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Melbourne completes W-Class audit

More than 200 W-Class trams remain in storage in the ‘East Block’ of the Newport Railway Workshops. Image: B. McLean / CC BY 2.0

An audit by Australia’s Victoria State Government has found that just 27 of its stored W-Class trams have the potential for refurbishment and re-use in passenger service. A total of 752 trams of the type were produced between 1923-56 and 224 remain on VicTrack’s register. The famous cars were phased out of revenue service in 2012, although the 27 are those fitted with uprated braking systems in the early 2000s.

Six cars have already been modernised for use on the free City Circle tourist route and given the designation W8; enhancements include uprated traction motors, suspension and braking systems and LED lighting. The cost of such restoration is reported at AUD2m (approx EUR1.3m) per car. A further three SW6 cars have been converted for use as restaurant trams.

The audit, announced in late 2016 by State Transport Minister Jacinta Allan and completed in November, involved detailed external and internal inspection and a grading scale assessing each car’s condition. The results have been handed to a Special Reference Group to decide the future of around 200 stored vehicles (mainly W5, SW5, W6, SW6 and W7 variants). The majority are in the Newport workshop and haven’t moved in decades: 139 are deemed suitable for potential static display, operation by heritage tramway groups or as spares for the later cars (W5-onwards) already in museums, while 20 specially-painted ‘art trams’ have been identified as having cultural value, alongside two themed trams and six historic advertising cars. A further six could be used for operational spares, while another 15 could be used for static spares.

“Some of them are in OK nick, some are in not-so-great condition, unfortunately, so we do need to think carefully because they’re an important part of our history and heritage,” Ms Allan added.

Mal Rowe, Deputy President of the Council of Tramway Museums, said the trams were likely to attract plenty of interest and a variety of businesses, schools and museums have already made contact about their future: “It’s probably overdue for a solution because they’re not getting any better and they’re not any use to anyone where they are now”.