In a list of things that are quintessentially Melbourne, trams sit up there with laneways, coffee, footy, volatile weather and Franco Cozzo. 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
Routes: 11, 86 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.
Routes: 1, 3, 5, 6, 16, 57, 58, 64, 67, 72 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”.
Routes: 3, 12, 30, 48, 64, 70, 75, 78 and 109
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’ 210 standing).
Routes: 3, 6, 11, 19, 58, 59, 64, 67, 75 and 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: There are more B-Class trams in operation in Melbourne's tram network than any other style of tram. Currently, there are 130 Bs in operation.
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: Five 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.
Routes: City Circle tram (35).
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 visitor 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.
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
D1-Class routes: 5, 6, 16, 58 and 72; D2-Class routes: 6 and 19
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.