Saturday, December 04, 2010

Catch a Sydney Tram

I came across a list of the world's largest tram systems. It rather depends how they are measured. If it is based on double track length, Melbourne wins. By other critera, other European places win. But one stat I had not seen before is number of passengers.

We Melburnians complain about our crowded trams, and they are crowded. In my memory, they were always crowded in peak times, but now they are crowded all the time, day and night, one reason why I favour our passing bus service over trams.

So by passenger numbers per year, St Petersburg, 879 million. Right down at tenth is Melbourne with 180 million, but we are still ahead of Amsterdam with 130 million (pokes tongue out at Peter).

The only other Commonwealth city in the running is Toronto with 105 million.

But get this. How many passenger trips per year were there on Sydney's tram system at its peak? No less than 400 million. If you consider the much smaller population sixty plus years ago, that is an impressive figure. Rhetorical, but how did it all go so wrong? Oh, you do want to know. Essentially the system was run down so much during the depression and the war years, it would have required massive expenditure to bring it up to an efficient standard. Ever so much cheaper and practical to introduce modern and flexible buses. Do I believe that? No, no one said everything had to be done at once to modernise Sydney's tram system in the fifties. Public transport should always be under renewal and improvement, an ongoing process. From my knowledge, while Sydney's tram system was run down, it was still a fast and efficient way to get about, right to the bitter end.

It is suggested by some that Sydney's narrow streets were a big problem for trams and cars to mix. Well, in my experience, Sydney's narrow streets are a big problem for buses and cars to mix.

Ah, ok, I know by now you are begging me to know what a Sydney tram looked like. Here is one that was prepared earlier some sixty years ago. For its time, it was very modern. It is last model tram made for Sydney, the R1 class. While clearly this one was saved, most were just burnt at Sydney's Randwick tram workshops. All that dry wood and they went up like the proverbial Hindu widow.

Oh dear, my photo taken at the Sydney Tram Museum is an R class. I will have to hunt on the net for an R1 class. They are not so different.

And this is an R1 class from a bus website. Don't ask. Look at that filthy diesel fume spewing beast next to the glorious Sydney tram.

But look, if you are in Auckland, you can go to the excellent tram museum there, Museum of Transport and Technology, MOTAT, and see a Sydney R1 class and a Melbourne perhaps W5 class. I knows me Sydney trams better than than me Melbourne ones. The Sydney tram looks like it will slice through an obstacle and proceed, whereas the Melbourne tram looks like it will just bash into an obstacle and maybe just push the obstacle along in front of it. As an often motorist, I find it best to stay out of the way of trams. Looking at one less than a metre behind me in my rear view mirror terrifies me. I know what they are capable of.


  1. You know I didn't even know that Sydney had trams

  2. OH!
    Those R1 class trams had...class!
    I'm assuming they, also, carried those dreadful persons who made travellers *gasp* pay for a ticket and made certain *shock* people behaved on trams; connies?

  3. Better put that tongue back in before someone bites it off.

    We may be way behind Melbourne [130 to 180 million] but we're also a far smaller city 750,000 to 4 million [Greater Melbourne]. Next to that we use bikes a lot, only Amsterdam has 2 million of them!

  4. NYC subway over a billion through the turnstile every year! Yes,I know it's not a tram network but thought it worth a special mention.
    Though on the matter of trams what about Budapest? I think it's up there in the top 3, by some measure, with Melbourne and St Petersburg.

  5. All the capital cities did Loz, and many smaller Australian ones too. Sydney's was huge.

    They did indeed have conductors Jayne. These trams were much safer for the connies than the older sort where they swung along the side.

    Peter, I never realised Amsterdam had such a small population. Given the high density, it must have a small footprint.

    I didn't keep the list Ian, but all those Eastern European cities were in between St Petersburg and Melbourne.

  6. I had to laugh about the hindu widow. How very un-PC of vous!! Love it.

    Don't get me going with Sydney trams. Bloody Heffron and the lily-livered Right of the NSW machine. Absolutley done over by the toffis in the NRMA, I reckon.

    There are times now when, I swear, you could jump on the roof of a bus at Town Hall and bus-hop all the way to the bloody Quay.

    But good ole Clover wants to turn George Street (from TH to CQ) into a mall with a tram. Now that would right stuff up the cars criss-crossing the city. The bike paths she is whacking in everywhere are driving (hah!) drivers to distraction and baldness. Bourke Street is too complex for their pea-brains to comprehend.

    Get out an' walk, yer mugs!

  7. Your psychic powers are AMAAAZING! How DID you know I wanted to hear all about the trams?!?!

    Such a bummer they were destroyed - I guess that kinda makes the decision irrevocable!!

    Happy travels!!

  8. Psst Julie, among friends I am very un PC. Bill Heffron. I recall the name. Who was he. Google. No immediate link. Ah, wrong name. You mean electorate. Must be a NSW thing. Without doubt vested interests shut down Sydney's tram system.

    While bus congestion is a problem now, so was tram congestion, although not as bad.

    George Street being turned over to public transport trams would not affect cross east west traffic. I am amazed at how unambitious the project sounds. The George Street tram will be packed, day and night. You just watch.

    Melbourne went a gently gently path with bike paths. They just seemed to appear without notice. I hear your radio presenters don't like them.

    Red, if you click on my tags of Sydney or Trams, there is a bit history there.

  9. Yes, that stupid big-noting Kyle character who is motivated by self-interest and his own hip-pocket.

  10. The argument about Sydney's narrow streets looks a little thin now that the government is introducing those long bendy buses all over the place - just as London is withdrawing them too! (Perhaps that is where we are getting them from?)

  11. Forgot about the bendy buses Victor. Weren't they used as justification for altering the bus route through Elizabeth Bay to the Quay. Some streets were too difficult to navigate. Route 311 maybe.

  12. It certainly wasn't bendy buses in Elizabeth Bay; they wouldn't fit at all. It was the normal size modern buses. In fact I think that route was restricted to the older slightly smaller buses.

  13. I think I even made a post about it Victor but I forget the details now. In the interests of accuracy, I could go back and check, but hey, me, very accurate?

  14. Friday marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of Trams in sydney and the 50th anniversary of the last line to be closed. It's a really sad day thinking of what could've been in sydney today if they'd retained an excellent public transport system.

  15. Carlo, sorry your comment was delayed. I certainly agree with you. I made a post about Sydney trams on the day of the anniversary I think.