Filling a gap in rail data: an investigation of the Gheringhap Loop train sightings

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This paper analyses train sightings data collected at Gheringhap, Victoria, located on the Melbourne to Adelaide main line. These sightings provide an independent source of information on train movements, train lengths, and reliability, and, given knowledge of freight volumes, can be used to estimate average wagon loads. In cases where trains are not scheduled, sightings such as these are presently the only publicly available source of data for freight volumes on specific routes.

Following the growth in private train operations since the mid-1990s and the privatisation of National Rail in 2002, rail freight activity data became increasingly scarce. The lack of data can be a challenge for the BTRE in providing the government with timely and accurate information about trends in Australian freight transport. The rail industry has recognised this deficiency: the Australasian Railway Association and its members are working with the BTRE to produce the first public report on the performance of the Defined Interstate Rail Network and to supply data for AusLink planning.

In the meantime, the BTRE has investigated other potential data sources, including information from railway enthusiasts. This paper presents an analysis of one such source of rail data that is reported online, from video-taped observations made and collated by Graham Elliott at Gheringhap Loop, Victoria, on the mainline between Adelaide and Melbourne. The paper provides a short review of the reliability of the data, makes observations about trends in freight activity from the data set, and draws some conclusions about the value of the data collection method.

  • Filling a gap in rail data: an investigation of the Gheringhap Loop train sightings