How Yarra Trams cleans up the wrong types of leaves

There’s a legendary excuse for late-running trains in Britain called the wrong type of snow (fallen on railway lines). Apparently the wrong leaves are also blamed sometimes.

Yarra trams track cleaner

I recall a Yarra Trams person telling me that while they love Melbourne’s leafy streets, some of our local trees drop the wrong leaves (I’m paraphrasing mind you, these are not her words), which does cause slippery rails, particularly in autumn — which is why, particularly at this time of year, you’ll see this beastie out and about, cleaning them up.

Similar perhaps to a conventional street-sweeper, it’s got special wheels that go into the groove of the track to clear it out.

It moves slower than the trams — on the morning I snapped it, it manoeuvred itself onto the opposite track when a tram came along, then moved back and followed it onward.

Yarra Trams track cleaner

Is this tram route map the wrong way round?

While I applaud Yarra Trams’ efforts to put more information on-board trams, this map threw me for a moment.

Tram route map

I’m used to seeing east (Box Hill) on the right, and west (Port Melbourne) on the left. This had it the other way around.

And before you say it: it wasn’t designed to match the actual orientation of the tram and the outside world, because there were copies of this map on both sides of the tram, so one was the right way around, and the other wasn’t.

Perhaps I need to just stop being such a map.square.

PS. I suspect the real reason for it being like this is they wanted the major route to be at the top.

A few pics: Myer, trams, crocs and Star Wars

I don’t have a proper blog post for you, so here’s a few pictures from the last week or so.

If you were looking for Myer’s Lonsdale Street store, it’s gone — almost all of it except the facade.
Myer Lonsdale Street
(When I was a kid, we often went into the City on a Friday night, had dinner at the Coles cafeteria in Bourke Street, then made our way up through the back of Myer to level 6, where the toy department was, before heading to Lonsdale Street to catch the 602 bus home.)

Great to see Yarra Trams continuing its removal of mystery “phantom” route numbers. This “67a” (that’s “a” for altered) was diverted during the Queen’s visit.
Tram 67a

Southland: Beware of crocs.
Warning! Crocs!

Darth Maul in a playful mood at EB Games, Southland.
Star Wars

Yarra Trams – by appointment

Maybe after tomorrow, this could be the new Yarra Trams logo?

Could this be the new YarraTrams logo?

Update Wednesday 6:30pm: There you go, here’s my best pic of the Queen in the tram. Not great I know; she was on the opposite side and facing the other way.

The Queen on the tram

Lots of pics at The Age and Herald Sun.

Most amusing: Channel 9 had footage that showed during the Queen’s ride, the royal tram got a Fleet Operations PA message about diverted services.

Update Thursday morning: A better view of the Royal Tram…
Royal Tram

…and its backup.
Royal Tram backup
(There was a second backup in the Royal colours prepared, but I didn’t see that.)

See also: Why a Z-class tram was used for the Queen’s visit

An end to secret tramways business

Tram 47 in Collins StOne day in 2008, Marita and I went to a party, and I blogged about the trip there on mysterious tram route number 7. I concluded:

In my book, in most cases the secret numbers shouldn’t be used. If a tram is travelling along a substantial part of the route, it might as well use the same route number. Most people won’t care that it doesn’t make it quite all the way. Or it could use a suffix such as D for Depot — though that would probably require the few 3 digit route numbers to be cropped back to two for simplicity.

I should probably point out at this point that my personal views do not necessarily represent PTUA policy, but they did in this case, and the Sunday Age got interested in the story.

Age 14/9/2008: On our tramway’s secret service. Yarra Trams said they wouldn’t be changing anything, and noted the rather astounding (I think) statistic:

they account for 10% of the kilometres that Melbourne’s trams travel each day and 8% of the network’s travel time.

In 2009 I noted that in Collins Street the problem was getting worse, with tram routes 29 and 47 both running to Kew Depot, but via different routes.

Fast-forward to 2011. It was highlighted again in May via the PTUA’s Problem Of The Day:

It’s hard enough navigating public transport without throwing in mystery route numbers. There are dozens of them on the tram network — not on maps, not in the timetables.

A new operator took over in late-2009, and unlike their predecessors, they are interested in this issue, and getting rid of obscure route numbers which barely anybody knows about, and bear no resemblance to their parent routes. (Whether or not it had gained media attention, one would hope it would be an aspect of operations they would have reviewed when taking over.)

Route 86/86d

Yesterday via an Age article, they announced they’ll begin to phase them out. The press release provided more detail:

Mysterious route numbers such as 81, 121, 77 and 92 will be phased out to help passengers to get to their destination on the next available tram.

The so-called phantom routes do not appear on the network map or timetables. They are services that are necessary to get trams to and from depots or to reposition them on the network.

This route renumbering initiative will make catching these services much easier. The new route identification format for these services will feature their parent route and the letter ‘a’ or ‘d’.

The letter ‘d’ means the tram terminates at the ‘depot.’

The letter ‘a’ means the service is ‘altered’ and is not running the full length of the route.

It’s a small thing, but a worthwhile exercise to make that underused 10% of tram service kilometres more useful to people. Bravo, Yarra Trams.


Earlier this year I wrote a post showing what each type of Melbourne train looks like.

Here’s the tram version, in order of appearance. This is a longer post, as there’s more types.

This is the W-class tram. They’re something of a Melbourne icon, having been around (in various forms) since the 1930s 1920s, though those on the road now are mostly from the 50s. Purists don’t like that the pole has been swapped for a pantograph, but while it’s not historically accurate, I personally don’t mind how it looks. After many years of successful operation, unfortunately they are now all speed-limited to 30km/h, ostensibly a safety-measure, but ultimately to enable cost-cutting on brake maintenance.
W-class tram

There were 748 W-class trams built, but only 38 are in service — 12 in the City Circle fleet in burgundy paint jobs (which, again, annoys the purists). The government says all except the City Circle trams are to be phased-out. As you can see, the City Circle is amazingly popular.
W-class City Circle tram

Z-class trams date back to the late-1970s to early-1980s. This is a Z1. At least I think it’s a Z1. It could be a Z2 — they are almost identical. You can tell Z-class trams apart because of their pointy nose. Inside they have a big empty space where conductors used to be seated at a booth.
Z1 tram

This is a Z3. The notable difference from a Z1 is the presence of a small door at the rear of the tram, but they also have better acceleration, braking, and to me the ride feels smoother.
Z3-class tram

These A-class trams are from the mid-80s. They feel cramped inside to me, though they’re about the same size as a Z. Perhaps the seating layout just isn’t very efficient.
A-class tram

The B-class trams are from the late-80s to early-90s. There are two Bananas-in-Pyjamas-like variants, the B1 and the B2. There were only two B1s made, and they’re notable for their venetian blinds, and making the odd funny pneumatic noise. They were the first articulated trams in Melbourne, and also the first to have air-conditioning.
B2-class tram

This is a C-class tram, aka a Citadis, introduced in the early-2000s as part of the privatisation deal. They’re made by Alstom, and run in numerous cities around the world. They were the first Melbourne tram to have a low-floor, thus when combined with a platform tram stop, it’s wheelchair accessible. I suspect someone decided as a cost-cutting measure not to opt for a rear door, which is a shame; it’d make the back of the tram easier to access.
Citadis tram

D-class (Siemens Combino) trams were also from the early-2000s as part of privatisation, and also run in a number of cities around the world. D1 is the 3-section version. They’re known for not having very many seats, in part because the wheel arches intrude into the cabin.
D1 Combino tram

D2 is the 5-section version, a similar length to a B-class tram. Unlike Siemens trains, Siemens trams don’t suffer from brake problems, but they have suffered from structural issues requiring strengthening, which included the removal of seats, further reducing their numbers.
D2 Combino tram

There’s one more: the C2, aka Bumblebee trams. They are 5-section Citadis trams, originally built for Mulhouse in France, but leased until December 2011, after which they will have to go back home… which is a little while before the next batch of Melbourne trams will arrive, so there could be a shortfall for a while.
Citadis C2 ("Bumblebee") tram

We don’t know what the next model of tram will be, but they are likely to be a similar length to the Bumblebees.

You passenger. Me train.

"Me" trains

This picture has not been digitally altered. Maybe they got halfway through putting the stickers on the front, then realised the train was needed to run a service.

In other news, while Metro got their June performance figures out almost two weeks ago, and Yarra Trams and V/Line have also published theirs, the Department of Transport still hasn’t put out their version. I’m told it’s not expected until late this week — perhaps their Apple II running VisiCalc is still churning through the numbers.

Metro and V/Line missed their targets; eligible passengers are encouraged to apply for compensation.

The Metcard mess, and what Metlink does

I was going to write a blog post about yesterday’s Metcard kerfuffle, in particular pointing out that despite my initial speculation, the Transport Act only requires passengers to make a reasonable attempt to buy and validate your ticket.

It doesn’t require you to buy another ticket if yours doesn’t work, carry spare change, plead with passengers for change, and finally get off the tram if no alternative is available. That appears to be bad advice given to both the Authorised Officers (inspectors) and Metlink staff in this case. It is well beyond what is “reasonable”. It’s also illogical; nobody would have the expectation that, having bought the ticket and tried it unsuccessfully in two validators, they might get fined.

In the case of this punter, it appears his ticket may have been faulty, and was taken away for investigation, and he was told twice, separately, completely the wrong thing about what he should have done to avoid a fine. Messy.

What Metlink does

Rather than rant some more about that case, instead I’m just going to point this out this little factoid which often escapes peoples attention:

Metlink is a marketing body. It provides information. That’s all they do.

It doesn’t run services. It doesn’t plan timetables*. It doesn’t manage Authorised Officers. It doesn’t issue fines. It doesn’t review or revoke fines. It doesn’t run the ticketing system. It doesn’t handle complaints against operators.

You could be forgiven for thinking they do more — the arrangements are quite confusing. In this case alone, you’ve got Yarra Trams (who run the service and employ the Authorised Officers), the state government (who authorise the Authorised Officers, write the legislation they act under, and review the Reports Of Non-Compliance that the AOs write, and decide if they’ll result in fines), OneLink (who operates the Metcard system), Metlink (to whom the passenger made enquiries about it).

I wish I could explain all this with a diagram, but I don’t have the time to draw one up. Instead, here’s an official (though obscure) diagram of how the trains are managed. (And this one is more about operations and maintenance, so it excludes most of the other bodies above.)

Connex Franchise structure

No wonder people are confused, and why some are calling for reform of how PT is managed.

*Actually, it appears that nobody co-ordinates timetables across modes, which is why trams and buses and trains connect so badly. Well, apart from a handful of bus/train and bus/tram connections that are so rare they have a special name.