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Melbourne Tram Refurbishment Gets a SafeSmart Lift

The world’s biggest urban tram network is in Melbourne, Australia, with a sum total of 250km of track, closely followed by Moscow, with 208km.

In the Victorian capital, approximately 493 trams are on the network at any given peak time, on a timetable that spans most of the 24-hour time cycle. This constant use of course demands a rigorous schedule for maintenance and cleaning. 

The Z3-Class tram in particular has been the most common workhorse on the network (about 25% of the fleet) from 1974 right up until today. It and other models have previously been refurbished cosmetically with a paint scheme changed from ‘green and gold’ to grey. Add to this, a similar work life of the A and B-Class trams, which are still a common sight today having been introduced around 1984, and you have an ageing fleet — some 90% of rolling stock assets.

This year, operator Keolis Downer (aka Yarra Trams) initiated a major refurbishment program for all major classes of trams. Activities to be carried will include tinted glass window replacements, overhead air-conditioning overhauls, pantograph servicing or replacement, lighting upgrades, low-floor rising for wheeled access, and even complete strip-downs and overhauls on some vehicles.

Due to the increase in activity in depots around Melbourne, demand for access equipment for maintenance contractors has also increased drastically. At the East Preston depot, in Melbourne’s middle-northern suburbs, the workshop has had to think outside the box to protect the safety of technicians whilst maintain a satisfactory level of delivery. For the refurbishment project, there are more contractors working on each tram simultaneously, so standard ladders or work platforms for accessing heights are impractical. Keolis Downer commissioned Australian custom work platform supplier SafeSmart Access to measure-up and design a system that would provide safe, edge-protected access for multiple people, with room to place tools and walk around without constantly descending and reascending. 

Loosely based on similar platforms SafeSmart had built for both train and truck operators, they designed a hand-portable all-in-one stair and walkway system that could be wheeled up to the tram, foot-locked into place, and used within seconds. Height-adjustable base jacks mean that the walkway platform can be level with any incrementally-different roof heights and high-tensile aluminium and in-house design and engineering gives the platforms a 1000kg SWL.

These tram maintenance and refurbishment platforms are also complimented by separate roll-up edge protection system for the other side of the tram, which attaches to the main platform via telescopic grasper rails.

melbourne tram refurbishment maintenance platform

SafeSmart’s Dean Strange says that the client is immediately seeing benefits from the platforms.

“This is a massive project. And every A, B and Z-Class tram on the network has to be fully-refurbished within the next five years according to a contract,” says Dean. “Keolis Downer can’t afford to increase the risk of worker injury or downtime, so these platforms are already helping them to deliver on their turnaround time promise for getting this essential rolling stock back out on the road.”

And the fact that SafeSmart do their own manufacturing has given the client peace of mind. Dean says that, “They know that we can manufacture these to Australian Standards and get them delivered to any network depot promptly. They see our workmanship on the welding and assembly on this first batch of platforms, and I can see as the refurbishment project ramps up, further sets of platforms will be required.”

SafeSmart now has the product added to their custom category on their Australian website, with more specification details, as a reference for global tram operators who use similar-class vehicles.

These refurbishment works coincide with the November 2017 announcement that Keolis Downer had renewed their contract to operate Yarra Trams until 2024.

tram refurbishment platform melbourne