Melbourne tram routes you can’t ride

If you take a look the Melbourne tram network map, you’d reasonably expect that the lines drawn on it are the limits of where you can ride. But there are a number of places across Melbourne were trams can roam but passengers cannot.

'No Vehicle Access Trams Only' sign on the Miller Street hump

Secret cross-town connections

Melbourne’s tram system is primary a radial one, with every route except for 78 and 82 running via the CBD. However, there are a handful of cross-town connections allowing trams to avoid the city.

On the northern edge of the Melbourne CBD there is a connection that doesn’t appear on the network map – 300 metres of track along Victoria Street between Swanston and Elizabeth Streets.

B2 class trams turns from Victoria Street into Swanston

The link was opened in the 1920s to connect the isolated North Melbourne Electric Tramways & Lighting Company system to the rest of the system.

Today it permits the transfer of empty trams between depots for maintenance, the diversion of route 58 trams due to disruptions in the CBD, and for special trams on Anzac Day to access the Shine of Remembrance for the dawn service.

Another hidden connection is much further from the city – 580 metres of track along Miller Street in Preston. It links route 86 on High Street to route 11 along St Georges Road, via a bridge over the Mernda railway line.

D2.5007 stabled outside Preston Workshops on Miller Street

The link was part of the original Fitzroy, Northcote & Preston Tramways Trust network, it was once used by passenger services but was made redundant following the conversion of cable tramways to electricity, permitting through running along High Street.

Today the connection allows trams to access Preston Workshops and East Preston depot without travelling all the way back into the city.

The appendixes of the tram network

Also not shown on the network map are a number of dead end stub tracks.

The north end of William Street at Dudley Street is one, where route 58 trams diverge into Peel Street.

Z3.117 heads south on Peel Street with a route 55 service, as restaurant tram SW6.935 waits to leave the Dudley Street siding

Once upon a time passengers from the southern suburbs had two options to reach the city – trams via St Kilda Road and Swanston Street, or Kings Way and William Street. The latter services terminated at Dudley Street until they were withdrawn in 1986, with the sidings seeing little use since.

Spencer Street north of La Trobe Street has a single track stub.

E2.6061 in the Spencer Street siding with an empty Grand Prix special

Used as the route 75 terminus until it was relocated to Docklands, today the stub is used to turnback lunchtime extra for Bourke Street, and Grand Prix specials.

Route 12 also has a seldom used track stub – running along Mills Street towards Albert Park Beach.

Little used siding at Mills Street heads straight towards the beach at Middle Park

It’s claim to fame – it has never been used by timetabled trams.

Sidings for special events

Trams carry passengers to many big events across Melbourne, so a number of sidings exist across the network to park extra trams ready for special event crowds to head home.

Footy fans headed home from the MCG are served by the dead end Simpson Street sidings at the end of Wellington Parade.

Simpson Street tram siding at the end of Wellington Parade

While tennis fans have served by the Melbourne Park tram siding on route 70 to the south.

C.3023 stabled in the Melbourne Park tram siding

Docklands Stadium is served by trams from the Footscray Road siding, located north of Dudley Street.

E.6007 and C2.5113 stabled in the Footscray Road siding, between running route 96 services on the north side of the city

Trams to Flemington Racecourse and the Showgrounds use the Showgrounds Loop on Union Road in Ascot Vale.

D2.5016 leads a row of stabled trams in Showgrounds Loop for Stakes Day at Flemington

The South Melbourne Football Club might have left Lakeside Oval, but South Melbourne Loop on route 12 is still there.

Photostop at South Melbourne loop on route 12

And raceday crowds at Caulfield Racecourse are also down, but the tram siding in the middle of Dandenong Road remains.

B2.2085 on route 3a heads along the middle of Dandenong Road at Caulfield

Tram termini and layovers

Trams can’t instantly change direction – the tram driver needs to lock up before walking down to the other cab. For this reason tram termini often have sidings to free up the ‘though’ tracks for passing trams.

Melbourne University has three dead end sidings facing south for terminating trams.

D1.3513 passes Z1.9 and D1. 3529 at the Melbourne University terminus

Route 12 in Richmond has a turnback outside the Victoria Gardens shopping centre.

A1.243 in the route 12 turnback siding in Richmond

Route 30 has a dead end siding just past the St Vincent’s Plaza tram stop.

E2.6071 on route 30 enters the siding at St Vincent's Plaza

And route 82 has a turnback siding at Moonee Ponds Junction.

Z3.205 in the route 82 turnback siding at Moonee Ponds Junction

The route 96 terminus at East Brunswick is a dead end, but has two sidings beyond the tram stop for trams to lay over.

E.6023 ready to depart the layover track at the East Brunswick terminus

As does Waterfront City in Docklands.

A2.273 departs the Waterfront City terminus with a route 70 service

And finally, St Kilda Road at the Arts Centre has a short section of third track, allowing defective trams to be parked clear of other services.

Three track section of tramway on St Kilda Road at the Arts Centre

Tram depots

Melbourne’s fleet of trams is housed at eight depots around the city. Each depot has an array of tracks leading into the sheds and storage roads.

Z3.162 departs Malvern Depot

Brunswick Depot has a non-passenger carrying section of track connecting it to the rest of the network.

B2.2074 departs Brunswick Depot

As does Camberwell Depot.

A2.279 ready to run out of Camberwell Depot with a route 70 service to Wattle Park

Reconnecting dead ends

The tram network map suggests that when tram routes intersect, you need to get out and change trams to turn the corner. But if you take a look on the ground, you might see a set of connecting curves exist between the two intersecting tracks, allowing trams to weave their way across the network as they please.

Route 109 passes the northern end of route 78, 16 and 72 as it heads east to Box Hill, they aren’t necessarily a dead end for trams – curves link connects Church Street to Victoria Street.

A2.281 at the route 78 terminus on Church Street, Richmond

And Cotham Road to Glenferrie Road.

Double track into single track curve between Cotham and Glenferrie Roads

The route 12 terminus in St Kilda has a connection to route 96 along Fitzroy Street.

A2.286 awaiting departure time from the route 12 terminus at St Kilda

The route 58 terminus on Toorak Road has a connection to route 16 along Glenferrie Road.

New route 8 tram terminus on Toorak Road - a long walk from Glenferrie Road

And route 78 at Balaclava has a connection to route 67 along Nepean Highway.

Connecting curves

Where tram routes cross over is another places where trams can weave their way across the network as they please – thanks to curves that allow trams to change from one street to the other.

Looking east at the La Trobe and William Street intersection

The curves at Swanston Street and La Trobe Street, along with those at William Street and La Trobe Street, are a frequently used diversion route through the CBD for routes that normally use Swanston Street.

Route 59D tram on Swanston Street at La Trobe Street, bound for Docklands

Curves at Nicholson Street and Victoria Street provide Bourke Street routes an alternate path through the CBD.

B2.2109 on a diverted route 86 service turns from Nicholson into Victoria Street

And those at Kings Way and Sturt Street provide a detour around St Kilda Road.

Z3.147 on route 8 turns from Kings Way into Sturt Street

But other connections are seldom used, like those at Clarendon and Park Street in South Melbourne.

South to east curves at Clarendon and Park Street in South Melbourne

And Church and Swan Streets in Richmond.

South to west curves at the corner of Church and Swan Streets in Richmond

And the granddaddy of them all – the ‘grand union’ at Balaclava Junction that allows trams from any direction to take any other directions.

Grand union at Balaclava Junction

Route 3, 16, and 64 trams use the junction, but only the north / west leg of the junction is used by passenger services.

A stub that is gone

The Essendon Football Ground at ‘Windy Hill’ was once served by trams, thanks to a stub along Napier Street leading north from the route 59 tracks. Essendon’s relocation to the MCG saw the siding made redundant, but the siding was not removed until 2004.

A removed connection

Once upon a time there was a 1.5 kilometre long cross-town tramway along Holden Street in North Fitzroy, until it was dismantled in the 1970s.


Weston Langford photo

Constructed to link the isolated Fitzroy, Northcote & Preston Tramways Trust system to the rest of the electric network while avoiding the existing cable tramway network, this connection commenced on routes 1/6 at Lygon Street, crossing over route 96 at Nicholson Street, and headed west towards St George’s Road, where it snaked via Pilkington Street and Barkly Street to reach what is now route 11.

Conversion of the cable trams to electric rendered the connection redundant, but a shuttle service running along Holden Street continued until the 1950s.

A cross-town connection we almost got

In 2007 as part of the planning for the ‘New’ Preston Depot on St Georges Road, another cross-town tramway connection was proposed.

Track lead into the west end of Preston Workshops

The connection being described as.

Track Links is new track to give connection from the Preston Depot (workshops site) to routes 96 (Nicholson Street) and routes 1/8 (Lygon Street). There are four options.

  • Option A – Link down Arthurton and Blyth Streets from St. Georges Road to Lygon Street.
  • Option B is a combination of A and C, ie Arthurton/Blyth Streets from St.Georges Road to Nicholson Street, and Brunswick Road from Nicholson Street to Lygon Street.
  • Option C – Holden Street and Brunswick Road from St.Georges Road to Lygon Street.
  • Option D – Park Street (next to old Inner Circle train line) from St.Georges Road to Lygon Street.

However it was not to be – ‘New’ Preston Depot opened in April 2016, replacing East Preston, but only housing E class trams for route 11, 86 and 96.

And a connection that isn’t there

For some reason the route 72 terminus in Burke Road isn’t connected to the route 109 tracks along Whitehorse Road.

Z3.153 awaiting departure time from the route 72 terminus in Burke Road

The nearest connection to the rest of the network is 7.5 kilometres away – at Glenferrie Road and High Street in Malvern!

So what can you do with all these connections?

Back in the 1920s the ‘Shilling Tour’ tram took advantage of the little used curves, taking tourists around the eastern and south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

While in the 1990s another ‘mystery’ tour of Melbourne was launched – the route 99 “NightLink” tram running from Fitzroy to St Kilda, Chapel Street, and Richmond.

And finally, tram enthusiasts have organised their own private tours of the network, traversing the hidden cross-town connections, and stopping for photos at little used sidings.

Photoline at West Maribyrnong with Z3.145, Z2.101 and Z1.22

Back in 2012 I went on a tour of the western suburbs to commemorate the closure of the Footscray tramways, in 2016 a farewell tour for B1 class trams, and a 2017 tour that tried to visit as many places called ‘park’ as possible.

Sources

Living in the 70’s – gas fountains at Princes Bridge

If you thought that the nightly fireball show at Crown Casino was gaudy, back in the 1970s was an even more insane proposal – a pair of gas ‘fountains’ burning 24 hours a day beside Princes Bridge.

The brainchild of a City of Melbourne councillor, Mr R. Walker, the idea was first made public in 1971.

Two Gas ‘Fountains’ Planned For City
The Canberra Times
Wednesday 10 February 1971

Melbourne City Council may consider erecting two natural gas “fountains” at the entrance to Princes Bridge, the main Yarra crossing between the city and the southern suburbs.

A Melbourne City Councillor, Mr R. Walker, said today that the fountains would be a symbol of Melbourne’s “coming of age” and of the industrial explosion in Victoria.

The plans, which were designed by a leading architect, Sir Roy Grounds, were to be outlined at the council meeting today.

Mr Walker said the fountains, to be placed on each side of the St Kilda Road entrance to the bridge, would be 14ft in diameter and would contain 400 gas jets.

They would burn pollution-free natural gas and would change colour every 10 minutes.

Mr Walker said he had been working on the project for the past six months.

But nothing happened until 1974, when the City of Melbourne approved the idea.

City will get a warm glow
The Age
23 July 1974

Two fountains of flame which change color every minute are to be built in St. Kilda Road at the foot of Princes Bridge.

The fountains will be powered by natural gas and are likely to be built before next July. They will be more than 32 ft. high and 17 ft. 6 in. in diameter. They have been approved by the Melbourne City Council general purposes committee and the Arts Centre building committee. They are to be built on either side of the southern approaches to the bridge. Cr. Ronald Walker, who proposed the idea more than two years ago, announced details of the fountains yesterday. He said they were still subject to Environment Protection Authority approval, but he expected them to be approved because they complied with EPA regulations.

Cr. Walker said the fountains would be made of copper and financed by a group of Melbourne business and professional leaders. They would burn 24 hours a day every day, he said.

The fountains were designed by leading architect Sir Roy Grounds, with Cr. Walker. The Gas and Fuel Corporation provided technical assistance.

Cr. Walker said the fountains would be unique in the world and would be “a tourist attraction and a symbol of Victoria’s industrial success”.

But got dunked on immediately.

An aesthetic monstrosity
The Age
24 July 1974

It appears as if the Melbourne City Council is about to commit an aesthetic and environmental atrocity in the proposed erection of “gas fountains”.

Not only will the fountains consume a precious natural resource, but they will consume an excessive amount of oxygen witch the motor car has already considerably diminished, and will produce even more carbon monoxide. The heat they will produce is a pollutant.

The planting of a tree is more of an aesthetic asset to a city. The council’s aim of attracting tourists with a multicolored fountain is seeking the “lowest common denominator” I am surprised that the creator of such a culturally enriching structure only a few hundred yards away from the site of the proposed fountains could be so irresponsible.

Miranda Milne (Parkville).

With an expat Aussie inviting comparisons with Sydney.

Melbourne City Council wants to erect some tourist-attracting gas-flame “fountains” on Princes Bridge, across the Yarra. They would stand about 10 metres high and
change color.

Just what they will contribute when temperatures in Melbourne get to summer peak has not yet been discussed.

Sydney is unfazed, and is talking of a new super-fountain, running not on gas but water in the normal way.

The Melbourne burghers think the gas flames will suitably mark the “Gateway” to Australia. How could they, Sydney asks, when Sydney is the “Gateway” to both Australia and the Pacific?

Silly isn’t it?

But from there the trail goes cold. Following completion of the Arts Centre underpass, construction of the Melbourne Concert Hall (now Hamer Hall) commenced on the site of the fountains in 1973, and was completed in 1982 – with no gas fountains to be found.

Building the new Hamer Hall forecourt beside the Yarra River

With it taking until 1997 for Melbourne to get a fountain of fire – when the “Gas Brigades” at Crown Casino were switched on.

The eight towers along the Yarra River shoot fireballs into the night’s sky every hour, from dusk until 1am.

Footnote: not just a coincidence

The Melbourne City Councillor behind the 1970s proposal was a Mr Ron Walker.

Elected to the Melbourne city council in 1969, he served as the Lord Mayor of Melbourne from 1974 to 1976.

In 1976, he held a partnership with another Melbourne businessman, Lloyd Williams. The pair formed a property development company called Hudson Conway.

And who developed the Crown Casino complex – Hudson Conway. It might have taken 25 years, but Ron Walker finally got his gas fireballs.

And another aborted proposal

Back in 2015 a “world-first fountain and flame show” was proposed for Melbourne’s Docklands, but went nowhere.

Extended and shortened High Capacity Metro Trains hit the tracks

December 2020 saw the first High Capacity Metro Train complete extensive testing and carry passengers for the first time, but today has seen something different – ‘Extended’ and ‘Shortened’ versions of the train have left the depot at Pakenham East on test.

HCMT set 8 approaches Flinders Street on the up

The trains

The first version is the 10-car ‘Extended Train’. At 227 metres long it can carry 1970 passengers, but will require stations to be expanded so that the extra three carriages will fit into the platform.

The second version is the 6-car ‘Normal Capacity Metro Train’. At 138 metres long it is five metres shorter than existing Melbourne suburban trains, so can use any platform on the network. The 1180 passenger capacity is smaller than a ‘standard’ 7-car HCMT, but is comparable to that of trains currently used in Melbourne.

Finally we have the 3-car ‘Low Capacity Metro Train’. At 71 metres long it is the shortest of any train in Melbourne, and has a capacity of 580 passengers.

Perfect for the Cinderella of the suburban network – the Alamein line!

The specifications

Schedule 27 “Technical Specifications” of the High Capacity Metro Trains Project Agreement describes the configuration of the HCMT variants.

3. Train Configuration
a. Configuration of the HCMT into the Shortened Train or the Extended Train shall be completed and the train made Available within a two week period.

3.1 HCMT
a. Each HCMT shall be no longer than 153m from the leading edge of the Train Operator’s cab side door to the trailing edge of the furthest passenger body side door.
b. Each HCMT shall be no longer than 160m measured from coupler face to coupler face.
c. Each HCMT shall have a minimum distance between the trailing edge of the Train Operator’s cab door and the leading edge of the nearest passenger bodyside door of 1200 mm.

3.2 Shortened Train
a. Each HCMT shall be able to be re-configured into a Shortened Train.
b. Each Shortened Train shall meet all requirements of the HCMT with the exception of train length and capacity.

3.3 Extended Train
a. Each HCMT shall be able to be re-configured into an Extended Train.
b. Each Extended Train shall meet all requirements of the HCMT with the exception of train length and capacity.

And their passenger capacity.

6. Capacity
a. Each HCMT shall enable standing passengers to safely travel at a density of up to 6 passengers/m² in all seating configurations.
b. Each HCMT shall provide seating for 40% (± 2%) of the Gross Train Capacity.
c. Note: In the event that the Construction Documentation reflects the HCMT seating capacity design contained in Solution B Solution 1, the tolerance for the seating will be increased from ±2% to ±3%.

6.2 HCMT
a. Each HCMT shall have a Gross Train Capacity of at least 1380 passengers.
b. Note: In the event that the Construction Documentation reflects the HCMT seating layout design contained in Solution B Solution 1, a tolerance of ±0.5% will be provided for the Gross Train Capacity.

6.3 Shortened Train
a. The Shortened Train shall have a Gross Train Capacity of at least 1180 passengers.

6.4 Extended Train
a. The Extended Train shall have a Gross Train Capacity of at least 1970 passengers.

While Schedule 37 “Minimum Operating Standards” details their planned deployment.

As at the date of Contract Close, the Minimum Operating Standards (MOS) does not reflect the operation of a Shortened Train or an Extended Train. To the extent the MOS is required to be amended to reflect the operation of a Shortened Train or an Extended Train, the parties agree that the amended MOS must not result in a downgrading of the performance criteria set out in the MOS applicable to a HCMT at Contract Close.

April Fools!

In case you didn’t notice, today is April Fools Day – these High Capacity Metro Trains variants don’t yet exist in the real world, with the images found above just photo manipulations.

However the details of the 10-car ‘Extended Train’ and 6-car ‘Shortened Train’ are real – the technical specifications above are from the ‘HCMT Project Agreement‘ published on the Buying for Victoria website.

In addition, a few months ago a 4-car High Capacity Metro Train consist was formed at the Pakenham East depot, the extra three cars being added to a standard 7-car train to form an extended 10-car HCMT set for testing.

My only invention – the ‘Normal Capacity Metro Train’ name and the 3-car ‘Low Capacity Metro Train’. 😛

And another thing…

I put together some similarly manipulated images way back in 2006, when 3-car VLocity trains were first announced.

Photos from ten years ago: March 2011

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – this time it is March 2011.

Avalon Airshow takes a break for the commercial jets

Up in the air

Who remembers the day of big events and flying? March 2011 saw the Australian International Airshow held at Avalon, with Tiger Airways still flying into the airport.

Tiger Airways over the You Yangs

V/Line ran extra trains to Lara station.

Airshow crowds depart a push-pull set at Lara

Connecting with shuttle buses.

Crowds wait to exit the platform for shuttle buses at Lara

That delivered patrons to Avalon Airport.

Afternoon queues for the buses back to Lara station

New roads

Around Geelong big money was being spent on new roads, with Stage 4A of the Geelong Ring Road taking shape at Waurn Ponds, extending the freeway south towards Colac.

Work on Geelong Ring Road Stage 4A crossing the Waurn Ponds Creek valley

$63 million was also being spent on a new bridge over the Barwon River at Breakwater, replacing the previous flood prone crossing.

Piling for the new bridge underway on the western side of the railway

The project also included a massive new intersection with Fellmongers Road.

Intersection of Breakwater and Fellmongers Road, eastern end of the new bridge

Resulting in the demolition of nine houses.

Houses being demolished on Breakwater Road for the new set of traffic lights

Rail projects

West of Geelong, duplication was underway on the main line west to Adelaide. The second track was completed in 2012, and allows grain trains to access the Port of Geelong without conflicting with through services.

Work on the roadbed a bit more advanced at the Geelong Ring Road

The rail over road bridge at Moorabool Street was upgraded, with the 100 year steel span being replaced by a new one looking much the same.

North side of the new bridge span, with an added maintenance walkway

Out at Marshall station was a much less interesting upgrade – the 1 in 2 replacement of timber sleepers with concrete.

1 in 2 replacement with concrete sleepers during the recent occupation

March 2011 also saw the disused Geelong Racecourse station disconnected from the main line, removing the ability for trains to access the platform.

3VL27 and classmate pass the remains of Geelong Racecourse station, the loop siding recently straight railed

Footscray gained a new traction substation at the corner of Ballarat Road and Droop Street, providing extra power for route 82 trams.

Substation 'Fo' at Ballarat Road and Droop Street, Footscray

The $48.5 million Kororoit Creek Road duplication project reached a milestone – the bridge carrying the westbound carriageway over the Werribee line was complete, allowing the level crossing to be closed, and work to start on the parallel bridge.

Westbound carriageway complete for new

Was Regional Rail Link really a decade ago? 2011 saw the new platforms 15 and 16 at Southern Cross Station almost finished – track being the most noticeable omission!

Seating and other fixtures waiting installation on platform 15/16

Alstom Ballarat was churning out new X’Trapolis trains for the Melbourne suburban network.

Another view of the yard full of body shells

And the massive new train maintenance facility at Craigieburn was taking shape to house a growing fleet of trains.

More work on the Craigieburn maintenance shed from the up end

And scenes that are gone

Who remembers the Melbourne City Tourist Shuttle? Introduced in 2006 by the City of Melbourne as a free service, fares were introduced in 2011 but with competition from the Free Tram Zone, it was discontinued in 2017.

Melbourne City Tourist Shuttle bus #78 6678AO at Swanston and Flinders Street

Something else gone is the stink of horse piss at the arse end of Swanston Street. They were kicked out in 2017, and the strip of seedy fast food restaurants was demolished soon after to make way for the new Town Hall station.

Horse drawn carriage at the arse end of Swanston Street, near Flinders Street

A forgettable building was 199 William Street. After sitting empty for decades the year 2011 saw work start on the redevelopment of the tower into ‘The William’ hotel and apartment complex.

Southern facade of Communications House

I wrote about ‘Mount Mistake’ in Footscray recently – a decade ago the old West Footscray station still existed. The current station opened in 2013.

Siemens arrives into West Footscray on the down

The same can also be said about this level crossing in Sunshine, where Anderson Road passes over the Sunbury line tracks. It was replaced by a road under rail bridge in 2014.

Siemens 829M crosses Anderson Road, Sunshine

And finally, we end on the northern edge of Melbourne at the township of Donnybrook. Back then the only people who went there were gunzels photographing trains passing the semaphore signals and having a feed at the local pub, but today it is new housing estates as far as the eye can see.

Disc signal for the crossover at Donnybrook

Footnote

Here you can find the rest of my ‘photos from ten years ago‘ series.

When is a platform tram stop not accessible?

Last week I had a look at tram stops that are triply inaccessible – where the only way to leave the tram stop is a set of stairs. But there is another feature of tram stop platforms that render them inaccessible – inconsistent platform heights.

B2.2056 heads north on route 55 along Kings Way at York Street

A tale of legacy platform stops

Melbourne has a number of ‘legacy’ platform stops that predate the rollout of low-floor trams, and so don’t provide a level boarding experience – but to the average passenger, they look no different to an accessible tram stop.

D2.5020 and A2.300 at Royal Parade and Brunswick Road

One of these trams stops was in the news back in 2016, after a man who uses a mobility scooter said the tram driver refused to deploy a ramp so he could board the tram.

A Melbourne man with MS who uses a mobility scooter says a tram driver repeatedly refused to deploy a ramp to help him board so he could get to hospital for treatment, and he had to be lifted on by passengers.

Sean Cox said he tried to get onto the 19 tram at the intersection of Royal Parade and Brunswick Road in Brunswick on three separate days this week, but each time the driver did not allow him to use the wheelchair ramp.

“Even though they’re all kitted out, they’ve all got ramps, [the drivers] are saying ‘No, the manager says we can’t put the ramp down’,” he told 774 ABC Melbourne

Mr Cox said he needed the ramp to help get his scooter over a two-inch step.

A spokeswoman for Yarra Trams told the ABC the ramps were only for emergency situations and not to be used to help passengers board the trams at old stops.

The tram stop at Royal Parade and Brunswick Road on route 19 in Brunswick looks like an accessible platform stop.

Tram stop on the reserved track at Sydney Road and Brunswick Road

But the ‘platform’ is actually just an asphalt footpath on the traffic island, with a kerb separating it from the tram tracks.

Non-standard platform tram stop on route 19 at Sydney and Brunswick Road

Similar ‘platform’ tram stops exist elsewhere on the Melbourne tram network, like this one on route 57 at Abbotsford Street and Flemington Road.

Z3.230 waiting to turn from Abbotsford Street into Flemington Road

This one in the middle of Kings Way on route 58.

Sand covers the tracks at a tram stop on Kings Way and York Street

All of these tram stops are accessed via traffic lights, unlike the stops only accessible via stairs, as I’ve mentioned before.

Footbridge provides the only pedestrian access to the Hornby Street tram stop in the middle of Dandenong Road, Windsor

Towards standards

Melbourne entered the low floor tram era with the C class ‘Citadis’ trams delivered in 2001, followed by D class ‘Combino’ trams from 2002.

C.3033 heads east on the Collins Street extension

With the first accessible platform stop opened on Collins Street in October 2001.

Town Hall platform stop on Collins Street at Swanston

However the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport only specify the size of boarding gaps.

8.2 – When boarding devices must be provided.

(1) A manual or power assisted boarding device must be available at any accessible entrance to a conveyance that has:

(a) a vertical rise or gap exceeding 12 mm (AS/NZS3856.1 (1998) Clause 2.1.7 (f)); or
(b) a horizontal gap exceeding 40 mm (AS/NZS3856.1 (1998) Clause 2.1.8 (g)).

Which presented difficulties when determining a standard for tram floor and platform heights, given we purchsed off-the-shelf low-floor trams from Europe.

Where a platform stop exists, most passengers with a mobility impairment will be able to board a low floor tram safely and independently unless there is a boarding gap acting as a barrier to access. Victoria’s objective is to provide independent access which is best achieved with low floor trams and level access stops.

The current boarding gap of 12mm (vertical) and 40mm (horizontal) specified in DSAPT is based on an Australian Standard for hoists and ramps used for road transport including buses and taxis. However, there is no specific standard for trams and European standards have different vertical and horizontal gap requirements for deployment of ramps. Victoria recommends that the current standard in 8.2 be reviewed with the aim of developing a specific standard for trams.

Hence gaps like this one between a D1 class Combino tram and the platform stop at Melbourne University.

Gap between a Combino tram and the platform stop at Melbourne University

And this C2 class Citadis tram on Bourke Street.

Gap between a C2 class tram and a platform stop

Rubber gap filling panels were fitted to C2 class trams in an attempt to make boarding easier.

Rubber gap filling panels in the doorways of a C2 class tram

But gap fillers fitted to D1 class trams caused another problem – the trams would now hit the platform, so a 30 km/h speed restriction was imposed!

'Warning: 30 km/h platform speed restriction' notice on the dashboard of a D1 class tram

Made in Melbourne for Melbourne?

The new E class trams were the first low-floor trams built in Melbourne, for Melbourne, so one might think they’d be designed to fit our existing platform stops.

E.6018 on a shakedown run heads west along La Trobe Street

But they weren’t.

Disability rules bypassed in low-floor tram rush
Josh Gordon
September 12, 2011

The Department of Transport knowingly breached federal anti-discrimination laws by ignoring wheelchair accessibility rules on trams.

A tender assessment from September last year for 50 new “low-floor trams” reveals that the department decided a Disability Discrimination Act requirement for a step height between platforms and trams of no more than 12 millimetres was too onerous, instead asking for a cheaper 50 millimetre option, which is the European standard.

“It was determined that the 12mm option was not feasible and should not be actively pursued”, the briefing to Martin Pakula, transport minister in the former Labor government, says.

The documents, obtained under freedom of information laws by Greens MP Greg Barber, warn that no tenders had developed a “workable system” to meet the requirement, saying the impact on delivery times and maintenance was too great.

The result vertical gap doesn’t look all that big.

Ramp up inside the doors of an E class tram

But at other tram stops, there is a big horizontal gap.

Big step out of an E class tram at the Collins and Spring Street stop

And to reduce the gaps, a convoluted ramp had to be created inside each doorway of the tram, creating a slip hazzard.

Ramp up inside the doors of an E class tram

But still not good enough

In 2014 Yarra Trams started ripping up a number of existing platform stops.

B2.2047 passes reconstruction work at the Bourke and Elizabeth Street platform stop

Closing them to passengers.

Resurfacing works almost completed at the south end of the Southern Cross Station platform stop on Spencer Street

While they pulled up the bluestone paving.

Removed paving for platform stop resurfacing works at Bourke and Elizabeth Streets

Then put it all back into place.

Platform stop works at the west end of the Bourke Street Mall

The only difference – the platform edge was 30 mm higher.

Difference in height between the raised (left) and original (right) sections of the platform stop

Yarra Trams detailed the reason for the work in their Q3 2014 Accessibility Update.

Yarra Trams continues to work closely with Public Transport Victoria to enhance the accessibility of Melbourne’s tram network. As part of this commitment, resurfacing works are scheduled to be completed at a number of existing level access stops on the network this year.

The works involve raising existing level access stops approximately 30mm to improve accessibility for all passengers, particularly those using a mobility aid.

Stops that have benefitted from this work so far include stops in the sporting precinct near the MCG, AAMI Park, Hisense Arena and Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne University, Alfred Hospital and Bourke Street Mall.

These changes to the surface of the level access stops are designed to ensure a standard height for level access tram stops in Melbourne.

And provided a full list in their 2015–18 Accessibility Action Plan.

In 2014, Yarra Trams completed work to retrofit several accessible tram stops that were built to old standards. The tram stops were raised from 260mm to 290mm at the following locations:

· Melbourne University
· Flinders Street at Spencer Street
· Flinders Street at King Street
· Flinders Street at Market Street
· The Alfred Hospital
· Spencer Street at Collins Street (Southern Cross Station)
· Bridge Road at Hawthorn Bridge
· Collins Street at Swanston Street (Town Hall)
· MCG / Hisense Arena
· Rod Laver Arena
· AAMI Park
· Batman Avenue at William Barak Bridge
· Bourke Street at Elizabeth Street
· Bourke Street at Swanston Street

But even this wasn’t good enough – in 2016 Yarra Trams trialled the use of ramps at platform stops.

Access problems at super stops prompt trial of wheelchair ramps on new trams
Adam Carey
May 3, 2016

Boarding ramps will be trialled on Melbourne’s new E-Class trams to bridge an excessive step height at super stop platforms that prevents some wheelchair passengers safely entering the tram.

The height difference between platforms and tram floors is big enough to have put the Victorian government in breach of national disability discrimination laws, a problem that was identified before E-Class trams were first ordered in 2010, but has never been fixed.

Instead this year, under a trial proposed by Yarra Trams, manual ramps will be deployed by tram drivers at platform stops along route 96 between East Brunswick and St Kilda Beach, one of Melbourne’s busiest tram routes.

Ray Jordan of disability access group All Aboard said the group welcomed all efforts to improve access to trams, given some super stops still leave a problem gap.

“There are a lot of people who find themselves still unable to use the [E-Class] trams because their particular wheelchair won’t get up that step,” Mr Jordan said. “The step could be 30 to 60 millimetres, it varies. Some wheelchairs can handle that, many can’t,” he said.

But they’re still building non-compliant ‘platform’ stops

As part of the rebuild of the tram tracks along Elizabeth Street in 2012, a new ‘platform’ stop was created at La Trobe Street.

Tram stop on Elizabeth Street at La Trobe Street

But it wasn’t actually accessible – but just a section of tram tracks sunken beneath the level of the neighbouring road, waiting for a real platform stop to be built.

Tram stop on Elizabeth Street at La Trobe Street

Something that wasn’t provided until 2013.

D2.5009 heads north on route 19 at Elizabeth and La Trobe Street

And another screw up occurred in 2020, following the rebuilding of the tram tracks through Royal Park on route 58.


9 News Melbourne

The ‘platform’ was built too far from the tracks, and so forced to close for repair work.

Route 58 – Stop 23 Royal Park closure
Wednesday 9 December to Tuesday 22 December 2020

Date and time
Wednesday 9 December until further notice.

Tram stop changes
Stop 23 Royal Park towards West Coburg is closed. Passengers can connect to trams towards West Coburg from Stop 19 Royal Children’s Hospital (up to 350m / 4 minute walk) or Stop 24 Elliott Avenue (up to 400m / 5 minute walk).

We’ve got a long way still to go

Postscript

Thankfully the tram stop on route 19 Sydney and Brunswick Road was upgraded in 2018 – and it’s now a real platform stop.

Platform tram stop at Sydney and Brunswick Road