John hollandJohn Holland

Landmark. Iconic. Transformational.

Alice Springs to Darwin Rail Link

The Alice Springs to Darwin Rail Link was the second largest civil engineering project in Australia, and the largest since the Snowy Mountains Scheme. After 126 years of planning and waiting, the Alice Springs to Darwin Rail Link signified a new era of connection, business and tourism for the Northern Territory with the rest of Australia and Asia.

Completing the national rail network, the Alice Springs to Darwin line connects the port of Darwin with the south of the country and created a freight land bridge to Asia and the rest of the world. 

The rail line has created ease of transport for freight, especially ‘time-sensitive high-value commodities’ such as meat, dairy, vehicles, wines, high-technology and consumer items. It also provides logistic support for deployment by the Australian Defence Forces.  

The Darwin to Alice Springs Rail Line created a lasting tourism industry in the Northern Territory, with the passenger train ‘The Ghan’ running twice weekly in each direction. The rail line makes travel to the region easier and more convenient.

The project is an engineering achievement, completed five months early for a total cost of $1.4 billion.  

The scope included construction of a new 1,420km stretch of rail between Alice Springs and Darwin, constructing over 90 bridges, and integrating the completed railway line with the Port of Darwin, including a railway embankment and intermodal container terminal.

  • Customer
    AustralAsia Railway Corporation
  • Location
    Northern Territory
  • Specialisation
    Design & construction
  • Start
  • End
This was a local project, with over 95.3% local industry participation. $681m was spent in the Northern Territory and $346m spent in South Australia.
There was extensive involvement of and collaboration with the local indigenous communities. The corridor encompasses 219km of Aboriginal Land Trust Land and 252km of land under claim under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act. Most of the remaining distance crossed land in which Aboriginal people hold title rights.
“More than 5.5 million man hours, involving over 1,100 people, demonstrated to the world that the Australian construction industry can manage infrastructure projects of a truly massive scale. Add to the fact that the many teams involved in the project came from all around the nation and worked on a site about 1,420km in length – which few projects in the world could boast. Landmark projects like this don't come along all that often.” Managing Director of John Holland Bill Wild.


John Holland pays respect to the Traditional Owners and Custodiams of the land on which we work and live, and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all First Nations peoples today.