With the world’s largest network, trams have become synonymous with the city of Melbourne in Australia. Rather than simply being a costly tourist attraction, trams actually form an integral part of Melbourne’s day-to-day transport needs, with commuters regularly utilising trams to travel to work. Every tourist who visits Melbourne will often fit a tram ride into their itinerary; not only as a method of getting around, but also as a way of experiencing the character and history of the city.
Trams are a major form of public transport in Melbourne, the capital city of the state of Victoria, Australia. As of May 2017, the Melbourne tramway network consists of 250 kilometres (160 miles) of double track, 493 trams, 24 routes, and 1,763 tram stops. The operator Yarra Trams claims the system is the largest operational urban tram network in the world. Trams are the second most used form of public transport in overall boardings in Melbourne after the commuter railway network, with a total of 206 million passenger trips in 2017-18.
Trams have operated continuously in Melbourne since 1885 (the horse tram line in Fairfield opened in 1884, but was at best an irregular service). Since then they have become a distinctive part of Melbourne’s character and feature in tourism and travel advertising. Melbourne’s cable tram system opened in 1885, and expanded to one of the largest in the world, with 75 kilometres (46.6 miles) of double track. The first electric tram line opened in 1889, but closed only a few years later in 1896. In 1906 electric tram systems were opened in St Kilda and Essendon, marking the start of continuous operation of Melbourne’s electric trams.
Victoria’s public transport system was reorganised in 1983 and saw the Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board absorbed into the Metropolitan Transit Authority, which was in turn absorbed by the Public Transport Corporation in 1989. The network has been operated under contract since the commencement of franchising, following the privatisation of the Public Transport Corporation in 1999. The current private operator contracted to run Melbourne’s tram system is Keolis Downer, trading as Yarra Trams.
Ticketing, public information and patronage promotion are undertaken by Victoria’s public transport body, Public Transport Victoria. The multi-modal integrated ticketing system, myki, currently operates across the tram network.
At some Melbourne intersections (most within the CBD), motor vehicles are required to perform a hook turn, a manoeuvre designed to give trams priority. To further improve tram speeds on congested Melbourne streets, trams also have priority in road usage, with specially fitted traffic lights and exclusive lanes being provided either at all times or in peak times, as well as other measures.
Although trams were once an integral part of public transportation networks in cities worldwide, their presence was seen as an impediment to progress as private cars gained popularity following the second world war. Although other cities such as Sydney and Los Angeles once had much more extensive tram networks, their presence was eventually regarded as a hindrance that held up private automobile traffic, and these tram networks were eventually dismantled and replaced by buses. Although Melbourne’s tram network was also considered for dismantling, the city eventually decided that the cost of tearing up the existing tram tracks was prohibitive. Eventually, as other cities which dismantled their tram networks became increasingly choked by exhaust from automobile traffic, Melbourne was convinced that its decision to retain its tram network was the right one. Today, Melburnians continue to value their tram network, and see it as an integral part of their city’s character.
The Melbourne tram fleet currently comprises 501 trams as of November 2014. Classification is based on the original system begun by the MMTB in 1921.
The rolling stock is part of leases to Yarra Trams, with the W-, Z-, A- and B-class trams owned by the Victorian Government, and the C-class and D-classes are subject to lease purchase agreements, while the C2-class trams were leased from Mulhouse, France but are now state assets.
There are over 478 trams in the fleet. Seven different models of tram operate on the network, which are organised into different classes.
W-class — This is the old green and yellow tram that all the tourists come to see. Originally, over 720 were built for service, but only 26 remain in service. An additional 12 operate on the tourist City Circle route, while 3 also operate as part of the tramcar restaurant. They originally entered service in 1923, and were mass retired in the 1980s. After public outrage at their sale to overseas tourist tramways, the export of the trams was halted, and over 200 still sit unused in government warehouses. Many were leased out to small-scale museums around the country.
Z-class — Introduced in the 1970s, 50 years after the last design, with the aim of modernising the fleet and improving patronage. Based on a Swedish design, there are just under 150 in service.
A-class — Built in the 1980s, they are fairly similar to the Z-class, apart from some design changes, incorporating striking angles to reflect interpretations of modern art of the time.
B-class — Also introduced in the 1980s, the main difference was the bendy articulation in the middle of the tramcar, and the inclusion of air-conditioning, much to the relief of commuters in summer!
C-class — Alstom Citadis trams were added to the network in 2001 by new private operators who took over ownership from the government. They were a huge shift from previous designs, with a curvy shape and low floor that is accessible for wheelchairs at raised stops. Five, newer C2-class trams were leased from Mulhouse, France in 2008 that carry a distinctive yellow livery, giving them the nickname of the Bumblebees.
D-class — Also introduced by private operators in 2002, these low-floor trams (Siemens Combino) can be extended to very long lengths. The interior design is similar to what is found in “light rail”-style networks overseas, where more space is allocated for standing in peak period, rather than sitting.
E-class — Melbourne’s newest and longest model of tram operates on Routes 96 and 11. To support the state’s manufacturing industry, the trams were manufactured in Dandenong, a suburb in Melbourne’s south-east, using local materials and labour.
W-class trams were introduced to Melbourne in 1923 as a new standard design. They have a dual-bogie layout with a distinctive “drop centre” section, allowing the centrally placed doors to be closer to the ground. The W-class was the mainstay of Melbourne’s tramways system for 60 years. A total of 752 trams of 12 variants were built, the last of which in 1956.
It was not until the 1980s that the W-class started to be replaced in large numbers, and by 1990 their status as an icon for the city was recognised, leading to a listing by the National Trust of Australia. Public outrage over their sale for tourist use overseas led to an embargo on further export out of the country in 1993, though recently[when?] some have been given or loaned to various Museums. Approximately 200 of the W-class trams retired since then remain stored, and the future use of these trams is unknown.
W-class trams have been sent overseas: five went to Seattle between 1978 and 1993, where they operated on Seattle’s George Benson Waterfront Streetcar Line from 1982, but suspended in 2005. Another nine are now part of the downtown Memphis tourist service, while several[which?] other US cities have one or two. The Edmonton Radial Railway Society in Edmonton, Alberta received No. 930 in 1997, and currently operates it on the High Level Bridge Streetcar heritage line.
As of January 2015, there are approximately 230 W-class trams: about 165 are in storage, 27 are stored operational in “ready reserve”, 12 run on the City Circle (the oldest W-class tram in service runs on the City Circle) and 26 are used in revenue service. In January 2010, it was announced by the new transport minister that the 26 W-class trams running the two inner city routes, would be phased out by 2012, prompting a new campaign from the National Trust of Australia. In 2010, it was proposed to better utilise the unused W-class trams by refurbishing and leasing them as “roving ambassadors” to other cities, generating revenue which could then be invested back into the public transport system. In 2011 the Victoria government committed $8 million over four years for the restoration of W-class trams, with options for new routes to be considered.
As of 2019, W-class trams operate the City Circle, route 30.
The development of new rolling stock to replace the W-class began in the early 1970s with a modern design, based on the Gothenburg, Sweden M28 design.
The Z-class trams, built by Comeng, were introduced in 1975, starting with the Z1-class. 100 Z1-class trams were built between 1975 and 1979. The design was unpopular due to the limited number of doors and the position of the conductor’s seat. Most of the Z1-class trams were withdrawn following the introduction of the C, D and E class trams; the last Z1-class withdrawn on 23 April 2016. Many were later sold at auctions, while others were donated to tram museums.
In 1978 and 1979, fifteen Z2-class trams, having little difference from the Z1-class, were built. As with the Z1-class, the Z2-class trams have been withdrawn from service.
From 1979 to 1984, Z3-class trams were introduced. They have an additional door on each side of the tram, no conductor’s console was provided, and smoother acceleration and braking compared to the Z1-class. 115 were built, 112 of which are in service.
As of 2019, Z3-class trams operate on routes 1, 3, 5, 16, 57, 58, 64, 67, 72 and 82.
The A-class trams were built between 1984 and 1986 by Comeng. They were built in two runs: 28 A1-class trams being introduced into service between 1984 and 1985, and 42 A2-class trams between 1985 and 1986. They were similar – the major differences being the brakes and that the A1-class were built with trolley poles, while A2-class were built with pantographs. All but one that were built remain in service at present.
As of 2019, A1-class trams operate on routes 3, 12, 30, 64 and 67, with A2-class trams operating on routes 12, 30, 48, 70, 75, 78 and 109.
The B-class trams were first introduced to Melbourne in 1984 with the first prototype B1-class trams, the second being built in 1985. As of 2016, one is currently in regular service. The B-class trams used the same traction equipment as the Z3 and A-class trams, and were built for the light rail lines. They were originally built with movable steps to allow railway platform and street level boarding, but this concept was later abandoned, with low-floor platform built at the converted light rail stations.
B2-class trams entered service between 1988 and 1994. 130 trams were built by Comeng, and later ABB Transportation; all of which remain in service today. The B2-class was the first Melbourne tram fitted with air-conditioning.
As of 2019, B2-class trams operate on routes 1, 3, 6, 11, 19, 58, 59, 64, 67, 70, 75 and 86.
Following the privatisation of Melbourne’s tram system, the private operators acquired new trams to replace the older Z-class trams. In 2001, Yarra Trams introduced the low-floor C-class trams, a variant of the Citadis manufactured in France by Alstom. They are three-section articulated vehicles, with 36 in service.
Five C2-class trams were introduced in 2008 after being leased from Mulhouse in France. They have been dubbed ‘Bumble Bees’ due to their distinctive yellow colour, and exclusively run on route 96. It was announced in November 2010 that the State Government was in negotiations to purchase the five C2-class trams, with the purchase finalised in 2013.
The C-class trams are owned by Allco entity and are subject to a lease purchase agreement. While the C2-class trams were leased from Société Générale entity, but were subsequently purchased by the Victorian Government in the 2012–2013 year.
As of 2019, C-class trams operate on routes 48 and 109, with C2-class trams operating on route 96.
The German-made Siemens Combino trams were introduced by the now defunct M>Tram. The Combino is a three-section (D1-class) or five-section (D2-class) articulated vehicle. Currently[when?], 38 D1-class and 21 D2-class trams are in service.
The D1-class and D2-class trams are owned by CBA entity and are subject to a lease purchase agreement.
As of 2019, D1-class trams operate on routes 5, 6, 16, 58 and 72, with D2-class trams operating on routes 6 and 19.
The E-class are three-section, four-bogie articulated trams built at Bombardier Transportation’s Dandenong factory. The propulsion systems and bogies were imported from Bombardier’s Mannheim and Siegen factories in Germany. Bombardier was selected on 27 September 2010 following a tendering process for 50 new low-floor trams, which was opened in 2009. The $303 million contract is for supply of 50 trams with maintenance to 2017, and includes an option for a further 100 trams. The trams are based on the Flexity Swift design. The E-class trams are the first locally built Melbourne trams since the B-class in 1994.
The trams are 33 metres long and 2.65 metres wide, have anti-slip flooring, are air-conditioned, have automatic audio-visual announcements and a passenger capacity of 210. A two-thirds mock up, produced for design input, was unveiled on 24 August 2011 and was displayed at the 2011 Royal Melbourne Show. Although originally anticipated to be delivered in 2012, design complexity slowed down construction, delaying delivery of the first tram. The first E-class tram arrived at Yarra Trams’ Preston Workshops on 28 June. In September 2013, there were two E-class trams at Preston Workshops undergoing non-passenger testing in preparation for introduction to service in late 2013. The first two trams entered service on 4 November 2013, and were joined by a further three at the start of 2014.
As of 2019, E-class trams operate on routes 11, 86 and 96.
The network consists of 30 routes, which is made up of 1763 tram stops and over 250 km of track. This is the largest network of trams in the world.
24 numbered routes operate with a regular schedule on Melbourne’s tram network. Route numbers suffixed with the letter ‘a’ terminate before the usual destination, divert from the usual route, or both (due to major delays or disruptions), while services suffixed with the letter ‘d’ terminate or divert to their depots (at end of service).
|Route||Terminus A||via||Terminus B||Full length|
|1||Coburg East||Brunswick East – Carlton – City – South Melbourne||South Melbourne Beach, Albert Park||13.2 km (8.2 mi)|
|3||Melbourne University, Carlton||City – Balaclava – Caulfield North (weekdays)||Malvern East||14.9 km (9.3 mi)|
|3a||City – St Kilda – Balaclava – Caulfield North (weekends)||16.3 km (10.1 mi)|
|5||Melbourne University, Carlton (before 7:50 pm)||City – Windsor – Armadale||Malvern||12.6 km (7.8 mi)|
|5a||Orrong & Dandenong Roads, Armadale (after 7:50 pm)||—||3.5 km (2.2 mi)|
|6||Moreland railway station, Brunswick||Brunswick East – Carlton – City – Prahran – Armadale – Malvern||Glen Iris||19.0 km (11.8 mi)|
|11||West Preston||Thornbury – Northcote – Fitzroy – City||Victoria Harbour, Docklands||13.3 km (8.3 mi)|
|12||Victoria Gardens Shopping Centre, Richmond||Richmond – East Melbourne – City – South Melbourne – Middle Park||Fitzroy & Park Streets, St Kilda||11.3 km (7.0 mi)|
|16||Melbourne University, Carlton||City – St Kilda – Balaclava – Caulfield North – Malvern – Hawthorn||Kew||20.2 km (12.6 mi)|
|19||Coburg North||Brunswick – Parkville||Flinders Street railway station, City||10.2 km (6.3 mi)|
|30||St Vincent’s Plaza, East Melbourne||City||Central Pier, Docklands||2.9 km (1.8 mi)|
|35||The District Docklands Shopping Centre||City||The District Docklands Shopping Centre||7.6 km (4.7 mi)|
|48||Balwyn North||Kew – Richmond – East Melbourne – City||Victoria Harbour, Docklands||13.5 km (8.4 mi)|
|57||West Maribyrnong||Ascot Vale – Flemington – North Melbourne||Flinders Street railway station, City||11.6 km (7.2 mi)|
|58||Pascoe Vale South||Brunswick West – Parkville – City – Southbank – South Yarra||Toorak||18.2 km (11.3 mi)|
|59||Airport West||Essendon – Moonee Ponds – Travancore – Parkville||Flinders Street railway station, City||14.7 km (9.1 mi)|
|64||Melbourne University, Carlton||City – Windsor – Armadale – Caulfield||Brighton East||16.1 km (10.0 mi)|
|67||Melbourne University, Carlton||City – Balaclava – Elwood – Elsternwick – Caulfield – Glen Huntly||Carnegie||12.7 km (7.9 mi)|
|70||Wattle Park, Surrey Hills||Camberwell – Hawthorn – Richmond – City||The District Docklands Shopping Centre||16.5 km (10.3 mi)|
|72||Melbourne University, Carlton||City – Prahran – Toorak – Glen Iris – Camberwell||Deepdene||16.8 km (10.4 mi)|
|75||Vermont South Shopping Centre||Burwood – Camberwell – Hawthorn – Richmond – City||Central Pier, Docklands||22.8 km (14.2 mi)|
|78||North Richmond||South Yarra – Prahran – Windsor||Balaclava||6.5 km (4.0 mi)|
|82||Footscray railway station||Maribyrnong – Ascot Vale||Moonee Ponds Junction||9.2 km (5.7 mi)|
|86||RMIT University, Bundoora||Preston – Thornbury – Northcote – Collingwood – Fitzroy – City||The District Docklands Shopping Centre||22.2 km (13.8 mi)|
|86a||Melbourne Museum, Fitzroy||—||La Trobe & Spencer Streets, City||3.0 km (1.9 mi)|
|96||Brunswick East||Carlton – City – South Melbourne – Albert Park – St Kilda||St Kilda Beach||13.9 km (8.6 mi)|
|109||Box Hill Central Shopping Centre||Balwyn – Kew – Richmond – East Melbourne – City||Port Melbourne||19.2 km (11.9 mi)|
There are two main museums that house Melbourne trams and other interesting items, along with various other attractions that relate to trams around the city.
Melbourne Tram Museum at Hawthorn Depot. (updated Mar 2016 |)
Melbourne Tramway Museum of Victoria (It is located at 330 Union Lane, Bylands, which is a little over 50 kilometres north of the Melbourne CBD. The easiest method to reach the museum is by car along the Hume Freeway, taking the Northern Highway exit signposted Wallan. 7 kilometres from the turn-off, after the township of Wallan, a brown tourism sign will give direction to the museum on the right at Union Lane. Public transport is virtually non-existent in the area. If it is the only option, you must catch a V/Line train to Wandong station on the Seymour Line and pre-book a taxi to take you to the museum and back.), ☏ +61 3 9879 4040. OPen every Sunday (except Christmas and New Year’s Day) from 11am to 4pm.. Adult $10, child (5-15 years) $5, concession $7, family (2 adults & 2 children) $24.. (updated Mar 2016 |)
Tram–train level crossings
There are currently three level crossings where trams and trains cross each other: Glenferrie Road, Kooyong; Glen Huntly Road, Glen Huntly; and Riversdale Road, Camberwell. The Glen Huntly Road crossing has been slated for removal and separation in an election commitment to expand the Level Crossing Removals project by Premier Daniel Andrews.
To accommodate the differing voltages of the 600-volt tram and 1500-volt train systems each of these level crossings is fitted with an overhead square, which can isolate the section of overhead wiring above the crossing and apply the appropriate voltage. When the signal box adjacent to the crossing interlocks the gates for trains to pass through, 1500 volts is applied, while when the gates are up 600 volts is applied.
Historically many tram–train level crossings have operated in Melbourne, all but the aforementioned three have been grade separated, or the tramway or railway has been abandoned. The first were built during the cable tram systems operation, with much reluctance on behalf of the Victorian Railways. Many more were built after the emergence of electric trams in 1906, often causing disputes between tramway operators and the Victorian Railways.
In popular culture
Media & Sporting Events
Melbourne’s trams—especially the W-class—are an icon of Melbourne and an important part of its history and character. Trams have been featured across several media, and in tourism advertising since World War II.
Trams are a heavily featured in the movie Malcolm, one scene of the controversial film Alvin Purple, and feature in the music video clips for the Beastie Boys’ The Rat Cage and AC/DC’s It’s a Long Way to the Top. Among songs written about Melbourne’s trams are Toorak Tram by Bernard Bolan, and Taking the tram to Carnegie by the band Oscar.
The Eastern Suburbs Professional Community Theatre Company, known as Theatre Works staged a performance on a 109 tram entitled Storming Mont Albert by Tram, between 26 February and 14 March 1982 as part of the Melbourne Moomba Festival. It was written by Paul Davies and directed by Mark Shirrefs and was revived in 1992 and 1998.
For the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games a Z-class tram was decorated as a Karachi bus by a team of Pakistani decorators. Dubbed the Karachi tram, it operated on the City Circle tourist route during the Commonwealth Games. The centrepiece of the Opening Ceremony was a flying W-class tram, specially built for the event, from original W-class plans and photos.
In 2006 a W-class tram 965 was gifted from the City of Melbourne to Australian Mary Donaldson and her fiancé, Danish Crown Prince Frederik, on the occasion of their marriage. The tram now runs at the Danish tram museum of Sporvejsmuseet.
On 26 October 2011, a Z3-class tram, specially liveried as a Royal Tram was used to convey Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, from Federation Square to Government House, along St Kilda Road during their visit to Melbourne. The Royal Tram was in regular service for a little over one year following the event.
Melbourne Art Trams
From 1978 to 1993 36 W-class trams were painted with artwork as part of the Transporting Art project. The idea was conceived in early 1978 by Melbourne Lord Mayor Irvin Rockman and artist Clifton Pugh, with the idea backed by then Premier Rupert Hamer. Over the lifetime of the project many notable local artists participated, including Mirka Mora, Michael Leunig, Howard Arkley and Reg Mombassa.
The idea was reprised as part of a collaboration between Arts Victoria, Yarra Trams and the Melbourne International Arts Festival in 2013. A competition launched in May 2013 to select eight designs, with one art tram to operate out of each Melbourne tram depot. The first of the new Melbourne Art Trams, W-class 925, was launched on 30 September 2013 by then Premier Denis Napthine and Yarra Trams CEO Clément Michel, with the remaining seven trams to be introduced in the following two weeks. The last was introduced into service on 11 October 2013.
Melbourne Art Trams have continued to be refreshed and introduced annually since 2013, with over 48 artists featured. In 2018 the program was extended for a further 3 years through to 2021, and featured the first interactive art tram (using augmented reality) designed by Dr Troy Innocent for Melbourne International Games Week. The trams can be found on the network throughout the year by entering the corresponding tram number in the myTRAM feature of the tramTRACKER app.
Yes, in Melbourne, you even have the opportunity to dine out on a moving tram! The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant operates up to three restaurants at any one time, slowly crawling their way about the city. The trams used are from the iconic W-class fleet; the inside layout has been converted into booths, complete with opulent lights and curtains.
The food is not cooked aboard the tram but prepared at a restaurant next to the pickup tram stop, and reheated for serving during the tram ride. There are two choices for each course. The main course serves chicken or beef, and the restaurant doesn’t cater for vegetarians. Kangaroo is served as entrée in the lunch and late dinner periods. Alcohol and drinks are plentiful and free. See the website for full menu details.
The tramcar runs daily over three periods:
Lunch with 4 courses (1-3pm) — $82.50pp
Early dinner with 3 courses (5:45-7:15pm) — $77pp
Late dinner with 5 courses (8:35-11:35pm) — $121pp (Fridays and Saturdays cost $137.50pp)
The safety of tram operations in Melbourne is regulated by the Rail Safety Act 2006 which applies to all rail operations in Victoria.
The Act establishes a framework containing safety duties for all rail industry participants and requires operators who manage infrastructure and rolling stock to obtain accreditation prior to commencing operations. Accredited operators are also required to have a safety management system to guide their operations. Sanctions applying to the safety scheme established under the Rail Safety Act are contained in the Part 7 of the Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983.
The safety regulator for the rail system in Victoria including trams is the Director, Transport Safety, whose office is established under the Transport Integration Act 2010.
Rail operators in Victoria can also be the subject of no blame investigations conducted by the Chief Investigator, Transport Safety. The Chief Investigator is charged by the Transport Integration Act with conducting investigations into rail safety matters including incidents and trends.
Ticketing and conduct
Ticketing requirements for trams in Melbourne are mainly contained in the Transport (Ticketing) Regulations 2006 and the Victorian Fares and Ticketing Manual.
Rules about safe and fair conduct on trams in Melbourne are generally contained in the Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983, and the Transport (Conduct) Regulations 2005.