City Loop history

Melbourne's City Loop was completed in May 1985.

Building the Melbourne Underground Rail Loop was an extraordinary undertaking. Construction started in 1971 and the project was completed with the opening of Flagstaff Station in 1985. The loop provides customers with a choice of five stations around the central business district and avoids operational problems associated with trains having to reverse direction at Flinders Street Station.

As early as 1929, the Metropolitan Town Planning Commission recommended the construction of railway tracks and stations under the eastern and northern sides of the central business district, and connecting them to the existing railway system in the vicinity of North Melbourne and Richmond. The 1969 Melbourne Metropolitan Transport Plan also supported the need for an underground loop. It proposed a design similar to that finally agreed upon.

City Loop Timeline

Date

Description

Feb 1971 Melbourne Underground Rail Loop Act passed. The Melbourne Underground Rail Loop Authority (MURLA) was set up under this act to build the Loop.
22 Jun 1971 First sod was turned near Flinders Street 'E' Box.
2 Sept 1977 Boring of the first tunnel (for the Burnley Group of lines) was completed.
11 Dec 1978 The new viaduct between Flinders Street Station and Spencer Street Station was opened. This increased the number of tracks between these two stations from four to six. This was the first stage of the Loop project to be completed.
31 Oct 1980 The traction overhead went live in the Burnley and Caulfield Loops.
4 Dec 1980 The first test train ran through the Loop.
24 Jan 1981 Museum Station, and the Burnley and Caulfield Group tunnels were officially opened.
26 Jan 1981 Regular passenger services started through the Burnley and Caulfield Group tunnels.
31 Oct 1982 The tunnel for the Clifton Hill Group of lines was opened to regular rail traffic.
22 Jan 1983 Parliament Station was opened.
1 May 1984 The tunnel for the Northern Group of lines was opened to regular rail traffic. This was the last of the four tunnels to be opened.
27 May 1985 Flagstaff Station was opened.
23 Aug 1993 The City Circle rail service was withdrawn. This service was replaced by the City Circle tram service that was introduced in 1994.
16 Feb 1997 Museum Station was renamed Melbourne Central.
19 Nov 2000 Sunday services through the Loop started operating until the last train, rather than stopping at 6.45 pm.
15 Oct 2015 3G mobile coverage gets turned on in the City Loop

Facts at a glance

These facts are sourced from the original Metro Underground Rail Loop authority brochure.

Tunnels

  • Four separate tunnels progressively brought into service January 1981 - April 1985
  • Total length of driven tunnels: 10km
  • Total length of cut and cover tunnels: 3km
  • Total length of approach ramps: 2km
  • Volume excavated (80% by mechanical methods): 900,000 cubic metres
  • Volume of concrete placed: 300,000 cubic metres

Underground stations

  • Platform length for 6-car train set: 160m
  • Platform width: 3.5m
  • Design interval between peak-hour trains: 2.5 minutes

Museum Station (now Melbourne Central)

  • Progressively brought into service January 1981 - April 1982
  • 5 levels
  • Maximum depth (excavation by open cut): 29m
  • Number of escalators: 21

Parliament Station

  • Progressively brought into service January 1983 - April 1984
  • 4 levels
  • Maximum depth (excavation by mining methods): 40m
  • Number of escalators: 13

Flagstaff Station

  • Brought into service May 1985
  • 4 levels
  • Maximum depth (excavation by mining methods): 32m
  • Number of escalators: 14

Flinders-Spencer Street viaduct

  • Brought into service December 1978
  • Total length: 722m
  • Length of spans: 30m (35m max)
  • Weight of beams: 290 tonnes max
  • Type of construction: Precast concrete box girder

Videos

The following films were produced by the Melbourne Underground Rail Loop Authority in the 1970s, during the planning and construction of the loop. Originally there was to be a trilogy of films, one at the start of construction, one during construction and a final one when the project was completed. However, when the Melbourne Underground Rail Loop Authority was scaled back at the end of the project, the third film was never completed. As well as documenting construction of the loop, the films show the development of Melbourne during the 1970s.

Things to watch for in the videos:

  • The Melbourne Central Shot Tower, now located under the dome, can be seen in the videos quite clearly during the construction of Melbourne Central Station. La Trobe Street was temporarily diverted around the construction site, right next to the base of the Shot Tower.
  • New silver trains are shown being constructed. These are the Hitachi Trains which are now being progressively retired from service.
  • Buildings under construction, including Collins Place and 80 Collins Street (formerly known as Nauru House).

City loop planning

Transcript for City loop planning video (RTF) 51kB

City loop construction

Transcript for City loop construction video (RTF) 46kB

Historical reel of the City loop

Promotional material

The Melbourne Underground Rail Loop Authority produced a number of brochures about the project.

A flyer produced at the start of the project explains how the loop would take them closer to their destination, illustrating it with a map of the proposed developments and improvements, an artist's impression and a photograph of an underground station on the Rotterdam metro.

City Loop promotional flyer (PDF) 246kB

City Loop promotional flyer - accessible version (RTF) 38kB

Imagery

View an image gallery showing a number of photos during the construction phase of the project, including:

  • map of the train network showing the flow of the suburban lines into the Loop.
  • mining machine breaking into Flagstaff Station.
  • a conceptual drawing showing Museum Station (now Melbourne Central Station), the first of the three underground stations to come into operation.
  • escalators being installed at Museum station. Escalators being installed at an otherwise empty and unfurnished Museum Station.

Credits

Brochures and films: Dr Sandy Bennet

Photos: Public Record Office Victoria