LOOP LINE UPGRADE PROJECT
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the Loop Line?
The Loop Line is an historic rail corridor stretching from Sydney’s South West to the Southern Highlands.
Originally built in the 1860s, the line extends from Picton through to Mittagong and once formed part of the Great Southern Railway, connecting Sydney and Melbourne.
While the line was bypassed in 1919, regular train services continued along the line up until 1978.
Today, the line is leased by Transport Heritage NSW to provide regular heritage train experiences attached to the NSW Rail Museum and to allow THNSW’s operating heritage fleet to access the broader NSW rail network.
You can read more about the history of the Loop Line here.
What is the Loop Line Upgrade Project?
The Loop Line Upgrade Project will:
Re-activate the line between Buxton and Colo Vale, a section out of commission for over 30 years.
Upgrade the existing section between Picton and Buxton, ensuring the safe, efficient and reliable operation of heritage trains and improved connection with the main line.
Enhance the financial sustainability of the NSW Rail Museum, with a stronger and more diverse, regular product offering.
Maximise the NSW Rail Museum's ability to educate the community on the state's rail and transport history.
Create a unique range of heritage rail experiences which cannot be duplicated elsewhere in Australia, bringing the NSW Rail Museum to life with interstate visitors and eventually international visitors.
Why is the Loop Line Upgrade Project delayed (beyond the original reopening date of mid-2023)?
To ensure the project meets the highest of environmental standards, Transport Heritage NSW is undertaking a detailed review of environmental factors as required by Transport for NSW.
The Review of Environmental Factors will be completed by April 2023 and involves a more detailed assessment of biodiversity, noise and vibration, waterways, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples heritage, Non-Aboriginal heritage and contamination in order to protect our environment.
In the meantime, work continues on:
Design – including station precincts, level crossings and track
Track turnout construction and delivery
Building capacity for future operations – the restoration of locomotive 3001 and railcar 623/723
Regular meetings with local community groups
Why isn’t the line being extended to Mittagong?
The NSW Government has committed $14.6 million to reopen the line between Buxton and Colo Vale.
Engineering challenges, including missing bridges, prevent the line being reopened further south from Colo Vale through to Mittagong.
In early 2023, the NSW Government announced $58,000 for a business case to assess the feasibility of an extension of the loop line to Mittagong.
Will the line be used for regular passenger or freight trains?
No. The Loop Line Upgrade Project is focused on upgrading the heritage rail line from Picton to Colo Vale for the exclusive use of heritage trains and associated operations.
Engineering specifications for freight or other rail traffic have not been factored into the project and therefore eliminate the potential for use by commercial operators.
Why can’t Transport Heritage NSW provide station buildings at all stops?
Upgrade of the Loop Line track will account for the majority of funding. Should further funding be made available, additional work at select stations could be considered along the line.
The extension of the Loop Line is great news. How many additional tourists are expected to visit?
Pre-COVID, existing heritage train experiences along the Loop Line attracted some 35,000 visitors annually. We hope to attract tens of thousands more with this extension.
It should be noted, the line will not operate like a frequent commuter line. Trips will be intermittent, similar to current usage.
More visitors mean more traffic to our quiet villages. What will be done to ensure that our peaceful way of life is not interrupted?
Many of our Loop Line project team members live, work and play in Wollondilly.
Wollondilly’s rural living is important to maintain, and a key part of what attracts people to the area. We are expecting a manageable increase of visitors and cars to visit the Loop Line and are currently planning for additional parking at key locations to ensure increased tourism is suitably accommodated.
Thirlmere village and the NSW Rail Museum will continue to be the main hub of the Loop Line, with passengers originating from and returning to Thirlmere Station, reducing traffic and parking burden on other villages.
In future, some services during special events may allow passengers to board or alight at other stations, but this is expected to be infrequent.
How frequently will trains be operating on the Loop Line?
In the first year, we expect to operate trains between:
Thirlmere and Buxton up to 5 times per day on weekends, with some services on weekdays, particularly during school holidays.
Thirlmere and Colo Vale once per day on a Sunday and on selected additional days for special events or to support charter groups.
Services may be scaled up if there is increased demand for rides on the Loop Line. As Picton is where we access the main line, regular train movements from the NSW Rail Museum to Sydney will continue to occur as they do now.
What hours will trains be operating on the Loop Line?
Most THNSW train services on the Loop Line will operate during daylight hours and when the NSW Rail Museum is open to the public.
Occasional train services or movements do occur after hours. These will continue, subject to operational requirements.
Can I become a volunteer with Transport Heritage NSW / NSW Rail Museum?
Yes! Please visit our volunteering page for details on how to become a volunteer.
Does the Loop Line Upgrade Project include funding for the upgrade of Big Hill Cutting?
Transport Heritage NSW is working closely with Wingecarribee Shire Council on plans to upgrade Big Hill Cutting for the provision of safer access, viewing and parking facilities.
This project is being managed and funded by Wingecarribee Shire Council.
Some level crossings near Balmoral village have been closed. What plans exist to ensure access to and from Balmoral village?
A number of illegal level crossings were once installed across the Loop Line near Balmoral.
Due to safety and after consulting with Wingecarribee Shire Council and the Balmoral Rural Fire Service, Transport Heritage NSW took steps to close the illegal crossings in order improve safety for both road users and rail traffic in Balmoral village.
We are working hard to balance rail line safety and residents’ concerns about adequate emergency access. THNSW will work with the appropriate authorities to ensure residents have safe passage in emergencies.
Wingecarribee Shire Council subsequently have made improvements to Railway Parade, improving access to and from the village.
When will the extension of the line be completed and when will trains commence operating on the extended line?
A revised timeline for completion of the Loop Line Upgrade Project will be provided once a Review of Environmental Factors is completed (as detailed above).