Melbourne’s first new trams in years — and the first Australian-built trams in about twenty years — were officially launched yesterday, after months of testing around the network.
The first two “E-class” trams, numbered 6001 and 6002 started service. I managed to catch one for a ride at lunchtime.
As you can see from the video, the destination displays look very flickery on camera. They aren’t like that to the human eye — they’re very clear. It’s a problem with LED displays which plagues anybody trying to snap a photo or video of newer public transport vehicles and automated signage.
The tram is pretty nice inside. Low-floor trams often suffer from a lack of seating — the Combino D class trams in particular. This wasn’t too bad, with plenty of open space near the doorways, but what seemed like a reasonable number of seats along other sections of the tram. That said, it was off-peak, and everybody who wanted a seat got one. It’ll be a different story in peak hour.
One thing to watch for, especially if you use a wheelchair or a pram, is there is a noticeable slope in the doorway, unlike previous models of tram which are flat at that point. Not a big issue; it’s quite visible. I assume this is so the main part of the floor can be a bit higher.
Apparently there is external CCTV to catch motorists who try and illegally overtake trams. It’s unclear how these incidents will be reported, but this is a step forward given it’s such a common and dangerous occurrence.
In all, the design looks excellent. One little niggle: the route number has been placed on the left. This doesn’t make sense in a city where at most stops, people wait for their approaching tram on the opposite side — when more than one tram arrives together, it makes it difficult to see which one is yours. On the older locally-made trams, the route number is on the right, making life easier.
If you want to take a ride on the new trams, they’re running on route 96 for now. If you have the Tram Tracker app, you can find them by using the tram-spotter’s feature that lets you search for a tram number: 6001 or 6002.
In all, 50 have been ordered, coming into service over the next 5 years. The older low-floor trams will cascade onto other busy routes such as the 86 and the 19 and 59… if they reach the 59, hopefully that’ll mean at last the hospital precinct has an accessible tram service — it’s been a long time coming.
Update Thursday: Some observers have noted that the acceleration of the tram from a standing start is a bit too fast, leaving some passengers wobbling around a bit; also that the gap between the tram and the platforms is larger than necessary. Here’s a snap of the latter — it does appear to be less flat and a bigger gap than, say, on Perth’s trains.
Speaking of sculpture, there’s a rather splendid new one at the corner of Spencer and Flinders Streets — a full-size replica of a W-class tram.
Officially titled “Raising the Rattler Pole – The Last of the Connies”, it was installed last week, and when I went by a day or two later, appeared to be getting a lot of interest from passers-by.
There’s a fair bit of (not necessarily accurate!) detail on the underside…
City of Melbourne has posted a video of them doing the installation:
Finally, here’s another W-class tram (not the real 1040; this is number 961) photobombing the sculpture:
The artist is David Bell — on his web site are some photos of the sculpture being built.
Apparently it lights up at night… must go past sometime after dark to take a look.
Here is another in my series of old photos from when I first got a digital camera.
M>Train (which came after Bayside trains, and before Connex) had a rather nice livery and logo. Here’s a Comeng train heading towards the city on the outer stretches of the Upfield line. Myself and Peter, another PTUA bod, had gone out there to look at the spot for the proposed Campbellfield Station… still not built.
Do you remember when you could exit straight out of Melbourne Central, up to Swanston Street via a direct escalator, without having to navigate a maze of shops along the way? Ten years ago this month the plans to change it became public.
A 3-car Hitachi train, looking the worse for wear, rolls into Murrumbeena station. I assume the lead cab was normally in the middle of a 6-car set, and years of residue off the pantographs hadn’t been cleaned off properly. Within a year or two, most Hitachi trains would be prematurely scrapped, leading to overcrowded trains as patronage leapt up.
I hadn’t noticed these before — these poles at the western end of the Bourke Street Mall commemorate the 1956 Olympics and 2006 Commonwealth Games.
My time on the PTUA committee only overlapped with Paul’s by about a year or so. I was newsletter editor in his final year as President. But I remembered him from my days as an “ordinary” member in the 90s, and in my time as Prez and afterwards, I encountered him regularly around the traps. There were few more passionate and articulate about public transport than he.
Paul died last night from cancer, aged just 52.
As late as last week he was still contributing to the debate, with this video that he sent along to the packed Trains Not Tollroads public meeting.
Over more than 25 years, he made a huge contribution to the transport debate in Melbourne. It must have been tough work in the 80s and 90s, when public transport was being neglected and patronage was on the decline. By the time the new century clicked around, patronage was climbing again thanks to a booming CBD and growing population — making the political sell for improved services easier.
Paul will be sorely missed.
RIP Comrade. Thoughts with Erica and family.
Motorists in pedestrian areas – is there something about No Entry they don’t understand? #RoadMorons
Some of those of us who hang around the city are truly amazed at the number of motorists who ignore the “No Entry” and turn ban signs and drive along streets they’re not meant to.
So it’s nice to know that — just occasionally — they do get pulled over by the police.
Unfortunately others seem to get away with it scot free — and it’s unclear to me why police seem to be less keen to catch people driving through pedestrianised areas than they are to book jaywalkers.
This bloke not only ignored the No Entry signs when turning into the street, he went past multiple signs telling him to do a U-turn before this intersection, then when rightly faced with more No Entry signs, initially looked confused, then took the most-pedestrianised street (the one that even bans bicycles), the Bourke Street Mall.
This might become a regular series. Following my posting of old photos from when I first got my digital camera, here’s a batch from early and mid-May 2003.
This building next to the Orica building in Nicholson Street (near the corner of Lonsdale) looks like it’s two-dimensional, at least from some angles. Worth a look in person if you’re around that area.
Around this time, Yarra Trams were removing large numbers of seats from B-class trams. In this photo for the PTUA’s “BYO Seat” campaign, John checks the time of the next tram, seat at the ready.
Finally, here is my desk at work, back in 2003. Probably tidier than today. To the right you can see my old organiser/diary. These days I tend to put my appointments into Google Calendar, and sync them to my phone.
The Phase 2 Report from the High Speed Rail study was released last week — predicting that although HSR would cover its recurrent (running/maintenance) costs, it’d first take some $114 billion and 45 years to build it.
As I’ve said before, I think a 3-ish hour trip from Melbourne to Sydney would be time-competitive with flying.
$114 billion is obviously an incredible cost, and taking decades to build it is a totally unambitious timeframe. I’m sure if you outsourced it to those who have built such lines elsewhere, they could get it running much more quickly and cheaply. Or if they got tough on the airlines and proclaimed a forced heavy future reduction in emissions, and particularly if oil prices skyrocket and a second Sydney airport is put on hold, they could coax Qantas and Virgin into the railways business.
(It’s interesting that much of the debate since the report was released has ignored emissions issues, and focussed on the benefits to existing rail passengers, not those currently travelling by air.)
But even if you assume it could be built quicker and cheaper, the question is: should one heed the calls of the optimists and start building it now? Or follow the cynics who say it’s all too expensive, that we don’t have the population, and we should forget it?
I’m not sure. Fact is, across the country, there are probably a lot more important infrastructure projects that need building first. That money (even if you assumed it could be built for half that cost) could solve a lot of other problems.
And realistically, the political and economic climate means there’s no hope of it being built right now.
All that said, it seems prudent to plan and protect a corridor. It’s not overly expensive to work out a detailed alignment and preserve it from incompatible land development. This does little harm and ensures we can move forward if and when circumstances change and/or the time is right.
This is a must. Not doing so — even if actual construction work isn’t to start in the foreseeable future — could make it impossible for it to ever happen later.
- Insiders on High Speed Rail — a great watch