Greens earmark tram routes for upgrade

By David Schout

The Greens have announced the seven tram routes they will upgrade first as part of a $6.5 billion pre-election promise.

These include Melbourne’s second and third-busiest trams: routes 109 (which runs through Collins St) and 86 (Bourke St).

It also includes the ever-busy number 11 tram (Collins St) and the at-capacity route 6 (Swanston St), which has seen demand almost double in the past decade.

The pre-election “priority list” is part of The Greens’ plan to build 300 new trams in the next decade, with 30 rolled out each year – triple the current rate of production of  the Labor government. 

With the inner-city tram network operating at 150 per cent capacity in the morning peak according to Greens MP Ellen Sandell, and services slowing to an average of just 11kmh in the CBD, the party is making trams a key pledge ahead of the November 24 election.

“Melburnians love our trams, but right now too many of them are overcrowded, slow and un-accessible,” Greens spokesperson for transport Sam Gibbins said. 

“We need investment right now to transform the network. The busiest and most overcrowded routes will be upgraded first, with level access stops along the entire route, better separation from traffic and traffic light priority.”

The 10-year investment will include $2.3 billion on route upgrades – including disability-friendly stops and separation between cars and trams – and $4.1 billion on the 300 high-capacity trams.

Mr Gibbins said the separation upgrades were “cost effective, low-hanging fruit for any government to achieve”.

The Greens currently hold three seats in the lower house – Melbourne, Prahran and Northcote – and could even wield the balance of power should results go its way on November 24.

By proposing a significant upgrade to the tram network – an issue affecting many CBD residents – it hopes to at least secure the seat of Melbourne for consecutive terms.

When asked what tram routes it would prioritised to upgrade first, a Labor spokesperson told CBD News this was determined by network planners as new rolling stock became available. 

The government has ordered 40 new trams for Melbourne since 2015, with the last of these expected in mid-2019.

Liberal public transport spokesman David Davis remained tight-lipped on the opposition’s tram plans heading into the election, saying an announcement was imminent.

The Greens’ announcement also signalled its commitment to bridging the considerable gap on the Disability Discrimination Act 1992’s requirement that 90 per cent of Melbourne’s tram network be “accessible” by 2017. 

Currently, the network is less than 25 per cent accessible (420 out of 1,700 stops).

Accessible stops include ramp access, improved lighting, real-time arrival information and glass shelters.

Melbourne’s tram network covers 250km, which Yarra Trams claims is the world’s largest.

The Greens’ tram upgrade wish list (in no particular order):

  • Route 1 (Runs through Swanston St)
  • Route 6 (Swanston St)
  • Route 11 (Collins St)
  • Route 19 (Elizabeth St)
  • Route 58 (William St)
  • Route 86 (Bourke St)
  • Route 109 (Collins St)
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