media release

Wednesday, 26 March 2001

NEW TRAM SET TO KICK BIG GOALS FOR MELBOURNE'S COMMUTERS

Melbourne's world famous trams welcomed a new addition to the family today with the first M>Tram taking to the streets.

In unveiling the new-look M>Tram, Transport Minister Peter Batchelor detailed a multi-million dollar upgrade of Melbourne's tram fleet as part of a service improvement program by transport operator National Express Group.

Key features of the program released today include:

In recognition of the important role trams play in Melbourne's culture, M>Tram will also honour Melbourne as part of the refurbished trams by naming the trams after our city's influential people and icons.

National Express Group Australia CEO Craig Wallace revealed that the first M>Tram would be named after former champion footballer Ron Barassi. A number of other Victorian football legends will also be honoured in this way, recognising the connection between the suburban roots of Melbourne's football culture and the role trams play in that culture.

The launch of M>Tram today follows last month's unveiling of the first M>Train, paving the way for the rebranding of Swanston Trams and Bayside Trains under the M> banner later this year.

Just as demonstrated with the M>Train launch last month, the real benefits go far beyond just a name change, Mr Wallace said.

"As well as the 169 refurbished M>Trams starting to come into service, there will be more staff in partnership with the Government and the trialing of a significant new technology in the form of a trip planning and "real time" passenger information system," Mr Wallace said.

"But the improvements don't stop there. Next year we start to roll out our brand new, low floor trams and high-tech trains which will put Melbourne's tram and train fleet amongst the most advanced in the world", he added.

These National Express initiatives form the next stage of the "M> Service Improvement Program", designed to make tram and train travel more reliable, more comfortable, more convenient and safer. Overall, National Express will invest more than $100 million into Melbourne's public transport over the next five years.

"As a part of our Service Improvement Program we are conducting the pilot program of an Australian first, our "Smart Guide" passenger information system, designed by local company Pixeltech," Mr Wallace said. "It is made up of two elements. Firstly there is the real time passenger information display. It displays the minutes until the next tram will reach the stop. It can display information across a number of routes and even offers the option of audio announcements."

"We are also unveiling an electronic trip planner. Through its touch screen it allows commuters to simply select their desired destination and receive all the information they need to get there, including different modes of transport, the routes to take and the approx. time of each journey. It is unique and offers a real benefit to all commuters.

"Melbourne has one of the most extensive tram networks in the world. Melbournians love their trams but passengers have told us they want more from the tram network, more safety, more convenience and more comfort.

"That's what the M> Service Improvement Program is all about. It affects every area of how we operate and serve our customers. It is a tangible commitment on our behalf to deliver real benefits to passengers" Mr Wallace said.

Today's release of the first M>Tram marks the start of a refurbishment program where 169 existing trams will all be given new exterior livery and colours. As part of the refurbishments, the trams will be given a new interior layout with improved fabric seat covers designed to stay cool in hot weather, improved window blinds to allow vision while reducing heat and glare, and high contrast tram step edging, handrails and straphangers.

Newly refurbished M>Trams will appear regularly between now and 2003, with the all new "low floor" trams to be introduced starting in late 2002.

(Original at http://www.movingmelbourne.com/news_release260301.htm, emphasis and images added by Michael Winikoff)