The Indian Pacific is a weekly passenger rail service running between Sydney and Perth in Australia. It is one of the few truly transcontinental trains in the world. The train first ran in February 1970 after the completion of gauge conversion projects in South and Western Australia.
The route includes the world's longest straight stretch of railway track, a 478-kilometre (297 mi) stretch over the Nullarbor Plain. In 1983 the service was extended to serve Adelaide. A one-way trip originally took 75 hours, but with line and efficiency improvements it now takes 65 hours. The train currently has four classes, branded as Platinum, Gold Service and Red Service Sleeper and Red Service Daynighter and also a Motorail service to convey passengers' motor vehicles.
In February 1993 the train became part of Australian National and in October 1997 was sold to Great Southern Rail.
The first Indian Pacific service left Sydney on 23 February 1970, becoming the first direct train to cross the Australian continent, made possible by the completion of the east-west standard gauge project a few months earlier. When the train first opened they registered a competition to the public to name the train, a man named Henry Roach (owner and founder of the Independent Oil Company, IOC) named the train the Indian Pacific because the Indian Ocean met the Pacific Ocean.
The train originally operated four days per week, departing Sydney on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, and Perth on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
The service was originally operated jointly by the New South Wales Government Railways, South Australian Railways, Commonwealth Railways and Western Australian Government Railways.
Locomotives and crews were provided by the New South Wales Government Railways between Sydney and Broken Hill, South Australian Railways between Broken Hill and Port Pirie, the Commonwealth Railways between Port Pirie and Kalgoolie and Western Australian Government Railways between Kalgoorlie and Perth. With the formation of the Australian National in July 1975, it provided locomotives and crews from Broken Hill to Kalgoorlie. Locomotives were changed at Lithgow, Broken Hill and Kalgoorlie.
On-board crews were originally provided between Sydney and Port Pirie by Commonwealth Railways on one service and New South Wales Government Railways on the other services, Commonwealth Railways between Port Pirie and Kalgoolie and West Australian Government Railways between Kalgoolie and Perth.
The Indian Pacific featured in an episode of BBC Television's series Great Railway Journeys of the World in 1980, presented by Michael Frayn.
The service was suspended from 2 December 1982 to 25 April 1983 due to an industrial dispute over staffing levels in South Australia.
From 1983 the train commenced operating via Adelaide (see Route below).
In June 1991 the service was cut from three times a week to two. This was reduced to weekly in January 1992 between Sydney and Adelaide with two services a week between Adelaide and Perth.
In February 1993 the operation of the train was operated by Australian National throughout after agreement was reached with the State Rail Authority of New South Wales and Westrail in 1992. From January 1994 the service was operated throughout by Australian National CL class locomotives. Australian National restored a second weekly service.
As part of the privatisation of Australian National, the Indian Pacific, along with The Ghan and The Overland, was sold to Great Southern Rail in October 1997. Motive power provision was contracted to National Rail with one NR class usually used, often one of four of which have been repainted in Indian Pacific livery. It is often assisted by a DL class or a second NR class.
The route leaves Sydney and travels via the Western and Broken Hill lines to Broken Hill. It then crosses into South Australia on the Broken Hill to Crystal Brook line before heading south to Adelaide. Before the conversion of the Crystal Brook to Adelaide line to standard gauge, passengers for Adelaide had to change at Port Pirie. However with this completed in 1983, the Indian Pacific was diverted to make an out-and-back trip adding 390 kilometres (240 mi) to the journey. From Crystal Brook it heads north to Port Augusta and then via the Trans-Australian Railway to Kalgoorlie including travelling over the world's longest straight stretch of railway track on the Nullarbor Plain measuring 478 kilometres (297 mi). It then heads to its terminus at East Perth.
Occasionally due to trackwork the Indian Pacific is diverted out of Sydney via the Main South line to Cootamundra and cross-country line to rejoin the Broken Hill line at Parkes.
In 1970 the journey took 75 hours. With subsequent infrastructure improvements and reductions to the time needed to change locomotives and crew, the journey now takes 65 hours despite the longer distance
To operate the service 124 22.9-metre (75 ft) stainless steel carriages, power vans and luggage vans were built by Commonwealth Engineering, Granville in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Of these 60 were jointly owned by the New South Wales Government Railways, Commonwealth Railways and the Western Australian Government Railways for the Indian Pacific and the balance by the Commonwealth Railways for the Trans-Australian service from Adelaide to Perth. In practice they have often been used interchangeably.
Since 1980 the stock has been used on The Ghan from Adelaide to Alice Springs. From November 1983 until November 1987 it was used on The Alice from Sydney to Alice Springs. More recently it has also been used on The Overland from Adelaide to Melbourne.
The train originally offered only 52 first-class sleeping berths and 96 second-class sleeping berths. The train was limited to 144 passengers as this was the number that could be serviced by three sittings in the 48-seat dining car.
From 1973 the accommodation was altered to provide 88 first-class sleeping berths and 64 second-class. The club-cafeteria car also provided a small number of second-class seats for short-distance travelers on the Commonwealth Railways segment.
From 1975 Australian National provided full sitting carriages west of Port Pirie on two journeys per week. The New South Wales Government Railways initially resisted providing sitting accommodation over the whole journey, but sitting carriages owned by the State Rail Authority of New South Wales were included between Sydney and Port Pirie from 1980, with Australian National providing sitting carriages further west. Sitting carriages provided by Australian National became part of the full through service from Sydney to Perth in 1988.
The train currently has three classes, branded as Platinum, Gold Kangaroo and Red Kangaroo. The Platinum Service was introduced in 2008 as a premium class of travel. The Gold Kangaroo, the former first-class service, features either roomette or twinette sleeper cabins, with complimentary meals in the restaurant car.
Red Kangaroo service, the equivalent of economy class, features either airline-style 'sit-up' seats similar to other Australian trains, or dual-berth shared sleeper cabins. It also has its own restaurant car.
The train also has a Motorail service to carry passengers' motor vehicles
A full Indian Pacific set made promotional trips to Canberra and Newcastle for travel agents prior to its launch in February 1970.
Following the conversion of the Adelaide to Melbourne railway line to standard gauge in 1995, the Indian Pacific made a promotional trip from Perth to Brisbane via Melbourne over 6 days in June of that year
In recent years, the Indian Pacific has operated a Christmas Train with a notable music personality on board.
The train stops at several locations to entertain the locals and thank them for their support of the train. The locations include the remote Nullarbor sidings of Watson, Cook, and Rawlinna.
Some of the performers on board have been: David Campbell (2007), Human Nature (2006), Guy Sebastian (2005), Jimmy Barnes (2004), John Paul Young (2003), Marcia Hines (2002), John Williamson (2001) and Nikki Webster (2000).
- 24 December 1975: 14 of the 25 carriages on the eastbound train derailed due to a collapsed bogie on the leading carriage, between the remote Nullarbor sidings of Haig and Nurina. Three of the 200 passengers were injured, and they were flown from Forrest to Adelaide.
- 18 August 1999: Zanthus train collision - the westbound train was accidentally directed into a crossing loop occupied by an eastbound train at Zanthus.
- 3 December 1999: Glenbrook rail disaster - a CityRail V Set ran into the back of the eastbound train at Glenbrook in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. Seven people died, all on the CityRail train. The accident was caused by a signal failure and the driver failing to proceed with caution past the failed signal.
- 15 April 2008: an eastbound train was stranded for more than 12 hours west of Broken Hill during trackwork.
- From 27 December to 31 December 2010 a derailment on the Nullarbor Plain meant the Indian Pacific was stranded at East Perth station before finally leaving on the 31st. It was expected it would also become stuck at Kalgoorlie due to the speed of the cleanup operation.