Designing effective tram infrastructure
Melbourne is home to the world’s largest tram network, running a fleet of over 450 trams. Whilst moving to new generation vehicles, the bulk of the mixed fleet is still based on rolling stock from the 1970s and 80s as well as some historic 1920s W-Class trams which are still in regular operational service.
Cobalt has been working on Melbourne’s trams since 1999, when the network was privatised, acting as Yarra Trams’ external design engineering office. Over this time we have worked on a number of major projects including interior refurbishments, capacity improvements, technology upgrades, as well as design support for Melbourne’s newest tram, the E-Class. Collectively our work has re-imagined and enhanced the passenger experience and shaped the city’s visual identity.
One of these projects involved new passenger information and ticketing technologies to be fitted across the entire tram fleet. Cobalt was asked to develop a smart mechanical system that enabled new cabling to be rapidly fitted throughout the tram.
More recently, Cobalt provided local design and CG visualisation input to Bombardier for the new Melbourne E-Class tram. This project brought greater passenger capacity and comfort, as well as returning local tram manufacturing back to Victoria for the first time in over 30 years.
Amenities and safety
Our design approach for these tram projects all centre around the passenger. We consider user needs and tram vehicle characteristics to develop interior arrangements that balance peak capacity with passenger amenities. Additionally, interiors were improved to provide clear and intuitive visual information systems.
Peak passenger capacity increases through integration of lean seats and increases to open areas. Interior layouts optimised to minimise stop/dwell time through optimised passenger ingress/egress movement.
Cabling was required to accommodate new ticketing technologies across the entire Yarra Trams fleet. Cobalt developed a clever conduit system for retrofit to existing vehicles that would conceal these cables and meet an ambitious rollout plan. This system eventually consisted of over 150 unique parts, 200 technical and assembly drawings, and over 600 design reviews.
Our system developed for the new ticketing rollout was developed on a rapid timeline, and due to the success of this system, allowed trams to be fitted with the new technology in 6 hours (overnight), allowing passenger services to remain unaffected. This was no easy task, given the dimensional and model variation across the fleet.
Construction and finishes
Material choices required that they be vandal-resistant and maintenance-friendly. This is essential and considered a priority throughout the design and engineering of the tram design.
Iconic ‘Tarzan’ handle
Yarra Tram’s unique anchor passenger handle; an idea that not only doubles the number of handholds available to standing passengers, but has also become an iconic signature of the Yarra Tram’s brand and the whole city.
Our self-initiated study of what a modern interpretation of the classic W-Class tram might look like: ‘Melba’ preceded the Victorian Government’s tender for new generation trams, and set the context for the work we later undertook for Bombardier; leading to Bombardier manufacturing the new E-Class tram.
The Team We believe good design happens by expert people working as a team.
Commercial Impact Cobalt straddles both the visual and passenger-centred design elements, as well as the technical engineering, testing and implementation onto networks that must work effectively day in and day out.
Major cabling upgrade delivered on time, without impacting operational services.
Refurbishments directly contributed to improved passenger satisfaction levels.
Lean seats & open areas increased peak capacity and reduced dwell times.
CAD modelling of existing tram fleet provided faster & more accurate development.
Bombardier selected to supply E-Class trams, returning tram manufacturing to Victoria.