Two seemingly unrelated things are occurring this week:
Today, Saturday, is expected to be the hottest day of Melbourne’s summer so far this season, with a forecast high of 42 degrees.
And… the 60th E-class tram just came into service.
We welcomed the new year in with the introduction of Melbourne’s newest E-Class tram, entering service on New Year’s Day. pic.twitter.com/2jorAX8tLE
— Yarra Trams (@yarratrams) January 2, 2018
In fact these two points are related, because only Melbourne’s newer (post-1987) trams are air-conditioned. Another new tram in service means an old one out, and the proportion of air-conditioned trams goes up.
And of course new trams means more low-floors: they now constitute over a third of the fleet — though for those with mobility issues, this isn’t very useful unless accompanied by tram stops providing level boarding.
Using the VicSig tram fleet page, and making some adjustments for the newest E-class trams in service, I’ve tried to graph where things go from here.
Given W-class trams are no longer used in service except on the tourist-oriented City Circle, I’ve excluded them for the purposes of this discussion. (Apparently there are 38 of them.)
Precise information is a little hard to come by. There are no official fleet figures made public. VicSig figures seem to include some trams that are fit for use, but kept in storage.
So these figures may not be quite right, but I think they’re pretty close. (I’ll make modifications if I find corrections.)
|Class||First introduced||Low floor||Air-conditioned||Load standard||2018 fleet size|
So, excluding the W-class trams, and noting again that this is my estimate:
- A total of 467 trams
- 34% are low-floor
- 62% air-conditioned
- Based on the load standard, which is not really the capacity, the total fleet can carry about 49,000 people (noting that there are always some trams out of service for maintenance etc)
Given the deadline of 2032 for accessibility compliance (DDA/DSAPT), how do things need to progress from 2019 (when the current order of E-class trams comes to an end, and 80 will be in service) to make the entire fleet low-floor?
The answer is about 22 new trams every year until 2032 — which is almost double the current rate of delivery of about one per month.
- That they’ll continue the broad pattern of each new tram replacing an old one — which is not quite right — the Rolling Stock Strategy from 2015 says: As new larger trams will replace smaller old trams the total number of vehicles will drop in the short term, although passenger capacity will continue to increase.
- That the new trams will continue to be E-class trams — they might look for a new design sometime next decade, or at least incremental improvements.
- It also assumes all of the post-2000 low-floor trams remain in service — some of these will be getting pretty old as well by 2032.
- And it assumes they’d wait as long as they could before reaching compliance!
Assuming all that, on this theoretical trajectory:
- Z-class trams would disappear in 2023.
- The last of the non-air-conditioned trams (A-class) would disappear in 2026.
- The one-for-one replacement of older, initially smaller trams with larger ones, has a side effect: total capacity will increase from about 49,000 people now, to about 77,000 people in 2032.
- Larger trams replacing smaller ones is also why it’s a huge project in terms of depot space, and additional power substations being built.
Will the fleet meet the 2032 deadline? It depends on the State Government continuing to order more new trams.
Their own rolling stock strategy from 2015 says: Two hundred and forty new trams will be needed over the next decade.
There are rumours of another order coming, but nothing firm yet — something to watch for in the State Budget in May.
Even more intimidating than the fleet is the infrastructure. DDA/DSAPT includes a number of requirements (for instance, signage and announcements), but accessible stops are a key requirment. There are around 400 accessible tram stops out of a total of about 1700 (eg 25%). And many of those done so far have been the easy ones, along segregated track.
The benefits of a more accessible tram system are obvious — both to those with mobility difficulties, and also parents with prams, and anybody with luggage.
Reaching the target of full accessibility by 2032 is going to be tricky. It needs to be a key focus for government in the years ahead.
* * *
- Yarra Trams: Accessibility Action Plan 2015-2018
- PTV Accessibility Action Plan
- Victorian Government: Rolling Stock Strategy 2015-2015
- The cascade plan (included in this blog post) talks about how new trams get allocated around the network
- The Z and A-class trams do have small air-conditioning units for the drivers, who after all, are in these trams for hours at a time.
- There was a plan at one stage to build B-class trams with a low-floor section. This document includes some details and history around DDA requirements for trams.