Flinders Street railway station

Flinders Street railway station is a railway station on the corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. It serves the entire metropolitan rail network.[4] Backing onto the city reach of the Yarra River in the heart of the city, the complex covers two whole city blocks and extends from Swanston Street to Queen Street.

Flinders Street
PTV commuter and regional rail station
The building illuminated at night after renovations and repainting, December 2018
Location207–361 Flinders Street[1]
Melbourne, Victoria 3000
Coordinates37°49′05″S 144°58′01″E
Owned byVicTrack
Operated byMetro Trains
Distance1.23 kilometres from Southern Cross
Platforms13 (plus one removed)
Train operators
Connections14 tram routes
Structure typeAt-grade
Bicycle facilitiesNone
Disabled accessYes
Other information
StatusPremium station
Station codeFSS
Fare zone1
WebsitePublic Transport Victoria
Opened12 September 1854 (1854-09-12)
Electrified1500 V DC overhead
Passengers (2008–2009)24.641 million[2]
Passengers (2009–2010)24.670 million[2] 0.12%
Passengers (2010–2011)25.187 million[2] 2.09%
Passengers (2011–2012)26.187 million[2] 3.97%
Passengers (2012–2013)Not measured[2]
Passengers (2013–2014)27.960 million[2] 6.77%
Passengers (2014-2015)Not measured[3]
Passengers (2015-2016)28.087 million[3] 0.45%
Passengers (2016-2017)27.859 million[3] 0.81%
Passengers (2017-2018)28.161 million[3] 1.08%
Preceding station   Metro Trains   Following station
Direction of travel through the City Loop on metropolitan lines changes to either Southern Cross or Parliament depending on the line and time of day.
TerminusHurstbridge line
towards Hurstbridge
Mernda line
towards Mernda
Lilydale line
towards Lilydale
Belgrave line
towards Belgrave
Alamein line
towards Alamein
Glen Waverley line
towards Glen Waverley
Pakenham line
towards Pakenham
Cranbourne line
towards Cranbourne
Frankston line
towards Frankston
Sandringham line
One-way operation
towards Sandringham
Upfield line
towards Upfield
Craigieburn line
towards Craigieburn
Flemington Racecourse line
Sunbury line
towards Sunbury
Werribee line
towards Werribee
One-way operation
Williamstown line
towards Williamstown
Bairnsdale line
towards Bairnsdale
Traralgon line
towards Traralgon
Official nameFlinders Street Railway Station Complex
CriteriaA, E, F, G
Designated20 August 1982
Reference no.H1083[1]

Flinders Street is served by Metro's suburban services, and V/Line regional services to Gippsland. It is the busiest station on Melbourne's metropolitan network and the busiest railway station in Australia, with over 77,153 daily entries recorded in the 2017/18 fiscal year.[3] It was the first railway station in an Australian city and the world's busiest passenger station in the late 1920s.

The main station building, completed in 1909, is a cultural icon of Melbourne. The art nouveau style building, with its prominent dome, arched entrance, tower and clocks is one of the city's most recognisable landmarks. It is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. The Melburnian saying "I'll meet you under the clocks" refers to the row of clocks above the main entrance, which indicate the time-tabled time of departure for trains on each line; another saying, "I'll meet you on the steps", refers to the wide staircase underneath these clocks. Flinders Street Station is responsible for two of Melbourne's busiest pedestrian crossings, both across Flinders Street, including one of Melbourne's few pedestrian scrambles.

Listed on the Victorian Heritage Register, the station has Australia's longest platform which is 708-metres long and is also the fourth longest railway platform in the world.[5]


Early terminus

The first railway station to occupy the Flinders Street site was called Melbourne Terminus, and was a collection of weatherboard train sheds. It was opened on 12 September 1854 by the Lieutenant-Governor, Charles Hotham.[6] The terminus was the first city railway station in Australia, and the opening day saw the first steam train trip in the country. It travelled to Sandridge (now Port Melbourne), over the now redeveloped Sandridge Bridge, travelling along the now light rail Port Melbourne line.

The first terminus had a single platform 30 metres long, and was located beside the Fish Market building on the south-west corner of Swanston and Flinders Streets.[7] An additional platform was provided in 1877, along with two overhead bridges to provide passenger access, followed by additional timber and corrugated iron buildings and a telegraph station in 1879.[6] The first signal boxes were opened at the station in 1883, one at each end of the platforms.[8]

Melbourne's two other early central-city stations, Spencer Street and Princes Bridge, opened in 1859. Spencer Street served the lines to the west of the city, and was isolated from the eastern side of the network until a ground level railway was built connecting it to Flinders Street in 1879,[9] this track being replaced by the Flinders Street Viaduct in 1889.[10]

Princes Bridge was originally separated from Flinders Street, even though it was only on the opposite side of Swanston Street. Once the railway line was extended under the street in 1865 to join the two, Princes Bridge was closed.[11] It was reopened in April 1879, and from 1909 slowly became amalgamated into Flinders Street.[12] Federation Square now occupies its site. Up until the 1880s a number of designs for a new station had been prepared, but none ever went any further.[13]

Current building

In 1882, the government decided to build a new central passenger station to replace the existing ad-hoc station buildings. A design competition was finally held in 1899, and 17 entries were received. The competition was essentially for the detailed design of the station building, because the location of the concourse and entrances, the track and platform layout, the type of platform roofing, and even the room layout to some extent, were already decided.[14]

In 1899, the £500 first prize was awarded to railway employees James Fawcett and H.P.C. Ashworth, of Fawcett and Ashworth, whose design, named Green Light, was of French Renaissance style. It included a large dome over the main entrance, and tall clock tower over the Elizabeth Street entrance. A train shed over the platforms was intended to have many arched roofs running north-south, but only an alternative plan survives, depicting an impressive three-arched roof (running east-west) over the concourse.

Work began in 1900 on the rearrangement of the station tracks, while the final design of the station building was still being worked on. Work on the central pedestrian subway started in 1901, with the foundations of the main building completed by 1903.

In 1904, in mid construction, the plans were extensively modified by the Railways Commissioners. The proposed train shed was replaced by individual platform roofs, and it was decided not to include a concourse roof. To increase office space, a fourth storey was added to the main building, which resulted in the arches above each entrance on Flinders Street being lowered, decreasing their dominance.[15]

In 1905, work began on the station building itself, starting at the west end and progressing towards the main dome. Ballarat builder Peter Rodger was awarded the £93,000 contract. The building was originally to have been faced in stone, but that was considered too costly, so red brick, with cement render details, was used for the main building instead. Grey granite from Harcourt was used for many details at ground level on the Flinders street side, "in view of the importance of this great public work".[16] The southern facade of the main building consisted of a lightweight timber frame clad with zinc sheets, which were scored into blocks and painted red in order to look like large bricks. That was done to created corridors instead of what were to be open-access balconies inside the train shed.

Work on the dome started in 1906. The structure required heavy foundations as it extended over railway tracks. In May 1908, work was progressing more slowly than planned, with the expected completion date of April 1909 increasingly unlikely to be met. Rodger's contract was terminated in August 1908.[17] A Royal Commission was appointed in May 1910, finding that Rodger could be held accountable for the slow progress in 1908, but he should be compensated for the difficulties before then. The Way and Works Branch of the Victorian Railways took over the project, and the station was essentially finished by mid-1909. The verandah along Flinders Street, and the concourse roof and verandah along Swanston Street, were not completed until after the official opening in 1910.[17]

The building has three levels at the concourse, or Swanston Street, end, and four at the lower Elizabeth Street, or platform, end. Numerous shops and lettable spaces were provided, some on the concourse, but especially along the Flinders Street frontage, many at lower than street level, accessed by stairs, which created a fifth / basement level. The top three levels of the main building contain a large number of rooms, particularly along the Flinders Street frontage, mostly intended for railway use, but also many as lettable spaces. Numerous ticket windows were located at each entry, with services, such as a restaurant, country booking office, lost luggage office and visitors help booth, at the concourse or platform level. Much of the top floor was purpose-built for the then new Victorian Railway Institute, including a library, gym and a lecture hall, later used as a ballroom. Those rooms have been largely abandoned and decaying since the 1980s. For a number of years in the 1930s and 1940s, the building featured a creche next to the main dome on the top floor,[18] with an open-air playground on an adjoining roof. Since 1910, the basement store beside the main entrance has been occupied by a hat store, known as 'City Hatters' since 1933.

The first electric train service operated from Flinders Street to Essendon in 1919,[10] and by 1926 it was the world's busiest passenger station.[19] To cater for the increasing numbers of passengers, the Degraves Street subway from the station was extended to the north side of Flinders Street in 1954.[10] In March 1966, Platform One was extended to 2,322 feet (708 m) long.[20]

Redevelopment plans

Plans arose at various times from the 1960s to the 1970s for the demolition or redevelopment of the station, as well as the adjacent Jolimont Yard area. The station had fallen into disrepair, having not been cleaned in decades, and covered with advertising hoardings and light up signs.[21]

In 1962 the Minister for Transport and HKJ Pty Ltd signed an agreement for a £30 million redevelopment of the station that would have resulted in the demolition of the clock tower and replacement with an office building up to 60 stories high. Work was to begin in 1964, but instead the Gas & Fuel Building was constructed over the Princes Bridge station.[22] In 1967 a company purchased the option to lease the space above Flinders Street Station, planning to build a shopping plaza and two office towers, the dome and clock tower being kept as part of the design, but strong opposition saw this project lapse.[22]

In 1972 Victorian Premier Henry Bolte unveiled another redevelopment plan, to cover 27 acres (110,000 m2) of space above the Flinders Street Station and Jolimont Yard for a complex of shops, offices, theatres and other community facilities. A newspaper report of 1974 said that planning was still underway for the $250 million proposal, but by 1975 public perceptions had begun to turn towards retention of the station.[22] A Builders Labourers Federation green ban at the time helped preserve it in its existing form.[23]

In 1989 under the John Cain Government an agreement to construct the "Festival Marketplace" was signed. Designed by Daryl Jackson architects, it was to be built over the existing platforms in a style sympathetic to the existing station, and be completed by 1992. Planned to feature shops, restaurants and cafes, the project was abandoned in 1991 after the inability of the financiers to come up with the $205 million required due to the early 1990s recession.[24]

In November 2011, the Victorian Government launched a $1 million international design competition to rejuvenate and restore the station. In October 2012, after receiving 118 submissions, six finalists were selected.[25] The public could vote and the jury's choice and people's choice winner were announced on 8 August 2013. The competition winner was Hassell + Herzog & de Meuron, while the people's choice winner were University of Melbourne students Eduardo Velasquez, Manuel Pineda and Santiago Medina.[25][26][27]


The Swanston Street concourse has undergone the most change of any part of the station, and is now three times the depth of the original structure, and only the canopy and roofed area on Swanston Street remains of the original. After the first round of works in 1985 a City of Melbourne councillor, Trevor Huggard, described the renovation as "vandalism of historically important sections of the station", and in 1997 the National Trust of Australia described the additions to the concourse as unsympathetic and detrimental to the station, having "the character of a modern shopping centre".[28]

The television displays used to display next train information were added to each platform in July 1980.[29]

In 1982 a $7 million refurbishment was announced by the Minister of Transport Minister for Transport, Stephen Crabb, divided into four phases, designed by the railways architect Kris Kudlicki.[30] Completed by 1984, the first escalators at the station provided on platform 2 / 3 replaced the ramps, and new public toilets were provided, replacing those over the platforms.[31] The main station concourse was tiled and extended westward over the tracks, with skylights added above the ramps,16 new shops opened on the concourse. A restaurant was built on the southern side facing the river,[32] which opened in October 1985, but closed soon after, becoming instead the "Clocks on Flinders" poker machine venue in 1994.[33] The main steps were embedded with electrical circuits to keep them dry in June 1985.

In 1993 the Elizabeth Street pedestrian subway opened at the Southbank end.[33] Conservation work was also carried out to the main building, with the external facade painted in the original colours, exterior feature lighting installed, and the stained glass feature windows above each entry restored.[34] Further changes were made though the late 1990s with the opening of access from the main Swanston Street concourse to platform 1, platform resurfacing with tactile tiles, and the replacement of the remainder of the original platform access ramps (except platform 10) with escalators and elevators.[35][36]

The tracks to the east of the station were rebuilt in 1997/98 to clear the way for the Federation Square project.[37] Jolimont Yard was eliminated, with $40 million spent to reduce 53 operating lines between Flinders Street and Richmond Station to just 12. The number of points was also reduced, from 164 to 48.[38] These changes also saw a reallocation of platform usage at the station, country trains being shifted from platform 1 to platform 10, and Clifton Hill group trains being shifted from the deleted Princes Bridge Station to platform 1.[20]

The final round of changes were completed by 2007. It included refurbishment of the building roof and concourse foundations, an upgrade of platform 10 with escalators and a lift replacing the ramp, the relocation of all ticket booking offices to the main entrance under the main dome and new LCD Passenger Information Displays installed on the platforms, subways and concourse.[39] In March 2009 an escalator replaced the lift to platform 12 and 13, with platform 13 also extended westwards into daylight along the alignment of the former platform 11.[40]

In 2008 the retail pavilions on the concourse were rebuilt, increasing their area. An investigation of the potential of the abandoned spaces in the station, overseen by a taskforce comprising representatives from Connex, the Committee for Melbourne, Melbourne City Council, Heritage Victoria, was completed the same year, but the conclusions have not been made public.[41] In January 2010, one of the first announcements by the new Minister for Public Transport was that the government was investigating the refurbishment of the abandoned spaces for "cultural uses".[42]

In mid-February 2015 Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan announced that $100 million would be spent for urgent refurbishment works to upgrade station platforms, entrances, toilets, information displays and the restoration of exterior of the main building.[43] By July 2017, the station had been almost completely repainted in the original 1910 colours.[44] The Premier announced that works were likely to continue for another 18 months.[45]

As painting continued in January 2018, a further round of works was announced including the renewal of the Elizabeth Street pedestrian subway and rebuilding of the subway's south entrance to include direct access to platform 10.[46]


The distinctive clocks under the main dome that show the departure times of the next trains date back to the 1860s. Sixty Bathgate indicators were purchased from England for use at the Flinders Street, Spencer Street, Richmond and South Yarra stations. Those at Flinders Street were placed into storage when the old station was demolished in 1904, with 28 placed into the new station in 1910. They were located at the main entry under the dome, the southern side archway, and the Degraves and Elizabeth Street entrances.[47]

Manually operated by a railway officer using a long pole, during an 8-hour period the clocks at the main entrance were changed an average of 900 times.[47] The original indicator clocks were removed from service in 1983 as part of a redevelopment of the station, with their replacement by digital displays planned. An outpouring of public outrage and sentimentality saw the decision reversed within one day. The clocks at the main entrance were altered to automatic operation by computer, but those at the Degraves and Elizabeth Street entrances were replaced by large airport-style split-flap displays.[47]

The space "under the clocks" or "on the steps" leading to the dome has been a popular informal meeting place for Melburnians since the station's opening. Although the area was not intended for this purpose, and there is no seating or other infrastructure to suggest it as a destination, the location  opposite the well-known Young and Jackson Hotel and overlooking two of the busiest tram routes in the city  means it is accessible and visible to many of the city's main pedestrian thoroughfares. Many people who meet "under the clocks" do not arrive by train; the site's cultural significance extends beyond its main function as a transport hub.[48]

A clock tower has also existed at the end of Elizabeth Street since 1883. The first clock was known as the 'Water Tower Clock', after a wooden framed water tower erected on the site in 1853. This clock remained in place until 1905 when work begun on the new station, the clocktower being moved to outside Princes Bridge station.[49] In 1911 it was moved to Spencer Street station, where it remained until the station redevelopment of 1967. Sold to a private collector, it was returned to public ownership and in 1999 was put on display at the Scienceworks Museum, Spotswood.[49] It was returned to Southern Cross station in 2014.[50]

Today's Elizabeth Street clock tower was constructed between August 1906 and November 1907, the clock being built by Melbourne clockmaker F Ziegeler to an English design. Originally needing to be wound every day, it is now electrically operated.[51] It was cleaned and overhauled between 2017 and 2018 before being fully restored to service.[52][53]

Signal boxes

The first signal boxes were opened at the station in 1883, one at each end of the platforms. By the 1890s a third island platform had been constructed.[8] From the 1900s until 1983 five signal boxes controlled traffic into Flinders Street Station.[54]

Flinders Street A was located at the western end of Flinders Street between the lines to St Kilda / Port Melbourne and Spencer Street, and controlled all traffic from the west. Constructed of brick it was of "traditional" Victorian Railways design, it had two mechanical lever frames of equal size, totalling 280 levers.[55] The mechanical signals were decommissioned in October 1979.[56] The signal box has been burnt twice, the second time being in 2002,[57] destroying the timber and glass superstructure and slate roof. In 2009 it is now being rebuilt as Signal, a youth arts centre funded by the City of Melbourne.[58]

Flinders Street B was located at the Richmond end of Flinders Street platform 8/9 and controlled the southern tracks into and out of the station from Jolimont Yard. Constructed of brick it was of traditional Victorian Railways design, and was demolished when the Federation Square Deck was built.

Flinders Street C was located beyond the Richmond end of Flinders Street platform 4/5 and controlled the northern tracks into and out of the station from the yard. Constructed of brick it was of 'traditional' Victorian Railways design, and was demolished when the Federation Square Deck was built.

Flinders Street D was located at the Richmond end of the Princes Bridge station island platform (later renumber to Flinders Street 15/16). Of utilitarian brick construction it remains in place today just outside the Federation Square Deck, but is unused as a signal box.

Flinders Street E was located at Richmond Junction, and controlled the junction as well as access into the Richmond end of the stabling sidings. Of utilitarian brick construction it remains in place today underneath the William Barak Bridge, but is unused as a signal box.

Since 1983, the station has been remotely controlled by Metrol. The station precinct is operated by four interlockings corresponding to former signal boxes A, B, D and E.[59]


The platform layout at Flinders Street is unusual among Australian terminal stations for being almost entirely composed of through tracks  a product of the constrained geography of the site and the haphazard development of the rail network around it.[60] The first platform at the station, constructed near and parallel to Flinders Street itself, was barely 30 m (98 ft) long, and allowed trains from Port Melbourne to terminate.[6] The opening of the rail connection under Swanston Street in 1865 enabled trains from Brighton to access the platform,[61] and so it was later extended to enable the simultaneous arrival of trains from the east and west.[11]

A second platform to the south of the first was provided in 1877, after the amalgamation of railway companies began to increase traffic at the station.[62] Platform expansion began in earnest following the 1882 recommendation that Flinders Street be developed as a major terminal, and the subsequent government acquisition of the railways: between 1889 and 1892, three further platforms were constructed on land acquired from the former fish market in anticipation of additional traffic, which eventuated when Essendon, Coburg and Williamstown trains were routed across the viaduct in 1894.[63] Development continued with the completion of the 1899 ground plan, which specified a total of 11 platforms  platform 1 along the main building and five pairs of island platforms to the south. The remaining platforms were constructed as works progressed on the main building, and in 1909, a decision was made to extend platforms 10 and 11 eastwards, creating two new platforms numbered 12 and 13.[12]

Railway officials proposed amalgamating the nearby Princes Bridge station with Flinders Street with improved passenger connections in the 1890s, but failed to obtain funding from the state government for the project despite the massive redevelopment works.[64] Nevertheless, the two stations were merged for signalling and operational purposes in 1910,[65] and in 1966, platform 1 at Flinders Street was extended to meet its counterpart at Princes Bridge, creating a single platform face with a length over 800 m (2,600 ft).[66] The west end of platform 1 could also be used as a separate "platform 1 West".[67] Eventually, in 1980, Princes Bridge was formally incorporated into Flinders Street and its three platforms were renumbered 14, 15 and 16.[68]

Several platforms were decommissioned in the early 1990s following reductions in suburban train services. Platform 11 fell into disuse following the closure of the Port Melbourne line in 1987, and platforms 14, 15 and 16 were closed, along with the west end of platform 1.[67] The platform 11 site was converted into a bar and restaurant in 2014,[69] although proposals were made to reopen it by the East West Link Needs Assessment Platforms 15 and 16 were demolished during construction of Federation Square, but platform 14 remains intermittently in use.[70]

A short dock platform, known as the Milk Dock or Parcels Dock, was constructed in 1910 to the north of platform 1 at the west end of the main building.[71] Prior to the widespread transport of dairy products by road, the dock was a distribution centre for milk and other small goods arriving in Melbourne on early morning trains from Gippsland.[72] Other small goods and parcels were later also loaded at the dock until most such traffic ceased in the 1960s.[73] The structure remains essentially intact.[74]

Three concourses link the platforms. The main concourse is at the east end of the station, located off Swanston Street and the main dome, and has direct access to all platforms via escalators, stair and elevators. The Degraves Street subway runs under the centre of the station, exiting to Flinders Street at the north end, with stairs directly connecting to all platforms except for platform numbers 12 and 13. The Elizabeth Street subway is at the west end, and has direct access via ramps to all platforms except for platform numbers 12, 13 and 14. Platform 1 has access via stairs via the Elizabeth street subway.

Trains may use a different platform if the platform it is originally scheduled at is occupied.

Platform 1:

Platform 2 & 3:

Platform 4 & 5:

Platform 6 & 7:

Platform 8 & 9:

Platform 10:

Platform 11: The platform edge remains, but the track was removed and the space converted to a bar and café.

Platform 12: For a handful of Morning and Evening Peak services mainly from the eastern lines when other platforms are occupied.

Platform 13:

Platform 14: Mainly used for a few Morning and Evening peak Mernda/Hurstbridge services when Platform 1 is occupied.

The City Night Buses serve Flinders Street Railway Station and head out to the suburbs[75] The following tram services operate via Flinders Street station:

Between and Stop location
1 East Coburg South Melbourne Beach Swanston Street
3/3a Melbourne University Malvern East Swanston Street
5 Melbourne University Malvern Swanston Street
6 Moreland station Glen Iris Swanston Street
16 Melbourne University Kew Swanston Street
19 Terminus Coburg North Elizabeth Street
35 The District Docklands SC The District Docklands SC Flinders Street
57 Terminus West Maribyrnong Elizabeth Street
59 Terminus Airport West Elizabeth Street
64 Melbourne University Brighton East Swanston Street
67 Melbourne University Carnegie Swanston Street
70 Wattle Park The District Docklands SC Flinders Street
72 Melbourne University Deepdene Swanston Street
75 Vermont South Central Pier Flinders Street


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  72. Davies 2009, p. 135.
  73. Heritage Victoria 2014, p. 26.
  74. Heritage Victoria 2014, p. 5.
  75. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_Network_(Melbourne)


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