Melbourne's Trams To The Millennium Part Two.


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The St Kilda and Port Melbourne Light Rail Lines

Faced with a mounting transport debt, the Labor Government of the day decided to take firm action. The days of the suburban railway lines to Port Melbourne (opened in 1854 as Australia'as first steam railway line) and St Kilda (1862) were numbered. They were to be "light rail"ed!

The Transport Minister, Steve Crabb announced that the two lines would be converted and that 130 new "light rail vehicles" would be ordered for these and other services. A howl of protest issued forth from local residents and the disabled, several protest meetings being held at local town halls, but all to no avail. The two lines were duly converted and integrated into the tramway system, St Kilda in November 1987 and Port Melbourne the following month.

The conversion entailed building a triangular junction at the corner of Bourke and Spencer Sts, which saw the removal of the last existing section of cable tram track. A crossover and double track junction was installed at the corner of Bourke and William Sts for access to South Melbourne depot, which was to operate the services., and was also used by City Circle trams from 1994 to 1997, and a new junction at the Clarendon and Whiteman Sts, South Melbourne led to a reservation next to site of the now flattened railway embankment, which connected to each railway line 400 metres from Clarendon St. Railway catenary and reprofiled and standard gauged railway rail were retained.

On the St Kilda line, South Melbourne and Albert Park stations were retained intact, losing a small amount of platform to enable the new low platforms to be built (these stations have been converted to other uses, South Melbourne to a child care centre and Albert Park to a plant nursery) and new low platform stations were built at City Rd, Wright St, Middle Park and Fraser St. St Kilda station was retained along with the 5'3" gauge platform road, a new section of track in mass concrete was built starting at the site of the former signal box and turning into Fitzroy St via a new low platform tram stop. A crossover was cut into the Fitzroy St tracks for short workings.

On the Port Melbourne line, every station was demolished and replaced by low platforms except Port Melbourne, which had its platform shortened at the City end, a low platform being installed. A new up track was built between Port Melbourne and Graham, and all other sidings and railway infrastructure was removed.

As no low floor trams were built for the two lines, justified protests came from disabled people, who could get on the trains but couldn't get on the trams. The Metropolitan Transit Authority commissioned a demand responsive service operated by wheelchair accessible Toyota minibuses, which solved the problems. When Melbourne's Government buses were privatised, Melbourne Bus Link took over this service.

The St Kilda service was given route 96 and was an extension of the route 96 service from East Brunswick to City - Spencer St, while the Port Melbourne service was given route 111 and operated to the Exhibition Buildings in Nicholson St, Fitzroy. Both services were operated by South Melbourne Depot, with North Fitzroy Depot supplying some route 96 services until it closed.

In December 1993, the Port Melbourne line was changed, being through routed with route 42 to become route 109 - Mont Albert to Port Melbourne, operated by Kew Depot using A class trams instead of B2 class trams. B2 trams cannot be used as there is no room at the Mont Albert terminus to store a defective one. This paralelled the situation when the light rail lines first opened - A2 class trams had to be used as the B2 class trams had been delayed at the builder, Comeng, by a late running order for Hong Kong's Tuen Mun LRVs.

In 1997, a new depot was built next to the Port Melbourne line near Montague stop, replacing South Melbourne Depot which was closing as its lease had run out. Southbank Depot carries out much of the maintenance on the Yarra Trams fleet that was formerly done at Preston Workshops, and before privatisation it was common to see visiting Z class trams from Swanston Trams in the yards after attention. A new low platform station, Southbank Depot, was opened on the Port Melbourne line in conjunction with the new depot.

In 1996, Melbourne wrested the Formula One Grand Prix from Adelaide and ran it at Albert Park on a new circuit. The St Kilda line was selected to run the "Grand Prix Express" to gates 1 and 2. Two new crossovers were installed, one at St Kilda station and the other at Middle Park station to facilitate fast turn around of the one minute peak service. Buses replace route 96 trams on the Saturday and Sunday of GP week, connecting with trams to East Brunswick at Bourke St. Route 109 trams run express from Collins St to the Southbank Depot stop.

Southbank Tram Depot

In 1995, South Melbourne Depot held its 70th anniversary open day. A display was mounted at the depot, featuring most classes of Melbourne trams, a historic photo display and, in particular, one W class tram which had a display of tramway poems and prose from that tramway poet par excellence Malcolm Just. Several items were for sale, mainly postcards, posters and other memorabilia, and specially commissioned limited edition beige coffee mugs and silver bar coasters were offered, featuring a W class tram inside a circle with South Melbourne Depot 1925 - 1995 written around the tram. Speeches were made by tramway dignitaries and all the crews were wished well at their new depot, and the birthday cake was cut, proving extremely delicious. SW6 870 offered free rides from the depot to Dudley St in the city, showing STH MELB DEPOT - 70.

This open day proved to be somewhat of a wake, as a new depot was due to open in 1997 on a site adjoining the Port Melbourne light rail line at Montague St, replacing South Melbourne depot which was due to close as its lease had expired. The new depot is built on the site of the former Montague goods yard.

Southbank depot opened in 1997 and became responsible for the tram routes formerly operated by south Melbourne except route 16 which was moved to Malvern depot due to lack of space at the new depot and the extra running involved when route 16 trams were due to run in or out. The Colonial tramcar Restaurant obtained two sidings for its own use and a new loading area at the Clarendon and Whiteman sts corner.

The entrance to Southbank depot is unusual. The entrance to the depot from Whiteman st is a double track junction, but the entrance track runs to the right of the exit track instead of the left as is normal. This allows trams running in to keep clear of any trams running out.

Southbank Depot was assigned to Yarra Trams in 1998, and currently handles much of the maintenance formerly performed at Preston Workshops. Yarra Trams came under the control of MetroLink Victoria, a French controlled company, on August 29, 1999.

Southbank Depot is responsible for three tram routes ---

1. Route 12. City - Brunswick St to Sth Melb and St Kilda Beach.
2. Route 96. East Brunswick to St Kilda Beach.
3. City Circle tourist tram.

The Richmond Tram Reservation

Built as part of the Federation Square project, the imaginatively named Richmond Tram Reservation was commenced in November 1998 and carries the rerouted route 70 tram. The $12.5 million project comprises 1.3km of track, a storage siding capable of holding ten B2 class trams, five new tram stops, named

and a new substation. The stop at the corner of Swan St and Punt Rd has been renumbered 7E.

The rerouted Wattle Park tram leaves the corner of Spencer and Flinders Sts and travels along Flinders St past the widened safety zone at the corner of Swanston St to Exhibition St, where the tram turns right over the new Batman Ave bridge, passing Batman Ave tram stop, which goes over the former Jolimont railyards. After crossing the bridge, trams run parallel to the rail lines in a mass concreted reservation past the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne Park and the new Multi Purpose Venue before passing a siding that will hold ten B2 class trams and turning right, rejoining the original tram route in Swan St, 200 metres from Punt Rd.

The last tram to travel along the old route in Batman Ave was B2 2132, which left the Princes Bridge terminus at 12.15 am on the 28th May, 1999, just after B2 2061 which was positioned at the terminus as a standby. 2132 left carrying a small number of regular passengers, one gentleman slightly the worst for wear after an overindulgence of the dreaded amber liquid, three Yarra trams employees, one Swanston Trams employee and a selection of tram enthusiasts (Gunzels) who decorated the tram with balloons and streamers. Yarra Trams supplied "Last Tram to Princes Bridge" signs (with the wrong date) which were quickly souvenired after the final departure.

After a nine day break, which allowed final track and wiring work and driver training, the first revenue tram over the new tracks was A1 231 which left Camberwell Depot at 5.18 am (yawn) on the 7th June, 1999 and turned onto the new track at 5.34 am, arriving at Flinders St at 5.44 am. On the previous day, the new line was officially launched by the Minister of Transport, Robin Cooper MLA, with a free sausage sizzle and free tram rides over the new track.

All tram stops were opened with the new line, except for MPV & MCG (stop 7C) which opened on the 17th November, 1999. A new tram stop has been provided on the outbound side of Flinders St at the Spencer St corner as part of the new works. Numbered stop 124, all trams that use Flinders St stop there.

The Great Scratch Ticket debacle Of 1990.

In 1989, the powers that be in the Metropolitan Transit Authority realized that something needed to be done about the spiralling cost of public transport. They decided that less staff meant fewer losses, so guess who they picked on? Not hard to guess, they picked on the connies.

The idea was to dispense with conductors on modern trams and force the public to buy "scratch" tickets from retail outlets, with the current tickets only being available at railway stations. W class trams would sell tickets at a rate greater than the normal fare.

Naturally the unions wouldn't have a bar of this, and action followed. Unionists stabled 250 trams in City streets, welded bits of metal to the tracks so management couldn't remove the trams, and as an added barrier an orange Volvo B59 bus with deflated tyres blocked the Elizabeth St tracks outside the Victoria Market.

So what came out of this dispute? Not much. Melbournians didn't have their trams for six weeksand those lucky enough to live on a bus or train line were compelled to endure grossly overcrowded services during the dispute. The Government got its OPO trams, which were gradually introduced starting with route 70 to Wattle Park, which only had conductors in peak hours. Route 82 from Moonee Ponds to Footscray was the first tram route to be fully OPO. The fares system was left the way it was, scratch tickets were made available from retail outlets anyway, and nobody got sacked. The conductors were safe - for the moment.

Metcard vs Conductors.

Not to be outdone, the Government decided to have another go at connie amputation. It commissioned the firm One Link in conjunction with AES Prodata to design an automated ticketing system that would do away with conductors once and for all. Metcard was to be an automated system using magnetic stripes to store information on each ticket. Tickets would be purchased on trams and buses as well as railway stations and retail shops, but, except on buses, the tickets would be sold by a machine, and conductors would cease to exist.

Conductors had already started disappearing as a result of the scratch ticket debacle in 1990, most tram routes were OPO after 8 pm and all weekend, except for services operated with W class trams and busy routes such as Carnegie and Bundoora RMIT

In 1996, field testing of Metcard was instituted on the Alamein and Glen Waverley railway lines and the East Burwood tram line. While the field trial was in progress, as ticket machines and validators were fitted to trams, more and more problems were discovered with the system, this resulted in the introduction of automated ticketing being put back, and put back again, until the whole thing was three years behind schedule and conductors were having their employment extended in six month contracts.

After many threats and warnings that monies owing to One Link by the Government would be withheld until Metcard was proven to be viable, the ticketing system slowly came good in time for the last conductor to work the last trip from St Kilda to Flinders St and then to Malvern Depot on 24th May, 1998, the tram being Z3 177.Problems were still surfacing, though. Ticket machines and validators wouldn't work properly, some tickets were even being validated to expire ten years in the future! People with weekly and monthly tickets found that the lettering on the cards faded, causing revenue inspectors to think that the tickets were invalid.

The daily press, in particular the Herald - Sun, had a field day. A team of reporters was sent out one day to blitz the trams and see if ticket machines and validators were in working order or not (did these reporters validate their Metcards?). They came back and said that 22% of ticket machines and 13% of validators were not working, a figure the Government vehemently denied, their figure being between five and seven per cent. Mind you, the Government also denied that the loss of conductors had caused the level of fare evasion to escalate to around 30 to 40%. They claimed it was only 10%. the figure being quoted by a faceless bureaucrat in Spring St who probably hadn't been on a tram in twenty years. No-one knew the exact amount of fare evasion, but 30% would seem a conservative estimate based on observing people boarding trams and making no move at all to either a ticket machine or a validator.

So what happened to the connies? Nobody knows what happened to that last conductor in May 1998 who, at the inspirational hour of 2.30 in the morning, just paid in and p---ed off! Some conductors became Customer Service Employees (CSE's or, to the irreverent amongst us, Completely Silly Employees). CSE's are employed to roam the system, helping passengers who aren't sure where they are, checking tickets, teaching people how to use the ticket machines and generally being nice to the plebians. Others were transferred to different parts of the PTC, some became drivers and the rest either got new jobs or went on the dole!

The dates of the final loss of conductors from depots were---

Camberwell Depot on the 8th December 1997.
Glenhuntly Depot on the 20th January 1998
Kew Depot on the 7th March 1998
Preston Depot on the 21st March 1998
Brunswick Depot on the 15th April 1998
Essendon depot on the 5th May 1998
Southbank Depot on the 12th May 1998, and
Malvern depot on the 24th May 1998


The Victorian Liberal (with our resources) Government, via the Department of Treasury and Finance, has corporatised the former Public Transport Corporation into five groups, being:

Bayside Trains, which operates suburban train services to
Stony Point via Frankston, Pakenham, Cranbourne, Sandringham, Broadmeadows, Upfield, Werribee and St. Albans.
Hillside Trains, which operates suburban ttrain services to Epping, Hurstbridge, Alamein, Glen Waverley, Belgrave and Lilydale.
Swanston Trams, which operates tram services from Glenhuntly, Essendon, Brunswick and Malvern tram depots,
Yarra Trams , which operates tram services from Southbank, Kew, Camberwell and Preston tram depots, and
V/Line Passenger.
and has called for expressions of interest concerning private ownership of all five corporations.

Each franchise will be for a minimum of seven, and a maximum of fifteen, years.Applications were invited on the 5th October, 1988, closing on the 22nd October. Bidders may apply for three corporations - one train, one tram and V/Line Passenger. Companies interested in tendering include Stagecoach, National Express, CGEA, GB Rail, Serco and FirstGroup. Local companies include West Coast Rail, Hoy's Roadlines and the National Bus Company.

Four projects have been launched as part of the privatisation deal -

The first corporation to be privatised was Swanston Trams, which has been taken over by Metrolink Victoria, a consortium of City Link developer Transfield, French rail operator Transdev, European engineering firm Egis and ADtranz. Maintenance work is to be contracted to A Goninan.

Metrolink has promised a $150 million upgrade, including 31 state of the art low floor C class trams and has received a 12 year franchise. They have promised a 60% increase in passenger numbers by 2011 as part of the franchise.

Swanston Trams was sold on the 25th June, 1999 to National Express, a British - based consortium supported by Theiss, Clyde Engineering and ADtranz, which has also received a 12 year franchise. National Express is now Victoria's biggest public transport operator, having purchased the National Bus Company, Bayside Trains and V/Line Passenger in addition to Swanston Trams

Promised as part of the franchise is $175 million for 59 C class trams. In addition, current tramway rolling stock will be upgraded and ticket machines and Visual display Units will be installed in all City and major suburban tram stops. All ticket machines will be altered to sell daily tickets as well as the short trip, 2-hour and 60 plus tickets currently available on trams. Metrolink will be doing the same, but the two consortia will not be reinstating tram conductors as has been rumoured.A 40% increase in passenger numbers has also been promised.

Metrolink's 31 and National Express's 59 new C class trams will be owned by the two consortia until their franchises expire, and will be the only items they own, along with all other rolling stock. All other infrastructure such as track, overhead, power supplies etc. will be owned by the Government and leased to the consortia. Upon expiry of the franchises, ownership of all rolling stock will revert to the Government unless the franchises are extended. If a different consortium takes over any franchise, the new franchisee will be required to pay the previous franchisee for the trams.

The new companies will be taking over the tram and train network on August 29, 1999 ( at 3 am in the morning!).

The Passenger's Charter

As part of the privatisation process, the Government has come up with a publication guaranteed to put passengers' mind at ease. Entitled "The Passenger's Charter - New Guarantees For Public Transport Passengers", it states that "Our aim is a world class public transport system for the next century - a clean, efficient, modern system which serves the whole Victorian community". Now doesn't that put your mind at rest?

The charter promises -

Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix services

The Australian Formula One Grand Prix, which our beloved Premier, Jeff Kennet, snaffled from South Australia in 1996, has given rise to some very interesting movements.

When it was learned the Grand Prix was coming to Melbourne, infrastructure works were put in hand almost immediately. On the St Kilda Light Rail line, new crossovers were cut in at both Middle Park and St Kilda while on route 12 the Albert Rd reservation had its bitumen surface "improved" (the reservation was laid in mass concrete after shortening in time for the 1998 G.P.) and the Park St St Kilda terminus was connected by a single line to the Fitzroy St tracks.

The major Grand Prix service is the "G.P. Express" to gates 1 and 2, which starts from Spencer St and travels to Middle Park along the St Kilda Light Rail line. It is supposed to have a frequency of one tram every one to five minutes, but appears to operate on a "fill the tram and go" basis.

The next service is the Clarendon St shuttle to gates 3 and 4, which also leaves Spencer St but follows Clarendon St and route 12 to the Albert Rd reservation. Again, trams mainly leave when they are full.

The third service is along St Kilda Rd to gates 5 to 10, which intermingles with the regular South-eastern services for the four days that the G.P. is held. G.P.trams start at Melbourne University on the Saturday and Sunday, while regular services start at LaTrobe St. Passengers can use either the G.P. trams to go to the University, or use routes 1 and 22 which are not affected.

Some regular tram routes are altered from normal, these are:

On the Grand Prix weekend, all trams, trains and buses operate to a Saturday timetable.

One Person Operation of W Class Trams

The change to one person operation of trams with automated tickets replacing conductors caused several instances of Union action, none so pronounced as "Union vs OPO W Class Trams".

The main issue of contention, according to the union, was that drivers claimed they couldn't see the rear door because the ticket machine was in the way. Drivers wanted an internal mirror fitted so they could see the door otherwise they would refuse to drive the tram OPO. Southbank Depot operated their W class trams as normal with a driver and a host, but it was completely different at Malvern.

Conductors were due to be replaced on Sunday 24th May, 1998, and after Z3 177 arrived back at Malvern after operating the 1.43 am service from St Kilda to Flinders St, conductors were no more. Z class trams operated all services later that Sunday, no W class trams being required. It was different on Monday.

On Monday morning, six drivers were stood down without pay for refusing to drive W class trams opo. No trams were allowed to leave the depot after 8 am, and no services from Malvern operated at all between 9 am and midday. Routes 5, 6 and 72 were back on the road after midday, but no routes 8, 16 or 69 and no W class trams. These three routes finally recommenced on Tuesday 26th May crewed by a driver and a host using a mixture of W and Z cars.

Apart from the City Circle W cars, which do not have ticket machines, no W class trams operated at all after 29th June due to union action over OPO W class operation and related safety issues. This caused hurried rearrangements between depots, causing eleven Z3 class trams to be transferred from Essendon and Brunswick to Glenhuntly, releasing eleven Z1 trams to Malvern. The Z3 trams could not go directly to Malvern as the depot did not have pantograph compatible overhead at that stage. A and B class trams were transferred from Preston and Kew to Southbank to cover route 12. Some W class trams returned to service from Southbank Depot OPO on the 7th August fitted with an internal mirror and an extra halogen light fitted over the contentious doorway so the driver could see the door, this light only coming on when the doors are open.

At a meeting at Malvern Depot on the 19th August, it was decided to return the W class to service under certain conditions, which were --

Services finally returned to normal in October, and all the borrowed trams returned home.

Go to Part 1 of Melbourne's Trams to the Millennium.
Go to Part 3 of Melbourne's Trams To The Millennium.
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Page last updated on 28th June 2000.

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