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A C Class tram on Spencer Street.
Swanston Street is the spine of much of Melbourne's north south tram traffic.

Trams in Melbourne, Australia, are a major form of public transport and Melbournemarker is home to the largest tram network in the world, (following the dismantling of much of Saint Petersburgmarker's tramway tracks early in the 21st century). Melbourne's network consists of of track, 500 trams, 28 routes, and 1,813 tram stops .

In terms of overall boardings, trams are the second most used form of public transport in Melbourne after the commuter railway network with a total of 178 million passenger trips a year. The network carries 83% as many passengers as metropolitan rail despite having less than half the range. As of 2009, trams had the fastest growing patronage of any mode of transport in Melbourne, despite having less overall spent on extension than the rail or freeway network in the last decade.

Melbourne is the only city in Australia where motor vehicles may be 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.

Trams are a distinctive part of the Melbourne's character and trams feature heavily in tourism and travel advertising.

Melbourne's tram network is based on standard gauge tracks and powered by overhead wires at 600 volts DC. The infrastructure and rolling stock is owned by the Victorian Government and operated under contract, the current private operator being Yarra Trams, to be replaced in December 2009 by Keolis/Downer EDI. Melbourne's trams are a part of the Metlink marketing brand and the Metcard integrated ticketing system.

Map of Melbourne's tram network.


Cable trams

In 1885 the Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company was granted a 30-year monopoly franchise for the entire cable tram network in Melbourne, with no competing lines being permitted. The system was so comprehensive within its area of operation, that there was no way for a competing electric tram service to get into the city centre. Electric trams, when they started in Melbourne after 1906, were for the most part acting as feeders to the cable system. The only alternative form of public transport into the city centre were the railways which had been in operation since 1854.

The network in Melbourne was progressively built after 1885 by local tramway trusts composed of local councils and municipalities, and was operated by the Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company. The first service ran from Spencer St/Flinders St, to Hawthorn Bridge, using the gauge, which was to become the standard tramway gauge. By 1891, the cable tramway network consisted of 17 lines running from the city to nearby suburbs. However, as the city grew, the technical limits of the cable tram system became apparent, and after 1906 electric trams were being built to radiate from the ends of some cable tram lines to more distant suburbs.

When the franchise ended in 1916, the operation of the entire cable network was taken over by the State government.[7193] The Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board (MMTB) was formed in 1918, and took over the cable tram network and the tramway trusts by 1920.

The cable tram lines were progressively converted by the MMTB to electric trams from the 1920s, with the last Melbourne cable tram operating on October 26, 1940.

Electric trams

The earliest electric tram in Melbourne was operated by a group of land developers from Box Hill railway stationmarker along Tram Road to Doncastermarker from 1889 using equipment left over from the Great Exhibition of 1888. The venture failed and the service ceased in 1896.

After this ultimately failed experiment, electric trams first returned in 1906, operated by the North Melbourne Electric Tramway and Lighting Company, which operated a line from the terminus of the cable tram to Essendonmarker, until it was taken over by the MMTB in 1922, the last private company taken over by the MMTB. By that time the MMTB had also taken over all Melbourne's cable and electric tram companies.

The Victorian Railways also operated their 'Electric Street Railway' from St Kildamarker to Brightonmarker. The Victorian Railways line came about when Thomas Bent became Premier of the State. It was alleged that he used his position to enhance the value of his property interests in Brighton by forcing the VR to build and operate a tram service in 1906.

However, it has also been said, the reluctant VR insisted that the tram be called a "Street Railway" and built it using the Victorian railway broad gauge instead of the proposed tramway standard gauge of , and connected it with the St Kilda railway stationmarker instead of the cable tram terminus. The line was opened in two stages, from St Kilda railway station to Middle Brighton on 7 May 1906 and to Brighton Beach terminus on 22 December 1906. The St Kilda to Middle Brighton section was the first successful electric tramway in Melbourne.

A fire at the Elwood tram depot on 7 March 1907 destroyed the depot and all the trams. Services resumed on 17 March using four C class trams and three D class trams from Sydney, which were altered to run on VR trucks salvaged from the fire. These trams apparently sufficed until Newport Railway Workshops built 14 new trams. (The St Kilda to Brighton Beach Electric Street Railway closed on 28 February 1959 and was replaced by buses.)

When the MMTB took over Melbourne's cable and electric trams network (other than the St Kilda-Brighton street railway line) in early 1920s it inherited a system with many types of cable cars and trams. To solve the operational and maintenance problem, it introduced in 1923 the iconic W-class tram and phased out the other models, while the cable car network was converted to electric trams.

The last cable trams were replaced by electric trams in 1940, after a 55-year history.

Network under MMTB

In the "golden era" of the 1920s and 1930s, loadings were heavy, a tram conductor earned more than a schoolteacher or a policeman, and the rolling stock was well maintained. The MMTB generated further patronage by establishing the enormous Wattle Park and the Vimy House private hospital for tramways staff.

After World War II other Australian cities began to replace their trams with buses.

Melbourne's tram usage peaked at 260 million trips in 1949, before dropping sharply to 200 million the following year in 1950, the same year as the introduction of Melbourne's bus network. However usage defied the trend and bounced back in 1951, but began a gradual decline in usage which would continue until 1970. Closure of some of Melbourne's tram lines continued and replaced by buses. Despite this, during the same period bus use also went into decline and has never proved as popular with passengers as trams at any time in Melbourne's history.

By the 1970s Melbourne was the only Australian city with a major tram network. Melbourne resisted the trend to shut down the network partly because the city's wide streets and geometric street pattern made trams more practicable than in many other cities, partly because of resistance from the unions, and partly because the Chairman of the MMTB, Sir Robert Risson, successfully argued that the cost of ripping up the concrete-embedded tram tracks would be prohibitive. Also, the infrastructure and vehicles were relatively new, having only replaced Cable Tram equipment in the 1920s-1940s. This destroyed the argument used by many other cities, which was that renewal of the tram system would cost more than replacing it with buses.


By the mid 1970s, as other cities became increasingly choked in traffic and air pollution, Melbourne was convinced that its decision to retain its trams was the correct one, even though patronage had been declining since the 1950s in the face of increasing use of cars and the shift to the outer suburbs, beyond the tram network's limits.

The first tram line extension in over twenty years took place in 1978, along Burwood Highway. The W-class trams were gradually replaced by the new Z-class trams in the 1970s, and by the A-class trams and the larger, articulated B-class trams in the 1980s. However, in 1980, the controversial Lonie Report recommended the closure of about half of the network, in favour of buses. Public protest resulted in these closures not being carried out.

By 1990, the tram network was making losses of many millions of dollars, which was borne by the Victorian state government. In 1990, the Labor government of Premier John Cain tried to introduce economies in the running of the system, which provoked a long and crippling strike by the powerful tramways union in January 1990. Use of the network slumped to its lowest point - below 100 million trips for the first and only time since trams were in operation. In 1992, the Liberals came to power under Premier Jeff Kennett and pledged to corporatise Melbourne's public transport network. However, the policy shifted to supporting the privatisation of the tram system in the wake of a series of public transport strikes. The government abolished tram conductors and replaced them with ticketing machines, shortly before the system was privatised. This move was highly unpopular with the travelling public and led to the loss of millions of dollars in revenue through fare evasion. However, use of the system began a gradual increase. The increase in patronage, beginning in the mid 1990s was solely due to the revival of the inner urban population.

In 1995, Melbourne tram route 86 was extended to Bundoora RMITmarker campus.


B2 class tram in M>Tram livery

On 1 July 1998, in preparation for privatisation of the Public Transport Corporation, Melbourne's tram network was split into two businesses – Met Trams 1 Corporation (trading as Swanston Trams) and Met Trams 2 Corporation (Yarra Trams). After a tendering process with the businesses awarded as 12-year franchises, on 25 July 1999, Premier Kennett announced that the Swanston Trams business was won by National Express Group PLC, a European mass passenger transport company, and the Yarra Trams business by MetroLink Victoria Pty Ltd, a consortium with French company Transdev, Australian company Transfield Services, and French infrastructure project management company Egis Projects. Following a transitional period, the two tram businesses were officially transferred (sold) from the government to the private sector on 29 August 1999.

National Express renamed Swanston Trams as M>Tram, similarly along with its M>Train suburban train business, on 28 March 2001. After several years of failing to make a profit, more than a year of negotiations over revised financing arrangements with the government, and grave concern over its future viability, National Express Group announced on 16 December 2002, its decision to walk away from all of their Victorian contracts and hand control back to the state government, with funding for its operations to stop on 23 December 2002. The government ran M>Tram until negotiations were completed with Yarra Trams for it to take-over responsibility of the whole tram network from 18 April 2004.

On 25 June 2009, it was announced that Keolis/Downer EDI will be the operator of the Melbourne tram network from December 2009. Their contract is for 8 years with an option of a further 7 years.


Tram boarding statistics from 2000-2009 based on official state government figures.
As a part of the privatisation process, franchise contracts between the state government and both private operators included obligations to extend and modernise the Melbourne tram network. This included the purchase of new tram rolling stock, as well as the refurbishment of the current fleet which, built in the 1980s, were ready for mid-life refurbishing. The Swanston Trams (M>Tram) business invested A$175million into 59 new low-floor Combino trams by Siemens AG, and A$7.2 million to refurbish their existing trams, while the Yarra Trams consortium invested A$150 million in 31 Citadis low-floor light rail vehicles from Alstom.

In 2003 the marketing and umbrella brand Metlink was introduced to co-ordinate the promotion of Melbourne's public transport and the communications from the separate privatised companies. This was to, in turn, better integrate the three modes of transport and provide passengers with more information about connecting services provided by several operators under just one name with a unified appearance.

Recent Extensions

Extensions were again made to the tram network. In 2003, the Box Hill tram/light rail extension was opened, followed by the Vermont South and Docklands tram extensions in 2005.


Image:Acnewtram3.jpg|A heritage W6 class tram on Victoria ParadeImage:W Tram Interior.JPG|The interior of a W Class Tram in City Circle serviceImage:Z1-class-tram.96 swanston collins.jpg|A Z1-class tram in "The Met" livery on Swanston StreetImage:A2.272FlindersStreet.jpg|An A class tram in Flinders Street

W class trams

W class trams were introduced to Melbourne in 1923 as a new standard design. They had a dual bogie layout with a distinctive 'drop centre' section, allowing the centrally placed doors to be lower to the ground. They are a simple rugged design, with a substantially timber frame, supplanted by a steel under-frame, characterised by fine craftsmanship. The W Class was the mainstay of Melbourne's tramways system for 60 years. A total of 748 trams of all variants were built, the last 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. Public outrage over their sale for tourist use overseas led to an embargo on further export out of the country in 1993, though recently 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.

By 2006 the number of operating W Class trams has been gradually reduced to about 45, running regularly on the North Richmond to Prahranmarker / St Kildamarker Beach route (Route:78/79), and a short shuttle along La Trobe Street in the CBD. The zero-fare City Circle route also operates using the W class. The oldest W class tram remaining in service run this route, dating from 1936. There are also three others converted into mobile restaurants which cruise the suburbs in the evening.

Of the W-class trams that have been sent overseas, five went to Seattlemarker between 1978 and 1993, where they operated as Seattle's George Benson Waterfront Streetcar Line, starting in 1982 but suspended in 2005. Another nine are now part of the downtown Memphis tourist service, while many other US cities have one or two.

In 2009, it was announced that in the near future, the 30 or so W Class trams not running the City Circle route would be retired, prompting a new campaign from the National Trust of Australia.

Z class trams

The development of new rolling stock to replace the W Class finally began in 1975 with a complex and expensive Swedishmarker design that was ill-suited to Melbourne's hot summers and heavy loadings.

The Z-class trams, built by Comeng, were introduced from the mid-late 1970s, starting with the Z1 class, built from 1975 to 1979. 100 trams were built, most of which are now being withdrawn. Those withdrawn are usually sold at auction. Some have also been donated to tram museums in places such as Bendigomarker.

In 1978 and 1979, fifteen Z2 class trams—having little difference from the Z1 classes—were built. As with the Z1 class, Z2 class trams are now being withdrawn from service.

From 1979 to 1984, Z3 class trams were introduced, being a significant improvement on the Z1 and Z2 class trams. They had an additional door each side and much smoother acceleration and braking. 115 were built, 114 of which are in service (Z3.149 was destroyed in a fire). All are re-liveried in either Yarra Trams or all-over advertising livery.

A class trams

These trams, again built by Comeng, were introduced between 1984 and 1987. This model did away with the concept of a seated conductor, which was characteristic of the Z class trams. 70 were built and are still in service today.

Image:B2.2021FlindersStreet.jpg|A B2 class tram in Flinders StreetImage:D1.3536ArtsCentre.jpg|A D class tram at the Arts Centre in St Kilda RoadImage:C Class Tram, Melbourne - Jan 2008.jpg|A C class tram at the St Vincent's Plaza stop in East Melbourne

B class trams

The B-class trams (also known as light rail vehicles) were first introduced to Melbourne in 1984 with the prototype B1 class trams, which were a significant improvement over the Z1-classes. The B class tram was a lengthened version of the A class tram. Only 2 were built and they remain in service today.

B2 class trams were built from 1988-1994, by Comeng, and later ABB Transportation. They were an improvement over the B1-classes. 130 were built (No 2003-2132), all of which remain in service today. B2-classes are often spotted in all-over advertising livery. The B2 class was notable for the long overdue introduction of air-conditioning.

All of the B2-classes, and B1.2002 have been repainted in Yarra Trams livery (B1.2001 is in all-over advertising livery, but was also in Yarra Trams livery).

Citadis and Combino

The Citadis and Combino trams were introduced following privatisation of Melbourne's tram system. The private operators were obliged under their franchises to replace older Z class trams, although this has not fully taken place. Yarra Trams introduced the Citadis or C class, manufactured in France by Alstom. It is a three section articulated vehicle. Thirty-six are in service. The now defunct M>Tram purchased the German made Siemens Combino. The Combino is a three (D1 class) or five (D2 class) section articulated vehicle. Ownership of the D class trams has now passed to Yarra Trams. Currently 38 D1 and 21 D2 section vehicles are in service. The Combinos are generally favored over the Citadis by tram drivers, as they are easier on the wrist when driving and make it much easier to answer passenger queries.

The five C2 class trams are another low floor tram, introduced in 2008 after being leased from Mulhousemarker in Francemarker. They have been dubbed 'Bumblebees' due to their distinctive yellow colour, and exclusively run on route 96.

Popular culture

Melbourne's tram system has been celebrated across several media. The city's system is the central theme of the movie Malcolm. A flying Melbourne tram was also a feature of the2006 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony.

Network expansion

Mode Connectivity Links

In response to the State Government's 2001 Melbourne 2030 planning policy, the Public Transport Users Association lobbied for extensions (most of which are in line with the Melbourne 2030 planning policy to provide links between different modes of transport) including:

Balwyn - Heidelberg

The Victorian Greens 'The People Plan' proposes an extension of the Route 72 from Burke Road, Balwynmarker to Heidelbergmarker.

Burwood - Doncaster Hill

The Victorian Greens 'The People Plan' proposes a route from Doncastermarker, via Box Hillmarker, to Burwoodmarker.

Sunshine - Highpoint

The Victorian Greens 'The People Plan' proposes an extension from Highpoint, via Maidstonemarker, to Sunshinemarker.

Moonee Ponds - Clifton Hill

The Victorian Greens 'The People Plan' proposes an extension from Moonee Pondsmarker, along Ormond and Brunswick Roads, to Clifton Hill stationmarker.

South Melbourne - Toorak

In 2006 there were strong calls by a joint council project and the (Inner Melbourne Action Group) to provide an inner south tram link between City of Port Phillip and City of Stonningtonmarker by connecting route 112 with route 8 via Park Street. This would require less than 100 metres of track to be laid along the Park Street gap to create the new route.

Carnegie Tram-Train link

An extension of the (route 67) to the Carnegie station would require just under 2 kilometres of track and would increase patronage on the tram route, greatly reduce walking distance for mode transfer and service the busy Koornang Road in the Carnegiemarker shopping precinct. The extension has been a campaign of the Public Transport Users Association since 2006.

Knox City

Route 75 was originally proposed by the State government to terminate at Knox City Shopping Centre, however it did not complete the construction, instead terminating at Vermont Southmarker with the option of a future extension.


Light rail routes to service Doncaster have been raised on numerous occasions as an alternative to the overloaded bus system and expensive heavy rail proposals.

The Public Transport Users Association has been lobbying for an extension of the North Balwyn (route 48) to Doncaster Shopping Centremarker, other proposals include extension along Doncaster Road to Donvalemarker or Mitchammarker.

The Doncaster Light Rail has been made reference to in several reports and studies since 2000, including the Rowville Rail Pre-feasibility Study.

Eastlink Light Rail Reservation

When the Eastlink roadway was in planning, the State Government created a reservation for a future heavy or light rail corridor and conducted a feasibility study into a light rail system to service the outer eastern suburbs. However the road became tolled and light rail did not eventuate. A SmartBus system was implemented instead. However the reservation remains which would have potentially provided a link between the Belgrave/Lilydale railway line, Melbourne/Lilydalemarker, Pakenham/Cranbourne and Stony Point railway groups.

Port Melbourne proposals

Proposed Beaconsfield Parade St Kilda-Port Melbourne route
There have been a number of proposals for tram and light rail extension in Port Melbournemarker.

St Kilda-Port Melbourne link

A 5 kilometre tram link between St Kilda, Victoriamarker and Port Melbourne along Beaconsfield Parade was first raised by the City of Port Phillip in 2005. The City of Port Phillip's 2007 feasibility study into the route found that the high density population could sustain around 200,000 annual commuter trips and that the link would financially viable if tourists were charged $6 per one-way trip.

To address residents concerns over possible loss of beachfront views, the council investigated the possibility of a new high-tech line, involving wire-free operation. Critics argued that it would be duplicating the 112 route, with the two routes running in parallel just 200 metres apart for about 2 kilometres along Beaconsfield Parade. However a direct tram journey between St Kilda and Port Melbourne is not possible and currently requires a change of routes at Southbank which is a 20 kilometre round trip.

Fisherman's Bend proposal

During the Australian Greens 2007 federal election campaign a call was made for more federal funding of public transport projects including a proposal for a new light rail route from Melbourne to Port Melbourne and/or Garden City via Lorimer Street to service the once industrial inner city suburb's fast growing business and residential areas and to open up the possibility of future high density residential development along the route.

Melbourne - Footscray Light Rail Reservation

The Melbourne City Councilmarker first proposed extending Route 86 from the Docklands along Footscray Road to Footscray station in 2004. The proposal was to be grade separated along almost the entire length of Footscray Road.

The extension became part of the official Inner Melbourne Action Plan adopted by the Cities of Melbourne, Stonnington, Port Phillip and Yarra in December 2005 as a "long term" goal.

Since 2007 plans have progressed, with the City of Melbourne attempting to source funding.

In response to the Eddington Plan in July 2008, the City of Melbourne included a request for consideration as a key East-West transport solution.

The Victorian Greens also included the route in its 'The People Plan' election proposal.

However the propopsal it suffered a setback in late 2008 when it met State Government opposition. The Department of Infrastructure recommended the removal of the Footscray Road reservation to reduce the cost of constructing a overpass to ease congestion on the CityLink freeway off-ramp. The State Government's plan was rejected by the City of Melbourne who passed the flyover project in council on the provision that it would retain the light-rail reservation, at additional State Government expense whilst also adding to the future cost of the tram link.


In 2005, a proposal was considered by the Victorian state government and the City of Hobsons Bay including four options for a new Williamstownmarker tramway, including a line from North Williamstown station running along Ferguson St to the Strand operated by heritage cars; closing Williamstown railway line and replacing with a tram service ; Constructing a line from Newport station to Williamstown via Melbourne Road and Ferguson St; Rebuilding a short section of line from Williamstown to Williamstown Pier

Fawkner Extension

A proposal to extend the route 19 North Coburgmarker-Elizabeth Street tram to Fawknermarker, a suburb in the northern suburbs of Melbourne has been suggested by many lobby groups. About 3 kilometres of track would need to be laid along Sydney Road and Hume Highway from North Coburg to Fawkner.

In 1993 plans were made to demolish most of the Upfield Railway Line and install a light rail service. Due to the unpopularity of the plan, the idea was scrapped and the railway line still exists today.

The Public Transport Users Association called for the extension in 2006. The proposal was also included as part of the Victorian Greens 2008 'The People Plan'.

See also


External links



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