With the opening of the new Waurn Ponds railway station back in October 2014, V/Line had to modify their Geelong line timetable so that trains could actually serve the new station. It is on this new timetable that I found an oddity – two early morning trains bound for Waurn Ponds that stop at every station except for Marshall. So what is the reason for this move?
The reason for these services train skipping Marshall station is infrastructure – beyond Geelong station trains in both directions have to share a single track.
Single track on the Geelong line
After Geelong station the line passes through a 422 metre long tunnel, which emerges at McKillop Street.
The first station is South Geelong, where only a single platform is available for trains to stop at.
The railway then passes over the Barwon River on a long bridge.
Then over a second bridge over Waurn Ponds Creek.
A single platform awaits passengers at Marshall station.
With the same at Waurn Ponds station.
Trains in two directions
If the line beyond Geelong was a single track, then it would make running more than one train at a time extremely difficult. However, V/Line does manage to do this, through the use of additional track provided at selected stations.
At South Geelong there is a second track running opposite the platform, allowing the locomotive to shunt around the carriages, ready to lead the train back towards Melbourne.
There are also two dead end sidings located beyond the platform, allowing additional trains to be parked clear of the main line, ready to form a Melbourne-bound service.
At the former terminus of Marshall, there is also has a second track opposite the platform – provided to allow locomotives to run around their carriages, ready to form a train in the opposite direction.
So what are V/Line doing?
Given the rail infrastructure that exists beyond Geelong station, running an intensive service on the line is difficult – empty trains can’t miraculously appear at Waurn Ponds station each morning, ready to take intending passengers to work in Melbourne.
Instead each morning trains have to make their way out to Waurn Ponds, but due to the single track, they cannot pass citybound services between stations. While South Geelong has a passing track, but it only allows trains from Melbourne to head back the way they came, or into a dead end siding, so that is out.
Which brings us back to the two trains each morning to skip Marshall. With a second track located opposite the platform, trains in an opposing direction can pass each other, but with a major complication – there is no platform on the second track!
With the majority of commuters each morning being bound for Melbourne, the counter-peak trains headed to Waurn Ponds have drawn the short straw, and are sent into the second track at Marshall to allow the citybound train to pick up passengers from the platform.
Back in the old days
Allowing two trains to both pick up passengers at a single platform station used to be done differently in the old days – there were two ways to do it:
- The first train to arrive would stop at the platform, pick up passengers, reverse back and into the passing track, clearing the platform for the second train
- The first train would stop in the platform, and the second train would stop in the passing track, with passengers for the first train walking through the first train!
The last time either trick was used in Victoria was in the early 2000s when West Coast Rail operated the rail service between Melbourne and Warrnambool – their trains used to cross paths at the single platform Winchelsea station, south of Geelong.
Into the future
In April 2015 a new V/Line timetable is due to be introduced for the Geelong line – with all services running via the new Regional Rail Link, it includes trains every 20 minutes off peak as far as South Geelong, with every second train stopping all stations to Waurn Ponds (one train every 40 minutes).
Again, the reason for the limited service beyond South Geelong is due to infrastructure constraints – every second train has to use the siding at South Geelong station to clear the tracks, allowing a train every 40 minutes to head all the way to the end of the single track line.