Melbourne tram (Photo Yarra Trams)

AUSTRALIA: The state of Victoria has awarded the Yarra Journey Makers joint venture of Transdev and John Holland the next contract to operate the Melbourne tram network. This is the world’s largest, with around 500 trams, 1 600 stops, 24 routes, more than 250 km of double track and 147 million passenger journeys a year.

The A$6·8bn contract announced on June 28 runs for nine years from December 1 2024. Services will continue to operate under the Yarra Trams brand, and YJM said it had a ‘detailed plan in place’ for a seamless transition from Keolis Downer which has operated the network since 2009.

Keolis Downer had also bid for the next contract, as had a consortium of Kinetic, Go-Ahead, Globalvia and Acciona.

Focus on performance

The state said the new contract had a focus on performance, with ‘strict’ benchmarks and more monitoring points to ensure that the operator provides reliable services and ’the right tram is used for the right trip’.

Technology will be rolled out to provide more consistent passenger information in real time, including alternative transport options during disruption. There will be text-to-speech and large text updates for blind and low-vision passengers, and more training for frontline staff to better support passengers with particular needs and customers who are culturally and linguistically diverse.

In what the state said is a first for any Victorian public transport franchise, there will be board gender parity from day one. The operator will also set targets to increase employment opportunities for women, Victorian First Peoples, long term unemployed, young people and people living with a disability.

Smarter ways to move more people

‘The responsibility and opportunities are immense’, said Transdev Australia & New Zealand CEO Brian Brennan when the contract was announced.

‘Our partnership will support the state’s vision of more integrated, sustainable transport for Victoria and the delivery of Melbourne’s Tram Plan. Our focus is performance and customer experience — unlocking smarter ways to move more people, day and night, with the real-time information they need, when they need it.’

Steve Butcher, John Holland’s Executive General Manager Rail & Transport, said ‘we are committed to continuous improvement of the tram network and look forward to operating the fleet of Next Generation Trams, as we deliver the state-of-the-art depot infrastructure that will house them. We also pride ourselves on creating a diverse, inclusive and connected workforce that reflects the people we serve every day.’