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Electrifying milestone for Perth’s rail system

A landmark change in WA’s transport infrastructure and history took place 30 years ago today when electrical power to Perth’s passenger rail system was officially turned on for the first time.

In the 112 years following the opening of WA’s first rail line (between Geraldton and Northampton) in 1879, Perth’s train services were operated by steam and then diesel powered locomotives.

That all changed in September 1991 after the Armadale, Midland and Fremantle lines finally became electrified and the first (A-series) trains started service.

While electric power to the system was technically first switched on a month earlier in August, the arrival of the first A-series railcar marked the official beginning of electric train travel in Perth. 

And it was patrons of one of WA’s biggest annual events – The Perth Royal Show – who had the earliest chance to ride the newly-electrified system, with the first A-series trains taking to the Fremantle Line.

More electric trains were introduced into service as the old diesel locomotives were retired and, by the time the newly-constructed Joondalup Line opened in December 1992, the A-series was exclusively running Perth’s passenger services.

PTA spokesman David Hynes said as momentous an occasion as the electrification was, it almost didn’t happen.

“Three transport studies in the 1970s came to the conclusion Perth’s rail lines should be scrapped and replaced by dedicated bus lanes operating on the railway reserve,” he said.

“Predictably, this caused major objections from transport experts and the public.”

After three decades of carrying passengers across Perth, the A-series trains will be progressively retired as METRONET’s new C-series railcars are rolled out on to the network from next year.

Media contact: 9326 2526

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