. However, from August 1986, the Indian Pacific was diverted to make an out-and-back trip to Adelaide adding 390 kilometres (240 mi) to the journey. From Crystal Brook it heads north to Port Augusta and then via the Trans-Australian Railway to Kalgoorlie including travelling over the world's longest straight stretch of railway track on the Nullarbor Plain measuring 478 kilometres (297 mi).[16] It then heads via the Eastern Goldfields and Eastern lines to its terminus at East Perth.

Occasionally, when there is trackwork, the Indian Pacific is diverted out of Sydney via the Main South line to Cootamundra and cross-country line to rejoin the Broken Hill line at Parkes.

In 1970, the journey took 75 hours. With subsequent infrastructure improvements and reductions to the time needed to change locomotives and crew, the journey now takes 65 hours despite the longer distance.[17]


NR28 in Indian Pacific livery with the eastbound Indian Pacific at Mt Lawley, 2014.
NR28 in Indian Pacific livery with the eastbound Indian Pacific at Mount Lawley in December 2014

Motive power for the Indian Pacific is a Pacific National NR class diesel-electric locomotive, often one of the five (NR18, NR25-NR28) that have been repainted in Indian Pacific livery. The lead locomotive is assisted by a DL class or a second NR class between Sydney and Adelaide. In 2014, NR25-NR28 were repainted in a new livery that is much closer to that of Pacific National.

To operate the service, a fleet of 22.92-metre (75.2 ft) stainless steel carriages, power vans and luggage vans was built by Commonwealth Engineering, Granville in the late 1960s and early 1970s.[18][19]

Originally, the services operated in consists of 12 carriages.[19] Today, the weekly service consists of up to 25 carriages and two motorail wagons. Because of its length, the train is split in two when stabled at Sydney Central station.

Passenger facilities

The train originally offered just 52 first-class sleeping berths and 96 second-class sleeping berths. However, the train was limited to 144 passengers, as this was the number that could be serviced by three sittings in the 48-seat dining car.

From 1973, the accommodation was altered to provide 88 first-class sleeping berths and 64 second-class. The club-cafeteria car also provided a small number of second-class seats for short-distance travelers on the Commonwealth Railways segment.

From 1975, Australian National provided full sitting carriages west of Port Pirie on two journeys per week. The New South Wales Government Railways initially resisted providing sitting accommodation over the whole journey, but State Rail Authority HUB/RUB sitting carriages were included between Sydney and Port Pirie from 1980, with Australian National providing sitting carriages further west. Sitting carriages provided by Australian National became part of the full through service from Sydney to Perth in 1988.

The train currently has four classes, branded as Platinum, Gold Service, Red Service Sleeper and Red Service Daynighter. The Platinum Service was introduced in 2008 as a premium class of travel. The Gold Service, the former first-class service, features either roomette or twinette sleeper cabins, with complimentary meals in the restaurant car.

Red Service, the equivalent of economy class, featured both dual-berth shared sleeper cabins and airline-style 'sit-up' seats similar to other Australian trains. It also had its own restaurant car.[20] Red Service was withdrawn in July 2016.[21]

The train also has a Motorail service to carry passengers' motor vehicles.[22] This facility was available throughout the journey until November 2015, when it was reduced to only operate between Adelaide and Perth.

Special trains

A full Indian Pacific set made promotional trips to Canberra and Newcastle for travel agents prior to its launch in February 1970.[23]

Following the conversion of the Adelaide to Melbourne railway line to standard gauge in 1995, the Indian Pacific made a promotional trip from Perth to Brisbane via Melbourne over 6 days in June of that year.[24][25]

Christmas train

The Christmas train stops at Watson for an Outback concert performed by Guy Sebastian in 2005

In recent years, the Indian Pacific has operated a Christmas Train with a notable music personality on board.[26]

The train stops at several locations to entertain the locals and thank them for their support of the train.[27] The locations include the remote Nullarbor sidings of Watson, Cook,[28] and Rawlinna.

Some of the performers on board have been: David Campbell (2007),[29] Human Nature (2006), Guy Sebastian (2005),[30] Jimmy Barnes (2004), John Paul Young (2003), Marcia Hines (2002), John Williamson (2001) and Nikki Webster (2000).


See also



  1. Indian Pacific Timetable Great Southern Rail
  2. Facts about the Nullabor Plain Outback Australia Travel Guide
  3. The Indian Pacific Fares 2016 - 2017 Great Southern Rail
  4. "Indian Pacific train turns 40". WA Today. 23 February 2010. Retrieved 25 February 2010.
  5. 1 2 Higham, Geoffrey (2007). Marble Bar to Mandurah: A history of passenger rail services in Western Australia. Bassendean: Rail Heritage WA. p. 150. ISBN 978 0 9803922 0 3.
  6. "Indian Pacific back after long strike". The Age. 26 April 1983.
  7. "Western Report" Railway Digest September 1986 page 281
  8. "Interstate cutbacks" Railway Digest July 1991 page 231
  9. "Indian Pacific service cut to weekly" Railway Digest February 1992 page 50
  10. "IP to come under sole control of AN" Railway Digest March 1992
  11. "IP handed to AN" Railway Digest February 1993
  12. "CLP Class Locos Take-Over Indian Pacific Workings" Railway Digest March 1994
  13. Great Southern Railway Consortium completes acquisition of Australian National Railways Passenger Business Serco Group plc 31 October 1997
  14. Indian Pacific Timetables 2016-2017 Great Southern Rail
  15. Indian Pacific Timetables 2015-2016 Great Southern Rail
  16. Vincent, Peter (27 September 2006). "Railroaded Into Fun". The Age. Retrieved 25 January 2008.
  17. Staff, AG (22 September 2010). "Indian Pacific celebrates 40 years". Australian Geographic. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
  18. "Carriage Review" Railway Digest November 1986 page 351
  19. 1 2 Dunn, John (2010). Comeng A History of Commonwealth Engineering Volume 3 1966-1977. Rosenberg Publishing. pp. 16–35. ISBN 9781877058905.
  20. "Compare Service Levels". Great Southern Railway. Archived from the original on 28 March 2008. Retrieved 18 April 2008.
  21. High rollers only for rail as Indian Pacific cuts economy class ABC News 8 March 2016
  22. Taking Your Car - Indian Pacific Great Southern Rail
  23. "Special Agents". Sydney Morning Herald. 10 February 1970.
  24. Evans, John (2004), "Australia's Longest Passenger Train", Table Talk, Australian Association of Timetable Collectors (141), p. 3
  25. "The Indian Pacific's Commemorative Rail Journey" Railway Digest July 1995
  26. Platt, Craig (21 December 2007). "Getting Into the Christmas Spirit(s)". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 25 January 2008.
  27. Simmonds, Diana (19 April 2007). "On the Right Track". The Australian. Retrieved 25 January 2008.
  28. Nader, Carol (17 December 2005). "Splendid Isolation". The Age. Retrieved 25 January 2008.
  29. "Indian Pacific Outback Christmas". Archived from the original on 3 January 2008. Retrieved 25 January 2008.
  30. Air Doctor, Issue 325, February 2006. Page 10. Great Southern Railway Spreading The Joy Of Christmas. Retrieved 2 March 2009
  31. 1 2 "Chronology of Australian Train Crashes". The Daily Telegraph. 6 June 2007. Retrieved 25 January 2008.


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