City Circle

The City Circle is a mostly-underground railway line located in the Sydney central business district, in New South Wales, Australia, that forms the core of Sydney's passenger rail network. The lines are owned by RailCorp, a State government agency, and operated under Transport for NSW's Sydney Trains brand. Despite its name, the City Circle is of a horseshoe shape, with trains operating in a U-shaped pattern. The constituent stations of the Circle are (clockwise): Central, Town Hall, Wynyard, Circular Quay, St James, Museum and back to Central.

City Circle
A Tangara at Circular Quay, the halfway point of the city circle line.
ServicesT2 Inner West & Leppington Line
T3 Bankstown Line
T8 Airport & South Line
Opened20 December 1926 (1926-12-20) (first segment)
22 January 1956 (1956-01-22) (entire loop)
Operator(s)Sydney Trains
Line length6 km (3.7 mi)
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge

History and description

The original railway network for the Sydney CBD planned by John Bradfield, (left) and the network as it is today. The City Circle was built as planned and the Eastern Suburbs railway was built to a different alignment, though the Northern Beaches and Southern Suburbs line was never built.

The original concept for the City Railway was part of a report dated 1915 submitted to the government by chief railway engineer, John Bradfield, upon his return from overseas study,[1] with work commencing the following year. His concepts were largely based on the New York City Subway, which he observed during his time in New York City.[2][3]

Built in stages, the first City Circle stations to open were the heritage-listed[4] Museum and St James, which both opened in 1926 as part of the initial electrification of Sydney railways. Next was the "western limb" through Town Hall and Wynyard, which opened in 1932 in conjunction with the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This section contains four tunnels. Two connected to the Harbour Bridge, while the two City Circle tunnels terminated at Wynyard. In 1956 the dead ends at St. James and Wynyard were joined and the "missing link", Circular Quay – was opened. Central and Circular Quay stations are above-ground (Circular Quay is elevated, directly underneath the Cahill Expressway), while the remainder are underground. Several unused railway tunnels also exist. The former tram tunnels at Wynyard, and other stub tunnels at St James are well known.

Services and operations

The current service patterns generally consist of trains from the Bankstown & Inner West & Leppington lines operating around the City Circle in a clockwise manner via Town Hall station. This track is known as the "City Outer". Trains from the Airport & South Line generally operate around the City Circle in an anti-clockwise manner via Museum station (using the "City Inner" track). Bankstown line trains towards Liverpool only also operate around the City Circle in the anti-clockwise direction on weekdays. A set of flying junctions at Central enable this pattern to be varied.

Prior to the integration of the Eastern Suburbs line into the Illawarra Line in 1980, Illawarra line trains also operated around the City Circle.

Trains on the Western and Northern lines usually do not proceed around the City Circle but instead, proceed across the Harbour Bridge to the North Shore line and vice versa.


The line has six stations.

Name Code Distance from
Central (km)
Opened Notes
km mi
Central SBO 0 0 28 February 1855 [5][6][7]
Town Hall THL 1.21 0.75 28 February 1932 [6]
Wynyard WYD 2.05 1.27 28 February 1932 [8]
Circular Quay CQY 2.97 1.85 22 January 1956 [9]
St James SAJ 4.4 2.7 20 December 1926 [10][11]
Museum MSM 4.99 3.10 20 December 1926 [11][12][4]
After Museum, the line loops back to Central

See also


  1. Wylie, R. F. (June 1971). "50 Years – A Long Time". Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin: 140–143.
  2. "Housing can deliver John Bradfield's vision". Daily Telegraph. 4 November 2014. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  3. "A once-visionary rail plan for Sydney lost in time". Daily Telegraph. 29 October 2014. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  4. "Museum railway station". New South Wales State Heritage Register. Office of Environment and Heritage.
  5. Bozier, Rolfe, "New South Wales Railways: NSW Station Codes". Retrieved 19 June 2002.
  6. The Eastern Suburbs Railway platforms for Town Hall and Central stations opened 23 June 1979. Cited in Forsyth, J.H. (ed.) (1988–93), Stations & Tracks; Vol. 1: "Main Suburban & Branches – Illawarra & Branches". State Rail Authority of New South Wales: Sydney, pp. 42–43.
  7. Sourced from Forsyth, J.H. (ed.) (1988–93), Stations & Tracks; Vol. 1: "Main Suburban & Branches – Illawarra & Branches". State Rail Authority of New South Wales: Sydney, pp. 42–44, 101–128, 206–208 passim, except where noted.
  8. Wynyard Station
  9. Circular Quay Station
  10. Sydney Morning Herald 21 December 1926 pp. 11-12
  11. "60 Years Ago". Railway Digest: 398. December 1986.
  12. Museum Station
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