Innovating the everyday
As home to the world’s largest tram network, Melbourne’s DNA and self-identity are deeply entwined with trams. Cobalt has been involved with Melbourne’s trams since the network was privatised in the late 1990s, helping TransdevTSL successfully win the first private franchise, and then working with the subsequent operator, Keolis.
During this time Cobalt provided design and product engineering on a number of refurbishment programs, tech (ticketing, comms) upgrades and amenities development projects. But the most recognisable aspect of our work quickly became an icon of Yarra Trams (and by extension to Melbourne); the Tarzan Passenger Handle.
With the tram network shifting from government-owned to privately operated, Cobalt was given an open brief to look for ways of improving passenger experiences. The Tarzan handle was conceived through user observations of crowded trams and seeing how there was simply not enough hand holds for people to safely ride. This led us to asking ourselves ‘what if we could provide more grab points?’. Once we framed the problem into an opportunity, the concept for Tarzan’s now-iconic anchor shape allowing one or two people to grip, rather than the traditional ‘stirrup’ handle which only one person can hold – evolved almost immediately.
The dual handle idea is inherently user-focused, with the doubling the number of hold points to allow more flexibility for passenger ergonomics. This is particularly important for passengers travelling on very busy trams where hold options can be limited.
The 'Tarzan' handle is designed for passenger safety, who now have more options to safely support themselves during busy trips. The design has also undergone rigorous testing to ensure performance and reliability, using both software (FEA) and real-world mechanical testing techniques.
Cobalt managed the manufacturing and tooling components of this project, ensuring our design vision was sustained throughout the process. The handle was also designed for efficient installation or replacement across the entire Yarra Trams fleet of different tram types.
The Tarzan handle was designed to ensure compatibility and ease of implementation across all tram types in the Yarra Trams fleet. Cobalt also selected Nylon as the handle material due to its durability and resistance to damage and vandalism.
The unique Anchor shape not only provided a significant improvement to user experience and safety but once produced and installed in the distinctive Yarra Trams Green, became an immediately identifiable element of the Melbourne tram network.
The Team We believe good design happens by expert people working as a team.
Within a day of seeing our sketch, Yarra Tram’s said they wanted it. Within 3 months we’d engineered, tooled and were supplying handles for installation across their fleet.
Steve Martinuzzo Cobalt Design Principal