Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tram Upgrade

Melbourne's marvellous B Class trams have been upgraded. They were our first articulated trams (two sections, bending in the middle), the first trams with air conditioning and by far our most comfortable tram ever, far more so than the newer current models. They are smooth, quiet and with well padded seats. However, they are getting on a bit in years with the first built in 1988. Of about the 500 trams running in Melbourne, they make up 130 of the fleet.

They are not without their problems though. One is easily solved, the at times badly adjusted air conditioning. There are two separate systems, so if you find it too hot or too cold in one section, move to the other. There are steps to get into the trams, making them difficult trams for the lesser abled to use. Their destination displays are difficult to read.

The steps are not a problem that can be easily solved and for this reason they will be retired when the disability access for public transport year arrives. There has already been one extension, giving plenty of time for them to be retired. The year 2022 comes to mind as an early date, maybe now extended to 2030.

Gimmicky, but LED lights have replaced the normal step lights. The real problem with the step lights is that they do not come on until the doors are fully opened, only lighting the way for the slower people.

Before the latest upgrades, many, if not all, B Class trams had seats removed and the curiously named Apollo seating installed. Effectively it means bum rests in areas near the doors, giving space for prams etc.

One of the great upgrades is new destination displays, brighter and much easier to read from a distance and at night, and with more detail in the display about where the tram is travelling to and naming the major street it travels along.


With the arrival of the French made Citadis trams by Alstom and German Combino by Siemens trams in early 2000s, so arrived automated stop announcements. For some reason the next stop information was soon turned off in the Citadis trams and the announcements in the Combino trams were so appalling inaccurate, they should have been turned off too. There was a bit of a joke going around that given the female voice making the announcements was making them from the Siemens base in Munich, she didn't do too badly with her lack of local knowledge. These bad tram purchases from France and Germany were made under Dictator Premier Kennett's rule of Victoria. I mostly travel on the Siemens trams and they are horrible. The Alstom trams are perhaps not quite as bad. While the tram next stop announcements have much improved, they are still far from perfect. In our high tech times, it is difficult to understand why.

It is extraordinary to recall that we had two competing tram companies, one that ran the north/south routes and the other the east/west routes. What sort of competition is that?

The B Class trams now have next stop audio and visual displays installed and they are pretty good. The next stop is announced but if you have pulled the cord or pressed the button for the next stop, the announcement changes from 'the next stop is...' to 'tram stopping at...'. The announcement includes the stop number and other information where appropriate. There does seem to be a bit of an issue in the city where perhaps the GPS signal can be interrupted by tall buildings and the system becomes confused. I recently experienced the same on a train as it left Southern Cross Station. All good so far, but........

At the tram stops, the doors open and a few seconds later there is an announcement that 'This stop is...'. But if there is only one or two people leaving or entering the tram, the doors have closed or are already closing by the time the announcement is made. Nice try Yarra Trams, but needs refinement.

Look at how much clearer the destination display is compared to the earlier photo with the old display. It alternates and the second screen says 'via St Kilda'.


23 comments:

  1. I don't understand why you are not running the transport system in Melbourne.

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    1. Marie, I know many of the problems but not the solutions.

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  2. Your public transport leaves ours for dead. And the new expensive upgrades will only benefit a small part of my city.

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    1. EC, it is a much smaller city and many of your citizens are not the types to use public transport. The new tram line may be the beginnings of better things to come for you.

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  3. trams my favourite means of transport

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    1. Gosia, I prefer trains, but trams are ok for short distances.

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  4. "These bad tram purchases from France and Germany were made under Dictator Premier Kennett's rule of Victoria". Too true. But I wish Kennett was as interested in public transport as he said. At the same time, he was closing down country railway services at a great rate of knots :(

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    1. Hels, sadly Labor did not do much better, with them too closing down lines, but I am happy for Kennett to get the blame.

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  5. Can vouch for the GPS signal in cities with taller buildings - we had trouble in Brisbane city with no signal, so we drove around in circles :)

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    1. Margaret, my mind is bonked out by the thought of driving in circles in Brisbane. It is a wonder you did not leave your van and fly home, or one of you at least.

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    2. We were in my car at the time, so the trip before last. Finally we took a different road towards the river, it was then I spotted 'the bridge' way in the distance.
      I'm pleased Diane and her husband suggest they come and visit us on the Sunshine Coast :) we would never have found our way to their place.

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  6. I will admit that I could not get the hang of the trams in Melbourne when I was there, so ended up walking all over the city. Trains, not a problem in Brisbane .. Buses never bothered. Buses in Canberra were interesting .. You have to hail them even at a bus stop. You don't have to hail buses in Cairns if you are at a bus stop, but they won't stop unless you are at a bus stop. In Rockhampton, you can hail a bus anywhere on its route. The differences in public transport systems are not obvious to tourists .. and that is even without the tickets, cards, tokens etc that each municipality uses. I would probably be hopeless overseas.

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    1. Carol, that is surprising about a trams. They are far simpler than buses and generally travel in a straight line. I will say though, the available information was not so good when you were last here. It is better now. Here in Melbourne and certainly in Sydney too, you have to proactive about catching a bus, that is hail them. Aside from in the city, it is always more of a sure thing to hail trams in Melbourne too. People pause when walking at tram stops. Sometimes people sit and tram stops. When there is more than one route passing the same stop, should the tram or bus be expected to stop just in case you want that route vehicle.

      Now with an almost an overwhelming amount a public transport information, including from google on your phone when you are on the run, people do need to find out about public transport before they reide.

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  7. You really are fascinated by public transport aren't you Andrew :) All I know is that it's a fifteen/twenty minute run from Whitford train station to the city but I CAN tell you where and how much most carparks charge 😃

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    1. I am indeed Grace. Trains and trams shaped the inner to middle suburbs of our cities to what they are today, often being quite expensive to buy into because of good public transport. Public transport enthusiasts would argue that you should have a frequent and fast bus service near to your home to get you to the station and not have to use your car at all. I am not convinced about the economics of that.

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    2. I took some railway station shots especially for you today!

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    3. Most kind, Grace. I look forward to seeing them. If I was alone, I would have taken a really good look around Perth Station. As is was, it seem functional enough.

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  8. Wish we had trams to upgrade.

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    1. Diane, it is a real shame about what happened to Brisbane's system. Unlike Sydney's system that was worn out, yours was not, with quite new trams and well maintained tracks.

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  9. Doesn't seem like these problems should be hard to solve in this day and age. One wonders why they haven't been.

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    1. Strayer, it is about political will. The car lobby is very strong here, although not to the extent it was once and perhaps still is in the US.

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  10. Really, the only thing I need to know about trams is what time they'll arrive at the station I'm waiting at and what time they'll arrive at my destination.
    If our tram service gets extended to other suburbs I may wish to see, I might want to know more about them, but for now I don't much care what type or age as long as it runs and the aircon works.

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    1. River, all tram stops have arrival times and quite a number have real time information on a tram's arrival. There is also very good apps for smart phones and even just google maps is good. I would be surprised if real time information wasn't available on phones for your bus system. Of course, you do need a smart phone.

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