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Melbourne's trams ranked from best to worst

Melbourne's trams ranked from best to worst
Photograph: Liam Davies

In a list of things that are quintessentially Melbourne, trams sit up there with laneways, coffee, footy, volatile weather and Geoffrey Rush. From Port Melbourne to Box Hill, St Kilda Beach to East Brunswick, Melbourne’s electric tram network is the transport of choice for many of us – a way of life, if you will. 

But it must be said that not all trams were created equal. If you’re a regular tram rider, no doubt you’ve chugged along on the ancient W-Class tram, rattled through Kew on a C-Class or zoomed through the city on a new-fangled E-Class. And if, like many of us, you’ve found yourself arguing with a friend over which tram is your favourite, then you’ll be relieved to know that we’ve come up with the definitive ranking of Melbourne’s tram network. 

1: The best tram in Melbourne: E-Class 

E-Class Tram

 

Introduced: 2013

Routes: 11 and 96

Detailed automatic passenger announcements. Comfortable chairs. Ample butt-rests. Ergonomic stop request buttons. The most powerful air-conditioning system yet. Yarra Trams have triumphed with their latest model, which, with its sleek and minimalist interior, means that the most stylish of Melburnians need not compromise on design principles when getting from A to B. The shrill peel of older trams has given way to a pleasant low beep when doors open. Extra points go to the low-floored E-Class for complying with the Disability Discrimination Act. 

Fun fact: This is the first Melbourne-built tram since the B-Class in the ’90s.

 

2: Z-Class 

 

Introduced: 1975-1984

Routes: 1, 3/3a, 5, 6, 8, 16, 55, 57, 64, 67, 72, 78 and 82

We’re going to skip the last few decades’ worth of trams (you’ll soon find out why) to honour the trusty old Z-Class. Yes, you won’t find air-conditioning or low floors on these compact single-section trams – but what you will find is optimum seat comfort. You’re rewarded for climbing those steep steps with the pleasure of sinking into a well-cushioned seat, then settling in for a cosy, quiet ride on old Zeddy. 

Fun fact: Inspiration for the Z-Class came when the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board visited Sweden in 1965 and took a liking to its trams, which they deemed “European in appearance”. 

 

3: A-Class

A-Class tram

 

Introduced: 1984-1986

Routes: 3/3a, 11, 12, 30, 48, 64, 67 and 70

Not too much changed in tram world when Zeddy’s little sister came into the world in 1984. Still based on the Swedish model (and built in Dandenong), the main difference is that the A-Class was not built with a conductors console. 

Fun fact: A-Class is the smallest tram in the network, with a capacity of 40 seated and 65 standing passengers (as opposed to the E-Class’ 64 seated and 146 standing). 

 

4: B-Class 

B-Class tram

 

Introduced: 1984-1994

Routes: 1, 3/3a, 8, 11, 19, 55, 59, 64, 67, 70, 75, 86

Hello, air conditioning. While the B-Class tram is less cute and comfortable than A and Z, there is something to be said for sitting on the tram in summer and feeling comfortable in the knowledge that you won’t leave a visible puddle of sweat for the next unlucky passenger when you disembark. 

Fun fact: The B-Class tram was intended to be fitted with low floors, to enhance accessibility. In the end, the plan was scrapped in favour of introducing brand new trams. 

 

5: C2-Class

 

C2-Class trams

 

Introduced: 2008

Routes: 96

Look, there’s nothing wrong with the C2-Class. If anything, the C2’s mediocre ranking in this list comes from a case of unfulfilled expectations. Back in 2008, Melburnians were introduced to these round-faced new trams, which were on loan from France, as game-changing vehicles that would offer a whole new level of comfort. They even painted bees on the exterior. But as time went on and some of us fell down from the higher seats onto the low floor when the tram stopped quickly on Bourke Street, we quickly understood the C2-Class trams for what they were: just… fine. 

Fun fact: C2-Class trams were originally leased from Alstom in France, with the intention of returning them in 2011. They were eventually purchased outright in 2012. 

 6: W-Class

W-Class Tram

 

Introduced: 1951-1956

Routes: City Circle tram, Colonial Tramcar Restaurant

We’re well aware of the controversy that our decision on the W-Class tram will cause. Yes, this is the original tram – and yes, seeing one of these brown-and-yellow beauties pop up over the La Trobe Street hill warms the heart of any Melburnian. But have you actually ridden one of these things lately? The ride is rickety, the seats are lumpy, the stairs are impossibly steep and the speed is impossibly slow. Next time you’re taking a tourist around the city, point out a W-Class from the street, then promptly escort them into an E-Class. 

Fun fact: These heritage trams are so popular that they have been purchased by private enthusiasts and sent to cities including Copenhagen and Seattle. 

  

7: C-Class

C-Class Tram

 

Introduced: 2001-2002

Routes: 48 and 109

When the Wikipedia entry for a tram has an entire sub-section dedicated to ‘Criticisms’, you know you’re not in for a smooth ride. When we read that this tram – built in France by the same company as the C2-Class – caused wrist injuries for drivers due to its shaky controls when the tram reached high speeds, we weren’t surprised. If you’ve ever caught the 109 through Kew, you’ll know that the C-Class isn’t the friendliest of rides. That said, most of the issues were corrected, and nowadays, all you need to do is contend with the uncomfortable seats. 

Fun fact: These were the first low-floor trams in Melbourne. 

  

8: The worst tram in Melbourne: D-Class

D-Class tram

 

Introduced: 2002-2003

Routes: 5, 6, 8, 16, 19, 72, 96

Picture this: you’re standing on Swanston Street, exhausted after a long day at work. There’s a fascinating podcast on your phone that you can’t wait to listen to on the way home. Finally, you catch a glimpse of your tram on the horizon. It looms closer. Then, to your horror, you realise that it’s a D-Class. Disappointment-class. Despairingly-low-number-of-seats-class. Discordant-high-pitched-scream-when-the-doors-open-class. Seriously, what is the deal with the fact that instead of four seats, the two closest to the window have been replaced by a huge, white block of plastic that appears to serve no purpose? Even if you do get a seat, it’s hideously uncomfortable. You’re better off walking. Or waiting for the next tram, praying it’s anything except the D-Class. 

Fun fact: There is no fun to be had on the D-Class. 

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Comments

7 comments
Graham F

The D-class is the worst? I beg to differ.

Why?

Only the equally misunderstood Siemens trains in our fleet provide an escape from the booth-style seating that some dozy pillock thought was a good idea installing besides the D sets.

Moreover, aircon is good and they are an infinitely smoother and comfortable ride than even the newly introduced E's. Safety isn't an issue as there's no ramp-like incline/decline into the main seating and there are fold-down seats too, also a conspicuous absentee in E classes.

E for Egregious Eroneousness methinks!

James S

It is also important to show a distinction between the Z1/2 class from the Z3 class.

There are a number of differences.  The seating, door arrangement, and the noise of the engine is somewhat different between the classes.   This month is the last month of operation for the Z1 and Z2 classes, with the last to be removed any week now.

Adam F

You're wrong.
The W class tops the list. Because it's heritage on wheels. Because it's a journey not a trip. Because we're human beings, not abacuses.

You can have your bland -could-be-anywhere in the world e class experience. Oh and on the author "Her FOMO levels have reached critical, but not to worry – she's crowd-funding a time machine." thanks for typing that. Just so you're aware when I read those words, I hear "we think you, the reader are a drop-dead moron". Every one of those words is a complete and  utterly vacuous, completely devoid of meaning, waste of space. Was I supposed to laugh at such wit? Because I did, but not in a way you'd find flattering...

So it hardly surprises nobody in your office is capable of producing proper journalism that did even SLIGHTLY more research than the journo opining on the last time they took a tram.

Maybe if the Age did this they'd be reporting on an actual SURVEY or something else that would render it NEWS, rather than ONE completely unqualified person's grossly over-magnified opinion .... just maybe ...

Anthony W

Oh, and you've failed to mention that the E class just got Sh*t-canned for throwing passengers around, in fact recording some of the most amount of falls on the network.

The D Class has a great downward-facing Destination Masthead out front that mitigates any reflection. So you can actually see and read the destination of the tram as the tram approaches (Unlike the C and E). That alone should bump it up in the list...



Anthony W

You are correct that the B class was intended for wheelchair accessibility. The plan was to have an extra articulation, with a centre section that had a low floor. This would mimic their swedish counterparts. However it was in fact Privitisation that hampered development, in fact leading to a ten year delay in trams receiving wheelchair accessibility.

All the energy of the departments was diverted to rebranding, segregating, and selling the newly formed companies. And when the companies were finally sold, orders for new trams were placed. 

Melbourne, the city with the largest tram network in the world, had to order trams from overseas.....

Also, the original Z class tram prototype can be seen at the Melbourne Tram Museum in Hawthorne... Number 1041.

Nathaniel S

Oh man, you didn't even mention the extended D-Class you get on route 19. I'm not sure if its a new type of tram, but they have five sections instead of three, and that middle section amplifies the normal tram vibrations to a deafening roar. 

James S

@Nathaniel S The D2 class tram on #19, are just as old as the D1 as above, and are just a longer version of the same thing.   D2 class, had been on #96, until the E class trams came along.  In fact, I think they built the D1s first, and the D2s straight after.