The Altona was originally constructed as a short branch line from the line to Werribee and Geelong. The line was threatened for closure in the early 1980s but was instead extended through to rejoin the Werribee line near Laverton.
Following the Laverton connection most suburban services to Werribee were routed via Altona rather than the direct doute via Paisley and the former stations at Paisley and Galvin were closed.
Much of the Altona line is single track which presents a challenge for services to run to schedule. There is no freight or country passenger services which run on this line, with these services instead taking the more direct route via Paisley.