The first section of the line, connecting Tempe and East Hills, opened in 1931. The line was connected to the main south line at Glenfield, via Holsworthy, in 1987. The line joined with the new Airport Link in 2000.
The East Hills line runs along the alignment of the Illawarra line between the City Circle and Tempe Railway Station - this route is used during peak hour by express services. From Wolli Creek, the line heads west towards East Hills, where the alignment is within 2 km of the since-constructed M5 South Western Motorway between Wolli Creek and East Hills. It then turns south-west through the new suburbs of Voyager Point and Wattle Grove to meet the main south line at Glenfield Junction, where services proceed to Campbelltown and Macarthur. The line is four tracks between Wolli Creek junction and just past Beverly Hills Station, then two tracks to Glenfield junction, Campbelltown and Macarthur, except for several stations with three platforms at East Hills, Glenfield, Campbelltown and Macarthur. The line parallels the Southern Sydney Freight Line between Macarthur and Ingleburn stations.
The first section of the East Hills line was opened on 21 September, 1931 as an electrified double track line from Wolli Creek Junction (between the present-day Tempe Station and Wolli Creek) to Kingsgrove. A single track non-electrified extension to East Hills with a passing loop at Riverwood (then called Herne Bay) was opened on 19 December, 1931. Services on this section were by CPH railmotor, supplemented by through steam trains from Central in peak hours. The single line between Kingsgrove and East Hills was opened for electric services on 17 December, 1939.
The line was duplicated between Kingsgrove and Riverwood in 1948, with points for terminating trains provided at both stations, and a passing loop at Revesby was opened in 1956. Services generally ran all stations from East Hills via Tempe and Sydenham, to the City Circle. Occasional services terminated at Riverwood, Kingsgrove & Padstow. Most trains stopped at Erskineville and St. Peters, now only served by the Bankstown line.
The Airport Link includes a 4 km rock tunnel and a 6 km soft ground tunnel.
For most of its length, the line is in tunnel. The Airport Link runs south from platform 23 at Central station across a viaduct to the tunnel portal beneath Prince Alfred Park near Chalmers Street. The tunnel roughly follows George Street underneath the suburbs of Redfern and Waterloo. At Green Square station, beneath the intersection of Botany Road, Bourke Road and O'Riordan Street, the line continues beneath Bourke Road to Mascot station, a block south of Gardeners Road.
From Mascot, the line roughly follows O'Riordan Street before turning sharply to the west once underneath Kingsford Smith Airport. The line runs westward under the Domestic terminal and the International terminal before continuing north-west underneath the Cooks River to reach the surface at Wolli Creek. At Wolli Creek, the Airport Link joins the East Hills line. The line is two tracks for its entire length.
Construction on the Airport Rail Link (or the New Southern Railway, as it was originally called) began in 1995 with a view to improving facilities for air travellers ahead of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. At the time, the main public transport link between the city and its airport was two express bus services, the route 300 & route 350 "Airport Express" bus.
A Tunnel boring machine was used for the construction. Manufactured by the German firm, Herrenknecht, it arrived in Australia in October, 1996. While the use of a Tunnel boring machine relieved the need for large numbers of workers at increased pressure, a caisson system is formed at the cutting head. Workers entering this space for inspection, maintenance and repair had to be trained. Medical direction was utilized for planning compression and decompression, assessment of fitness to dive, training of workers and lock operators, health monitoring of workers and treatment of related injuries. This project was the first time oxygen decompression tables were used for caisson work in Australia. The incidence of decompression illness was 1 case in every 286 pressurizations (0.35%) and this problem affected 5.9% of the workers.
Faced with the significant costs of building Olympic venues, the then Fahey Liberal government sought to reduce the costs of the new railway by entering into a public private partnership to build the line. Under the deal, the NSW Government would pay to build the line, while a private company, Airport Link, would pay to build and operate the stations. The company's involvement was predicated on passenger estimates and train reliability guarantees that later proved to be optimistic.
The line opened on 21 May, 2000, three months ahead of the Olympic Games, after the State Government had spent around $700 million on the project and the Airport Link Company over $200 million. The new line included five new stations, four to be owned and operated by the private company. Two new stations were built for the airport's International and Domestic Terminals, which featured larger lifts and wider ticket barriers to cater for passengers with baggage. Three new suburban stations were built - one each for the residential development areas of Mascot & Green Square, and an interchange station with the Illawarra Line at Wolli Creek, operated by CityRail.
In conjunction with the construction of the new line, the section of the East Hills Line between Wolli Creek Junction and Kingsgrove was quadruplified. Once this was opened, the running patterns of the trains on the lines changed. The "flying junctions" interchange near Central Station was altered to give the Airport Line its own platforms (21 & 23) at Central. Local (all stations) trains generally were timetabled to run from East Hills via the airport, peak hour express trains from Campbelltown run along the original route via Sydenham, taking the express tracks between Kingsgrove and Wolli Creek Junction.
Since the new line was built and is operated by a private company rather than CityRail, use of the stations require payment of a Station Access Fee on top of the usual CityRail fares.
|Name of Station||Code||Opened||TravelPass|
|Serving Suburbs||Pattern stops at this station||Connections|
|Airport and East Hills Line|
|Town Hall||THL||1932||Red||Sydney, Darling Harbour|
(peak hour only)
|Wynyard||WYD||1932||Red||Sydney, The Rocks, Millers Point, Barangaroo|| |
|Circular Quay||CQY||1956||Red||Circular Quay, Sydney|
The Rocks, Millers Point, Barangaroo
|Central||SBO||1855||Red||Central, Strawberry Hills|
Ultimo, Surry Hills
(limited services only)
|At Central the line branches. The south western branch runs via Sydenham, and the southern branch runs via the airport.|
|Redfern||RDF||1878||Red||Redfern, Waterloo, Darlington|
(peak hours only)
(peak hours only)
(peak hours only)
|Via the airport|
|Green Square||GQE||2000||Red (+ fee)||Zetland, Beaconsfield, Waterloo|
|Mascot||MCO||2000||Red (+ fee)||Mascot, Rosebery|
|Domestic||DOM||2000||Red (+ fee)||Sydney Airport, Mascot|
|International||INT||2000||Red (+ fee)||Sydney Airport, Mascot|
|Wolli Creek||WOC||2000||Red||Wolli Creek, Arncliffe|
|Both branches rejoin.|
|Bardwell Park||BWP||1931||Red||Bardwell Park, Bardwell Valley, Earlwood|
|Bexley North||BXN||1931||Green||Bexley North|
|Beverley Hills||BVH||1931||Yellow||Beverly Hills|
|Revesby||RSV||1931||Yellow||Revesby, Revesby North|
|East Hills||EHS||1931||Pink||East Hills, Voyager Point, Pleasure Point|
|Holsworthy||HSW||1987||Pink||Holsworthy, Hammondville, Wattle Grove|
(limited services only)
|Macquarie Fields||MQF||1888||Purple||Macquarie Fields, Macquarie Links|
|Ingleburn||IGB||1869||Purple||Ingleburn, Denham Court|
|Minto||MIO||1874||Purple||Minto, Bow Bowing, St Andrews|
|Leumeah||LUM||1886||Purple||Leumeah, Woodbine, Claymore,|
|Macarthur||MCU||1985||Purple||Ambarvale, Englorie Park, Bradbury, Glen Alpine|
|Note: means that not all services on this pattern service this station: * Some services on this route do not proceed to or from Macarthur (but terminate at and proceed from Campbelltown). Some services also do not stop at Ingleburn and Glenfield (weekday morning peak hours), and at Macquarie Fields (weekday afternoon peak hours). Some services do not stop at Kingsgrove. |
† Some services on this route do not stop at Bexley North, Bardwell Park, or Turrella.
Despite the cancellation of the rival Airport Express bus service, taxi surcharges and expensive airport parking, the Airport Link has consistently failed to meet patronage targets. In 2000, the Airport Link Company went into receivership, exposing the government to costs of around $800 million; it was put up for sale in early 2006. The Government has to date refused requests to buy back the Airport Link stations. Together with the troubled Cross City Tunnel, the Airport Link served to dampen government and business enthusiasm for further public private partnerships in transport in New South Wales.
Less than a year after the line opened, the State Rail Authority complained that "patronage has been lower than expected to date" on the Airport Line, but they remained optimistic, believing "that as airport users become more familiar with this facility and the ingrained habits of many years gradually alter, patronage will continue to increase, The following year, the Airport Link Company went into receivership. State Rail blamed "lower than expected patronage" and claimed to be working with the company to increase it.
In October 2005, the Government and the company signed a revised agreement on revenue and patronage, settling the latter's claims against the former. The Government paid $34 million to the company, with another $73 million due as CityRail earns revenue from Airport Line business.
Apart from the Airport Line's troubles, the line as a whole also suffered a substantial loss in patronage when the M5 East Tunnel opened in 2002. The tunnel joined the Eastern Distributor and M5 South Western Motorway, shortening road travel times between the city and the south west. The line was estimated to have lost 384,450 commuters over 12 months after the tunnel opened. Since that time, however, the line appears to have gained commuters again, with a reported 3.5% increase in patronage up to early 2006.
The planned CBD Rail Link also has presented a problem to the Airport Line. One of the proposed routes involves linking the Airport Line to the new Rail Link. In 2005, a report by the Rail Infrastructure Corporation on the impact of the line's construction alleged that building the Rail Link could interrupt services on the line altogether; alternatively , it would require train services to travel in one direction, and slow down at construction points on the line. This, it was alleged, would add to the $98.5 million compensation bill which the Government had been forced to pay. On 17 February, 2006 the Government amended its Environmental Planning Policy to cover two potential rail corridors for the new line, one of which includes a link with the Airport Line. As of October 2007, no work has been done to clarify a final corridor.
CityRail's Rail Clearways Program includes two construction projects for the line, to expand its capacity. Firstly, the turnback with one platform at East Hills will be replaced by a turnback with 2 platforms at Revesby. Secondly, the two track section between Kingsgrove and Revesby will be expanded to four tracks. These projects will allow all stations services originating from Revesby to be segregated from the limited stop service originating from Campbelltown and Macarthur, in effect forming two separate lines.
As well as the projects under the Clearways Program, the State Government has plans to expand the operation of the line to the new "Growth Sectors" in the south-west of Sydney. As part of this plan (the Metropolitan Rail Expansion Program (MREP)), the South West Rail Link will be built by the Transport Infrastructure Development Corporation from Glenfield to Leppington, New South Wales, with two new stations at Edmondson Park and Leppington itself, serving the new town centres to be built there. Up to 10 new trains will be built for the line, providing a 15 minute service between Leppington and the city via the East Hills line. In conjunction with the new line, Wolli Creek Station is expected to have two extra platforms constructed to service passengers on the future Campbelltown Express line to access the city. These projects are expected to be finished by 2012.