WITH construction of the Alice Springs - Darwin line scheduled to start in July, Great Southern Railway has formulated plans to extend The Ghan cruise train beyond Alice Springs.

GSR Chief Executive Officer Stephen Bradford said that The Ghan would run weekly to Darwin between December and February and twice a week at other times. The train is currently carrying around 50000 passengers a year between Sydney or Melbourne and Alice Springs, and he expects up to 35000 a year more when it runs to Darwin.

Intermediate stops are envisaged at Tennant Creek and Katherine, where passengers would be offered a coach tour to Katherine Gorge; Kangaroo Gold (formerly first) class passengers would have a helicopter trip. Provisional schedules would see the train stay 6h in Alice for servicing before continuing north.

GSR has sold packages worth over A$1m since it launched in February its Trainways programme of rail holidays with one-way air trips and car hire.