Cobalt’s Tarzan Handle; a signature element within the world’s largest tram network

The Melbourne tram network is the world’s biggest and iconic part of the city. Cobalt has been involved with Melbourne’s trams since the network was privatised in the late 1990s, helping TransdevTSL successfully win the Yarra Trams franchise. 

During this time Cobalt provided design and product engineering on a number of projects. But the most recognisable aspect of our work, and a product that has become a signature element for Yarra Trams, is the Tarzan Handle. 

With the tram network shifting from government-owned to privately operated, Cobalt was given an open brief to look for ways of making the passenger experience better. The Tarzan handle was conceived within this scope and through user-observations; when we asked ourselves ‘what if we could provide more grab points’. In other words, the concept for Yarra’s now iconic two-sided design was born once a new way of framing the problem was asked.

The seed of an idea was born on a crowded tram, and seeing how there was simply not enough hand holds for people to safely ride. So this set us thinking; could a handle be designed to allow for two people to comfortably hold? The answer was the Tarzan Handle which has a distinctive anchor shape allowing one or two people to grip, rather than the traditional ‘stirrup’ handle which only one person can hold. 

Once Yarra Tram’s saw a sketch of the idea they decided they wanted it. Within months Cobalt had engineered and tooled the handle, and have continued supplying finished handle’s ever since.


  • Upgrade and brighten tram interiors
  • Improve passenger amenities and safety
  • Reflect the new operator’s brand
  • Be easily implemented across all tram types within the fleet


  • Anchor shaped handle allowing one or two people to hold
  • Nylon moulding is highly vandal resistant
  • Its distinctive shape is immediately identifiable   
  • As featured in exhibitions at NGV and Scienceworks


  • Project management
  • Industrial Design
  • Product Engineering
  • FEA analysis
  • CAD surface modelling
  • Manufacturing and tooling management
  • Ongoing assembly and supply
  • Steve Martinuzzo
  • Jack Magree
  • Simon Andresen

New ticketing system for Melbourne

Along with our work on the Tarzan Handle, Cobalt has effectively operated as an offsite ‘in-house’ design and product engineering resource for Yarra Trams since the late 1990s and across a broad number of projects including:

  • Major interior upgrade and new branding applied to the entire tram fleet network (2000-03)
  • New technology and ticketing system upgrade (2007-08)

The New Ticketing System (NTS) project was one of the most intense, as it introduced a major technology upgrade to the entire fleet of over 450 trams. The system was designed to suit a contactless card ticketing system (Myki), as well as future passenger information and safety services displaying video and real-time route information.

The core element to the design solution was an extruded aluminium conduit that attaches to the ceiling and enables bundled wiring to be rapidly installed into the tram. We exploited the use of injection mouldings & thermomouldings to replace the traditional use of GRP for low volume panels & covers.

Fast and simple deployment was a key focus with the target being for 4 trams being stripped back and rewired per night (in order to not impact daytime tram scheduling).

All delivery dates were met without any trams delayed for service. Our team created over 150 new parts with almost 200 engineering drawings and well over 600 checks performed. Another major linchpin of the system – the stanchion cable covers, were designed and prototyped in less than 2 weeks.

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