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Friday, September 29, 2023

How Does Melbourne Tram Work? 8 Fascinating Facts!

What makes the Melbourne tram network so unique? It’s not just the fact that it’s one of the largest in the world, it’s also that it’s one of the most convenient ways to get around Victoria’s capital city! From Southbank, Docklands, and St Kilda to the CBD, and West Coburg to Essendon, the Melbourne tramway network covers over 50% of Melbourne’s suburbs. Today we take a look at this essential Melbourne transport system.

1. History of trams in Melbourne

melbourne tram
Image Source: Depositphotos

The Melbourne trams are one of the most important modes of public transport for locals and visitors. This is because trams allow for mobility without the use of cars, particularly in central Melbourne where parking is difficult and expensive. It also lets people see parts of the city they might not otherwise have seen.

It’s Starting

The story begins in 1854 with the Victorian Railways when their tramway stretched just over 6 miles (9 km) from Spencer Street station (then known as Flinders Street) to St Kilda railway station.

In 1906, after several extensions to the system had been made, it was decided that the public should own this new form of transportation instead of having it run by private companies. NMETL or the North Melbourne electric tramway & Lighting company operated the North electric tram lines from 1906 to 1922.

Melbourne tram
Image by Matt Zhang.Unsplash.Copyright 2022

Acquired by MESCo

A bill was passed that allowed a company called Metropolitan Electric Supply Company Ltd (MESCo) to purchase all existing assets including tracks and rolling stock for £389,000 which would then be run by public transport victoria who is still responsible for running Melbourne’s tram network today.

The following year MESCo rebranded itself as the government-owned tramways trust which operated until 1985 when privatization occurred and was renamed Yarra Trams.

Generation of Trams

The first generation tram route consisted of four lines: 1 – Swanston Street; 2 – Elizabeth Street; 3 – Bourke Street; 4 – Exhibition Line. These routes intersected each other around Flinders street station, but now there are 13 different tram routes in total operating throughout Melbourne covering a total distance of 117 kilometers (73 mi).

2. Types of Melbourne Trams

Melbourne tramway network consists of four main types of trams, each with its strengths and weaknesses. These include mainly the B-class (single decker), A-class (Articulated), W-class (open front), D-class (low floor), and others.

A & B-Class Trams

Melbourne Tram
Image by Matt Zhang on Unsplash.Copyright 2022

B-class trams operate as single-deckers at low speeds, usually along routes with many stops where boarding time is not important. A-class trams are articulated and have a capacity for around 140 passengers, but do not work well on sharp curves or steep gradients.

W & D-Class Trams

W-class trams were once used on less busy lines and were also seen as an interim type until newer models were developed. The newest tram models are the D-class which are low-floor trams and are designed so that wheelchairs can be boarded easily.

While these new trams cost around 2 million dollars, they are much cheaper than their predecessors. Additionally, the lower floors mean that people who use mobility aids don’t need to worry about stairs when entering and exiting the tram.

3. Melbourne’s tram network map and lines

melbourne tram
Image Source: Depositphotos

If you’re new to Melbourne, a good place to start is the tram network. The Melbourne tram network includes both single-line and multi-line routes that cover most of the city. The network is spread across five lines, each with its colors and distinctive characters. With stations located across the CBD, you’ll be able to find a route convenient for your commute, regardless of where you live or work.

For example, there are three major rail terminals – North Melbourne (Yellow), West Preston (Purple), and Oakleigh (Green) – which offer many cross-town connections. Trams also go to the eastern suburbs of Victoria Park (Blue), Malvern East (Red), and Caulfield South (Brown).

Want to head north? Jump on a Swanston Street stop, or just take one of the trams going along Collins Street and Flinders Street. And if you’re heading south, the free City Circle Tram will drop you off at St Kilda Beach in no time!

Major Stations covered by the Melbourne Tram network

  1. City victoria harbor
  2. District Docklands shopping center city.
  3. City Central Pier
  4. East Melbourne
  5. Southern cross station
  6. Albert Park
  7. South Yarra Station
  8. Carlton city

Above mentioned names were only some of the many stations covered by this extensive tram network.

Melbourne tram
Flinders Street Station. Image by Kon Zografos from Pixabay.Copyright 2022

Free Tram Zone

The free tram zone of Melbourne trams extends from Queen Victoria market to four city centres, which are- Flinders street station, Docklands Drive, Federation Square, and Spring Street. As the name suggests, if you travel within these zones, you don’t need to buy a ticket or card.

There are stops throughout the CBD and Port Phillip Bay, including Fitzroy Gardens, the Shrine of Remembrance, and Birrarung Marr – all offering scenic views. Plus, there’s even more coverage through metropolitan bus services, including Nightbus runs every 30 minutes from midnight until 4 am.

The Nightrider service operates after 8 pm seven days a week, stopping at popular nightspots around the city like Chapel Street, Brunswick Street, and Lygon Street.

Public Transport Victoria

Public Transport Victoria is Victoria’s public transport body which serves passengers with essential info such as Ticketing information, Patronage promotion, public info, guidelines, etc.

Did we mention it costs only $2 per ride? So whether you’re looking for an express trip from suburbia to the city center or trying to get home late without paying for a taxi, this is worth checking out. Want to see the Map, Click Here and have fun exploring the best public transport system in Australia!

4. How often do trams run?

melbourne tram
Image Source: Depositphotos

The tram timetable will vary depending on the day of the week and where you want to go, with most trams running every 12 minutes. For example, if you want to travel from South Melbourne station to Docklands during peak hours, trams run every 4-8 minutes. If you are looking for a reliable service at off-peak times, a tram is scheduled every 10 minutes.

What to Avoid?

The Melbourne tram network can get very busy during peak hours, so it is best to avoid travelling between 6 am and 9 am or between 3 pm and 6 pm if possible. If this is not possible, try to avoid travelling before 7 am or after 8 pm when traffic levels are lower.

Remember that some bus routes overlap with tram routes, so take care not to confuse the two. Trams do not operate on Christmas Day or Good Friday. On all other days, trams operate from around 5.30 am until around midnight (except for a small number of routes that finish earlier).

Peak hours

Peak-hour services typically commence at about 5.30 am and last until about 9.00 am; evening services typically commence at about 4 pm and last until about 11 pm or midnight. Night buses typically commence about 10 pm and last until just before 5 am, providing an alternative transport option late at night.

A night bus operates 24 hours on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Extra long-distance route trains also provide alternatives, but these are less frequent than trams, especially during peak periods.

Melbourne tram
Image by Akshay Chauhan on Unsplash.Copyright 2022

There are no 24-hour train services available outside of these dates. To find out what time your tram is due, refer to the timetable above. To plan your journey using public transport options, use Journey Planner.

5. Tram safety and laws

Riding a tram in Melbourne is a unique experience and should be approached with care. Here are some safety tips for tram riders that can help ensure you have an enjoyable tram experience while travelling in Melbourne.

  • Check the signs on the side of the tram that tells you which route it is travelling on so you know where it is going before you get on board. If you want to change trams, make sure you exit at the right stop so that your next journey will be more efficient. For example, if you want to switch from tram number 3 to tram number 11, don’t forget to exit the tram at tram number 11 instead of just getting off wherever you feel like.
  • Sit near the door when entering or exiting the tram and give priority seating for seniors and those with disabilities as well as pregnant women or mothers carrying babies.
  • Hold onto the rails or handrails inside the tram – not only does this keep you safe, but it also helps passengers who need assistance get safely on and off.
Melbourne tram
Inside a Melbourne Tram. Image by Lennon Cheng on Unsplash.Copyright 2022
  • Stand clear of the platform edge when waiting for a tram – this reduces the risk of injury should someone accidentally fall into the tracks.
  • Finally, remember that taking public transport in any city may take longer than expected due to rush hour traffic so plan accordingly!
  • Always expect delays because buses and trains are subject to heavy traffic conditions. Be prepared to allow extra time for travel during peak periods such as 7-9 am and 5-7 pm on weekdays. The general rule of thumb is to allow 20 minutes per kilometer traveled during these times.

One important thing to remember about the trams in Melbourne is that they run 24 hours a day. It might sound odd, but it’s true. Don’t be afraid to use them after dark – you’ll see other people doing it too!

What’s better than catching up on sleep on the way home? Of course, always stay alert and aware of your surroundings when using the trams after dark (as you would anywhere else), but don’t worry about staying out late! Remember, the trams in Melbourne run 24 hours a day.

6. Which stations are wheelchair accessible?

To use the Melbourne tram, you need to be able to board and alight independently. This may not seem like a big deal, but for those with physical impairments, some options make it easier. There are currently nine wheelchair-accessible stops in Melbourne, with more due for construction before 2020.

The most useful tram stop is Parliament on the City Circle route, as it has dedicated boarding platforms at the front of the tramcar, which ramps or lifts can reach. Victoria Street on the North-South Route is also an accessible stop because it has two platforms for trams running in opposite directions.

Other stations include Chapel Street (route 11), Flinders Street Station (route 96), St Kilda Road (Route 16), and Richmond Station (route 70). If you’re looking for a tram stop in Zone 1, then High Street is your best bet. It’s one of the few stops with ramps leading up to the entrance, making it possible for people using wheelchairs or other mobility aids to board without assistance.

Another option is Docklands’ Collins Street stop which offers entry via a footbridge and three high-level boarding points. If traveling in zones 2 or 3, opt for Batman Park Station – its island platform makes it easy to transfer between northbound and southbound services while there’s also ramp access onto tram cars.

Make sure to take the tram out towards Broadmeadows if you want to get off anywhere near Thomastown station – this will mean crossing over the train tracks so please do so carefully!

Keep in mind that when planning your journey, remember that not all routes are wheelchair accessible and some stations have steps at their entrances. A great way to find out about your travel options is by downloading the ‘Myki app’ from Google Play or the App Store. With this handy app, you can check what time your next tram will arrive, see how much money you’ve spent on fares, and even top up your Myki card balance.

7. Do you need a myki card for travel?

A myki card, the equivalent of a transit pass for the Melbourne tram system, is an easy way to save on travel costs. A myki card will cost you $6 for an adult ticket and $2 for a child’s ticket. Keep in mind that a myki card is only good for three days before it expires and will need reactivation.

If you don’t have a myki card yet, but plan on travelling extensively by tram in Melbourne, consider purchasing one of their 12-month passes. It may be more expensive up front than buying individual tickets every day but it’ll save you money over time because they offer a 10% discount per trip with their yearly pass.

Ticket Prices and Myki Card’s Comparison

A single-use ticket can be purchased from any tram driver or at any station and costs $4 for adults and $2 for children under 18 years old. Myki cards are also available from most convenience stores like 7/11 and Woolworths.

A one-day ticket is also available for $8.90 as well as weekly, monthly, quarterly, six-monthly, and annual passes for adults ($86) and children ($43). Single-use tickets cannot be shared between passengers; however, each passenger who shares a tram ride will pay the appropriate fare for his or her journey.

I recommend picking up a myki card if you’re planning on travelling frequently by tram during your stay in Melbourne. You’ll be saving your money if you look at the broader picture.

Another pro about the myki card is that it comes with both daily and weekly caps which means you won’t spend more than $9.30 or $51.20 respectively on tram fares per week.

In addition, there are even special discounts available to students, pensioners and other holders of concession cards so make sure to check out those options too when deciding how best to navigate Melbourne’s tram network. Have a great time exploring Melbourne!

8. Is there WiFi on the trams?

The WiFi system on the trams is called ConnectedTrams and is provided by Telstra. To use it, you’ll need to register for a free ConnectedTrams account with your email address. Once you’re signed up, you can purchase a ConnectedTrams Card which will allow you to access the WiFi network.

Melbourne tram
Free WiFi. Image by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash.Copyright 2022

Data Usage & Validity

As with Telstra’s other WiFi plans, your data is valid for 30 days. If you don’t use all of your data in that period, it will roll over for another 30 days. Data used before you sign up won’t roll over and there is no option to cancel your plan or get a refund if you don’t use all of your data.

Your account can only be accessed from one device at a time, so make sure to log out when you’re finished using it. The service doesn’t work inside train stations. It also won’t work on any tram heading towards East Coburg or West Preston because those are driverless.

How to get tram WiFi

There are two options for getting WiFi on the tram – either buy a ConnectedTrams card (costing $2) and put credit onto it ($10 for 10 days) or just ask an attendant who will top up your current tram ticket as long as you have cash.

With a ConnectedTrams card, you can switch between different trams without losing your connection. That way, you can keep working while changing trams! Even though you might not be able to use this service on every tram in Melbourne, it’s still worth checking out.


Melbourne’s tram network is the lifeline for thousands of its citizens, and it has become a part of their daily lives as it supports them through all walks of their life, which includes work, progress, travel, happiness, sadness, and other precious moments. Using the Melbourne tram wisely, safely, and economically (by using Myki cards) is the best way to explore the city of Melbourne in a spellbinding way.

Thanks for reading this article, I hope you all liked it. Please comment below this article with your thoughts and opinions.

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