The longest rail platforms in Australia

Through a mixture of necessity, hope for the future, and in some cases pure accident, Australia has ended up with more than its share of long railway platforms. Many of these have since been eclipsed in the world rankings; India takes the majority of the global top-ten, while China’s widespread HSR rollout has adopted a standard platform length of 500m on many lines (able to comfortably accommodate the longest 16-car double sets). However this article is far more than just a top-ten list. The story of these platforms – when, how, and most importantly why they came to be as long as they are – is the story of rail in Australia. I hope you find it as interesting to read as I found it to write!

These are the rules I’ve adopted for selecting and ranking the list:

  • Google Earth is definitive; published sources are confirmatory only (and some of these are dead wrong!)
  • Length is defined as total contiguous flat boarding surface:
    • “End” means the physical end of the level trafficable surface, or the junction with a concourse
    • If applicable, measurement is curved along the front face of the platform
    • End ramps are not included
    • Administrative restrictions (fences, dwell zones etc) are ignored
  • Only the longest platform at each station is included – additional long platforms are noted but do not earn a separate ranking.

10 – Brisbane Roma Street, Platform 10 – 409m

Railway.  Roma Street Railway Station, from right to left showing Platform 10, 9, 8, 7 and 6, western view. The large DHL building in the background will soon be demolished to make way for the Crossover Rail Project.
Roma Street taken from the viewing platform in 2018; the curving Platform 10 is on the right hand side. Image: Lance Castle (Flickr)

While Roma Street Station was originally opened in 1875, it was not until 1995 that it gained its notably-long Platform 10. The station had been given a major expansion in 1986, with platforms 2 & 3 converted to dual-gauge to accommodate XPT services to Sydney. This left the two platforms with little spare capacity, so when Queensland’s North Coast Line was quadruplicated in the early 1990s, a new and dedicated platform was added on the north side of the complex (on the site of the former rail yards) for long-distance narrow-gauge Tilt Train services. The long platform now allows Queensland to run the longest regularly-scheduled passenger services in Australia, though with the subsequent residential development of the old railyards, the single platform is not easily conducive to further expansion; Brisbane is now faced with only difficult and expensive options if they ever want to increase the frequency of regional and interstate trains.

As for the existing interstate services, the Sydney-Brisbane XPT still uses the dual-gauge Platforms 3 (384m) or Platform 2 (355m). The seasonal Great Southern tourist train from Adelaide via Melbourne and Sydney is far too long to utilise these platforms, even if the consist could be split; it terminates at the Acacia Ridge freight terminal in the outer suburbs, with passengers transferred by bus to the Brisbane Customs House.

9 – Southern Cross, Platform 2 – 440m

Platform 2 is visible on the far right hand side, extending out of the train hall. Image: MrHoff (Pentax Forums)

Melbourne’s Southern Cross, formerly Spencer Street Station, is the youngest platform on the list, having been extended to its current length only in the most recent, 2008 redevelopment for the Regional Fast Rail project. The platform itself is much older, of course; the station’s trackplan has undergone significant changes over the years. Originally, the vast majority of the yards were dedicated to freight operations, with only a handful of small passenger platforms parallel to Spencer Street; an 1874 plan shows that the longest of these was no more than around 150m long. When the Flinders Street Viaduct was built in 1894, the passenger tracks were realigned at an angle to Spencer Street itself; this plan from 1919 shows the longest country platform stretching from Collins Street almost to Lonsdale Street, about 375m. In a 1920s redevelopment, the rest of the tracks were realigned parallel to these oblique platforms, with new platforms added to both the country and suburban lines. The tracks were now in approximately the layout that persists to the present day.

With the arrival of the standard gauge in 1962, a major redevelopment of the station building was completed (before and after plans courtesy of Marcus Wong) – Platform 3 was extended at this time, becoming the station’s longest platform at 395m. The flagship intercity trains that used the reconfigured standard gauge platform 1 were the Southern Aurora and the Spirit of Progress (and, from 1995, The Overland). Both the Aurora and Spirit used the same NSW-built carriages, and were typically built up to a 14-car, 328m set – the extra length allowed sufficient room for locomotives to switch ends.

While the 2005 redevelopment into Southern Cross station completely changed the station building, the platforms were only slightly modified. Platform 1 was realigned parallel to Platform 2 but with its end foreshortened, and both platforms were dual-gauged. Why then was Platform 2 extended further in 2008? There’s a clue in the platform numbering; prior to 2008, it was designated simply “Platform 2”, but subsequently the signage was changed to “2A” and “2B”, to allow two trains to use the near and far ends of the platform at the same time (or at any rate, make the wayfinding for this system clearer). Thus the extension was really an extension of Platform 2B, to make it the same length as 2A and therefore increase the operational flexibility of this dual platform.

Today, the longest train to regularly use the station is The Overland, which in its current incarnation is only built to a maximum of 10 cars (about 260m including locomotive).

*Update* – Several people have asked me about Platform 8, which if you include Platform 8 South, reaches 595m and would rank 4th. I disallowed Platform 8 due to the discontinuity between 8A/B and 8 South; Marcus Wong has a whole article of images and discussion about the present operational difficulties that even running trains between 8 and 8 South entails. It’s certainly conceivable that a future redevelopment could create a continuous, curved platform to resolve these complications (similar to Flinders Street Platform 1) – if that ever happens, I’ll be sure to update the scoreboard!

8 – Cronulla – 442m

Sydney Trains - T4 The Cronulla Branch - Cronulla Station showing the yard layout
Down view of Cronulla Station showing the buffers separating “platform” 1 (near) from 2 (far). Image: John Cowper (Flickr)

Surprisingly, the longest platform in Sydney isn’t at Central, whose Platform 1 is only 370m. That title goes to Cronulla, with its distinctive inter-war Art Deco main building, opened in 1939. It owes its length to its unusual platform configuration, with its “two” platforms being arranged end to end instead of the usual “split” or “island” arrangement, supposedly so-designed to cope with large holiday crowds by allowing easy access directly from the train to the adjacent beachfront. While it is therefore impossible due to track layout for a single train to span the entirety of the long platform, it is nevertheless a contiguous level boarding surface.

=6 – Albury, Platform 1 – 454m

Platform Perspective
Classic southward view from near the main station building, showing off the Victorian-era ironwork; the standard gauge Platform 1 is on the left. Image: Darren Schiller (Flickr)

Albury is arguably the most famous of Australia’s long platforms, due to its former status as the break-of-gauge between Australia’s two largest cities. The midnight train change across the platform from the Victorian broad-gauge on the west (341m long) to “New South Wales Narrow” on the east, was an iconically absurd feature of Australian rail heritage for 79 years.

The railway between Melbourne and Albury was duplicated in standard gauge in 1962, for the first time allowing both the Spirit of Progress (based in Melbourne) and the Southern Aurora (in Sydney) to run right through between both capitals. Regional broad gauge services continued to run to Platform 2 on the original track until it too was converted to standard gauge in 2008. Today, Platform 1 sees two southbound and two northbound XPT services each day, while Platform 2 sees 6 daily VLocity services departing to Melbourne (and the same number arriving).

Now comes a singular thing: the oddest thing, the strangest thing, the most baffling and unaccountable marvel that Australasia can show. At the frontier between New South Wales and Victoria our multitude of passengers were routed out of their snug beds by lantern-light in the morning in the biting-cold of a high altitude to change cars on a road that has no break in it from Sydney to Melbourne! Think of the paralysis of intellect that gave that idea birth; imagine the boulder it emerged from on some petrified legislator’s shoulders. (…) All passengers fret at the double-gauge; all shippers of freight must of course fret at it; unnecessary expense, delay, and annoyance are imposed upon everybody concerned, and no one is benefitted.

Mark Twain, “Following the Equator”, 1897

=6 – Port Augusta – 454m

Looking south towards the station from the Flinders Terrace overpass. Image: Bahnfrend (Wikimedia Commons)

Halfway across the continent, Port Augusta’s main platform is the exact same length as Albury’s, and is similarly associated with the gauge muddle problem. In 1917, the modest first station on nearby Commercial road was replaced with a new and grand structure for the eastern terminus of the Trans Australian Railway. Built in the classical revival style and comprising two stories and forty rooms, it reflects the importance attached to the transcontinental line.

At this time, the railway to Adelaide was narrow gauge, via a circuitous route through the Flinders Ranges. The station was therefore built with two platforms: a western facing standard gauge platform of 1,000 feet (304m), and an eastern facing narrow gauge platform of 720 feet (219m) – this photograph circa 1920 shows the platform ending just north of the station building. It’s not clear exactly when it was extended to its present 455m length, but there is some evidence it was post-1957 when the new standard gauge railway was built between Port Augusta and Marree via the Leigh Creek coalfields. This supports the broader narrative evident in Australia’s long platforms, of a move towards very long interstate consists in the second half of the 20th Century.

Today, no passenger trains call at Port Augusta – both The Ghan and Indian Pacific roll right on by, twice a week. The grand station building is now used as an art gallery featuring local artists.

5 – Adelaide Parklands Terminal – 495m

Boarding the Indian Pacific at Parklands
The Indian Pacific at Platform 1 in 2014. Image: Adventure Before Dementia (Flickr)

In the early 1980s, capacity constraints at Adelaide Railway Station, as well as the expense that would be involved in converting the complicated station approach to dual-gauge, necessitated a new, dedicated terminus for regional and interstate trains. Keswick Terminal, later renamed Adelaide Parklands Terminal, was opened in 1984 to serve this need. Its three dual-gauge platforms, all 495m long excluding end ramps, clearly reflect an expectation of significant capacity requirements for these regional services. It initially served a multitude of interstate trains to Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Alice Springs, as well as regional services to Whyalla, Broken Hill, and Mount Gambier.

Sadly, its usefulness was short-lived. Decades of underinvestment had left the regional railways slow and uncompetitive with driving, and the inconvenient location of Keswick Terminal did not help. By 1990, no regional rail services remained in the state. The interstate services too were declining in importance; the Indian Pacific / Trans Australian was reduced from 7 services per week to 5 in 1982, and to 2 in 1992. The last broad gauge service was The Overland in March 1995, prior to the standardisation of the Adelaide-Melbourne railway. South Australia gifted the nation a transcontinental unified gauge at the cost of its entire regional network, and even the consolation prize of Keswick Terminal was largely mothballed after little more than a decade of use.

Today, Adelaide Parklands Terminal operates at a quiet pace, a shadow of its once hoped-for promise. It hosts just 8 train movements per week – one departure/arrival for The Ghan, one eastbound and one westbound Indian Pacific, and two Overlands. But even at this low capacity, the long platforms are essential for the operation of those long consists; both the Indian Pacific and The Ghan generally require at least two, and sometimes all three platforms to simultaneously board all their carriages. Despite ultimately being misconceived, Adelaide Parklands Terminal is perhaps most emblematic of the hope for the future which Australian rail had in the late 20th century.

4 – Kalgoorlie Platform 1 – 512m

CR Bulldogs in Kalgoorlie (1976)
A eastbound Indian Pacific / Trans Australian uses the hardstand on the through line prior to the conversion of the main platform to standard gauge, January 1976. Image: John Kirk (Flickr)

Kalgoorlie Station was once the centrepiece of a bustling local and regional train network serving the Goldfields-Esperance region of Western Australia. Built in 1896, the handsome station building of local Ashlar stone has four bay platforms in addition to the very long side Platform 1. The eastern platforms took miners to their jobs at the numerous nearby mine sites, or to more distant regional destinations like the mining town of Leonora to the north, or the port town of Esperance to the south.

From 1917, Kalgoorlie was also the western terminus of the standard gauge Trans Australian Railway, the nation’s first transcontinental railway (albeit with no less than three breaks-of-gauge between Sydney and Perth). An interesting observation in John Kirk’s photo above is that, at least until 1976, the Trans Australian Railway terminated not at one of the platforms of Kalgoorlie Station, but rather at a hardstand to the northwest of the platform (Platform 1 remains narrow gauge – and evidently disused). This is an interesting contrast to the TAR’s eastern terminus, at which no expense was spared for the grand Port Augusta Station.

Sometime before 1981, the tracks were realigned to bring Platform 1 back into use (Phil Melling captured this photo of the Indian Pacific finally using the platform in November 1981). Today, Platform 2 at the western end is still used by the once-daily Prospector to Perth, while Platfroms 3, 4 and 5 at the eastern end are all long-disused (they were formerly used by the Trans Australian and Boulder Loop services).

3 – East Perth Terminal – 620m

Some people appreciate Brutalist architecture; Hot Rails is not one of them. Image: Bahnfrend (Wikimedia Commons)

Perth holds a romantic position in Australian rail history as the terminus of one of the longest rail services in the world: the Indian-Pacific, which takes three days to travel the 4,352km across the continent, from Sydney, via Adelaide, and across the Nullarbor Plain. Unfortunately, passengers are no longer welcomed to Perth by any equally romantic architecture. Transcontinental services were relocated from the grand Perth Central in the north of the CBD to East Perth upon the standardisation of the Goldfields line in 1969; the brutalist nightmare that is the Public Transport Centre and its adjacent East Perth Terminal came a few years later, in 1976. The long platform was necessitated by the extremely long consists being run by the Indian Pacific, which was in those days a daily service, and well patronised due to its competitiveness against expensive air travel.

Today, the Indian Pacific comes only once per week, but regional Prospector, MerredinLink and AvonLink services still utilise the platform a few times daily.

East Perth Terminal is often falsely credited with being Australia’s longest platform, at a supposed 762m in length (apparently sourced to the 1985 Guinness World Records), with other sources claiming 670m or “about 650m”, but I was unable to find evidence that it was ever remotely this long.

2 – Port Pirie (Mary Elie Street) Platform 1 – 701m

A Budd railcar awaiting departure to Port Augusta on the (eastern) standard gauge platform, circa 1969. Image: Australian Government (via Wikipedia)

Port Pirie’s high ranking on this list might be unexpected – why does a small rural port town boast one of the longest rail platforms not just in Australia, but the world? The answer lies in its strategic location near the head of Spencer Gulf, as well as South Australia’s uniquely muddled gauge problem. South Australia, along with Victoria, initially selected broad gauge for its mainline railways. However, due to financial difficulties and engineering constraints, many rural branch lines were built to narrow gauge. Furthermore, when the Commonwealth fulfilled its federal obligation of a rail connection to Western Australia, it built this line to the 1435mm standard gauge then used only in New South Wales, thus forcing a break-of-gauge at both ends of the new line (Kalgoorlie, and Port Augusta). In 1937, the TAR’s eastern terminus was extended 90km south to Port Pirie, joining the narrow gauge lines to the rural hinterland, and the new broad gauge to Adelaide, completed in the same year (avoiding the circuitous route via Peterborough and Burra, and another narrow/broad break-of-gauge at Terowie). Port Pirie was thus established as a major interchange for intercontinental rail travel.

The town’s geography however was not well-suited to this role. Its location near the head of an estuarine peninsula necessitated a short spur from the mainline, which was several kilometres east of town. While this was not such a problem during the gauge-muddle era (as passengers needed to change trains in any case), after standardisation of the line to Broken Hill (1967) and especially Adelaide (1982), the requirement for through-trains to make a long reversal out of the station was conspicuously absurd. By 1989, the only remaining trains were the long interstates which bypassed the town completely (stopping, if at all, at Coonamia on the town outskirts); Port Pirie station was reduced to a relic of a bygone era.

This history gave Port Pirie a uniquely numerous succession of railway stations. It has had no fewer than six completely different stations over the years:

  • Port Pirie (1876), subsequently renamed Port Pirie South, was a modest station for a town then under 1000 people; it was located near the current site of Mary Elie St Station.
  • Port Pirie (Ellen Street) was opened in 1902, in the wake of the discovery of silver-lead-zinc at Broken Hill and the construction of a railway connecting it to Port Pirie; the grand, domed station building reflected the subsequently enhanced importance of the town as an export hub.
  • Solomontown (1911) was added as an additional passenger stop on the narrow gauge line to serve the rapidly expanding township;
  • Port Pirie Junction (1937) was built opposite Solomontown Station with both broad and standard gauge platforms, and together with the previous station operated as a triple-gauge station for 30 years;
  • Port Pirie (Mary Elie Street) replaced Port Pirie Junction upon the widening of the Broken Hill line to standard gauge in 1967, and operated until the withdrawal of regular passenger services in 1989. The very long platform was necessitated by increasing consist lengths of the daily Trans Australian service to Kalgoorlie, which the shorter platform at Junction was no longer able to handle.
  • Coonamia (1989) really stretched the definition of “station” – facilities were limited to an ATCO hut, public telephone and a small car park – no platform at all! It served as a flag-stop for the Ghan and Indian Pacific until those services withdrew the stop altogether in the early 2010s.

1 – Flinders Street Platform 1 – 708m

Melbourne (Flinders Street)
Flinders Street’s Platform 1 fronts the grand station building; Platform 14 (the eastern end of Platform 1) is underground. Image: Hugh Llewellyn (Flickr)

Flinders Street Station was completed in more-or-less its current form in 1909, though the current platform configuration was completed somewhat earlier. Platform 1 was initially around 300m long – not exceptional, but commensurate with its status as a major terminal station of a great city. It was extended to its current length in two stages. First, in 1910, the “Milk Dock” was added to the west of the main building, allowing freight to be loaded without interfering with regular passenger operations. This added about 130m. Secondly, in 1966, the eastern end of the platform was joined up with the nearby Princes Bridge station as part of the Princes Gate Towers redevelopment (on the site of what is now Federation Square, just across Swanston Street from Flinders Street Station). In 1980, Princes Bridge was officially amalgamated with Flinders Street, with the added section of platform being designated “Platform 14”; since 2022 it has been unused and is off-limits to the public (apparently due to insufficient dimensions for modern safety standards), and only a narrow walkway links it to “Platform 1”. Nevertheless it does count as a contiguous level boarding surface, making it the longest in Australia.

I do have to give Flinders Street the win here, but make no mistake, it’s a highly technical win: the platform has always been configured as two separate platforms, there is now no public access to the majority of its length, the two halves are connected by a narrow, curving walkway, and it has never hosted long, interstate trains that would utilise its length (it is currently used by the Hurstbridge and Mernda Lines, both commuter trains to the northeastern suburbs of Melbourne). There has never been any need for Flinders Street to have a platform as long as this, and it ended up this way essentially by accident – yet there it is!

Honourable Mention – Darwin Berrimah Terminal – 1,150m hardstand

My goodness but aren’t those stainless steel Comengs just the most beautiful passenger carriages ever built. Image: Journey Beyond

The longest dedicated passenger loading facility in Australia is Darwin’s Berrimah Passenger Terminal, opened in 2004 upon the completion of the Alice Springs to Darwin Railway, and located at the intermodal freight handling facility at East Arm Wharf, about a 20km drive to the town centre. While there’s no raised platform at all, the 1,150m hardstand is well suited to the very long consists run by this famous train, avoiding the need to break up the train for boarding.

It’s honestly a bit of a shame that such a celebrated travel experience begins with a 20-minute bus transfer from the Darwin Convention Centre. It could easily have been otherwise; Darwin’s original railway station was only a few hundred metres away from the Convention Centre, and was operational for almost a century, from 1889 to 1973. The easement for the narrow-gauge North Australia Railway is still there (partially converted to a bike track), running alongside the Stuart Highway right down to the docks. The new railway was and is primarily a freight railway, and it no doubt made sense to relocate the major port facilities to East Arm with the arrival of the new railway. Nevertheless, the abandonment of the old alignment does seem rather a missed opportunity. Perhaps one day both Darwin’s and Adelaide’s rail terminals will be returned to their rightful, central positions in their respective cities, and finally give a worthy conclusion to Australia’s most famous train journey.


  1. Regarding Southern Cross platform 2, the extension at the north end added in 2008 was part of a larger package of work to allow standard gauge trains to run around a train in platform 2, and also reprovisioned a motorail dock.

    The original 1960s station only had a standard gauge runaround in platform 1 and a motorail dock at platform 2, but both were removed in the 2005 redevelopment.

    The lack of a runaround wasn’t an issue for the XPT, but between 2004 and 2008 The Overland needed a second locomotive at the other end to shunt it into Southern Cross from overnight stabling at South Dynon, and then take it back again.

  2. A note on Cronulla station – the current “two platforms in a line” setup dates to the 2010 duplication of the line and the Rail Clearways Program, when they needed a way to fit a second platform onto a constrained site.

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