Under a $1.85 billion contract, a French company will build 100 new Melbourne trams

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The Victorian government has agreed to build 100 accessible trams in Melbourne’s south-east for $1.85 billion with Alstom, a French rolling stock company.

The news follows the state government’s allocation of $1.48 billion for the project in the state budget last year, an increase of $370 million over the initial predictions.

Premier Daniel Andrews justified the contract, claiming that the state government received “better value today than we’ve ever got.”

“We do our very best to estimate what things will cost, we make our provisions accordingly, and then we get on and provide the most competitive environment,” he added.

“And that’s the thing, we get better value today than we’ve ever got because the rolling stock industry is strong and healthy.”

The trams, which will be known as the G class, will be produced in 2025 and will contain 65 per cent locally created components.

They will replace several A, B, and Z types in Melbourne, which have high floors and are inaccessible to those with impairments.

Melbourne Trams

About 1900 jobs are projected to be created in Maidstone as a result of the project, which will include manufacturing, supply chain, and the development of a depot and maintenance facility.

The contract, according to Andrews, is about employment and protecting the future of Victoria’s manufacturing and rail industries, which are on its knees.”

“What [manufacturers] need to secure their future is long-term certainty,” he added.

“They need orders not just for boom and bust, but a solid order book that gives them the ability to hire, to train, to invest, and to deliver a fantastic product.

“This is the biggest ever investment in trams and one of the most significant investments in rolling stock.”

According to Andrews, manufacturing would begin at Alstom’s Dandenong site next year, with the first trams joining the network in 2025.

The new versions will be equipped with onboard power storage systems, reducing reliance on the grid and the need to replace substations and power supplies.

The trams, which can be deployed anywhere on the state’s network, are a game-changer for the sector, according to Public Transport Minister Ben Carroll.

“It is a real steep change in terms of accessibility and energy efficiency,” he added.

“The power propulsion, the regenerative braking means we can put these trams anywhere, we don’t have to build substations don’t have to retrofit any part of the network also.”

The trams will be twice as big as the present ones, with space for wheelchairs and mobility aids, and will be substantially quieter, according to Carroll.

Following a procurement procedure, the design will be developed in cooperation with accessibility advocates, passengers, and tram divers.

According to the federal Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transportation 2002, more than 1700 Melbourne tram stops must be wheelchair accessible by December 2022, and the whole tram fleet must have low flooring by the end of 2032.

When asked if the stations would meet the regulations by the end of the year, Andrews said it was “very difficult to know” on Thursday, blaming local governments for delaying the renovations.

“We’ve had some local governments that have said: ‘oh well no, we don’t want these new tram stops’ and that’s been very, very challenging,” he explained.

“We know there’s more to be done there but having low-floor rolling stock is a critically important part of this, so that’s the bit we can control and we’re dealing with that obviously very well today.”

Steph Ryan, a spokesman for the opposition’s transport policy, accused the Andrews government of “sitting on its hands for years” as commuters experienced dated trams.

Nearly 400 of Melbourne’s 510 trams, she claimed, were built more than two decades ago, with some trams dating back to the 1950s.

“Labor can’t manage major projects and today’s window dressing – which appears to be hundreds of millions of dollars over budget already – is cold comfort for the Victorians who are forced to travel on the ageing rolling stock that’s no longer fit-for-purpose,” she said.

Alstom, which purchased Melbourne’s erstwhile tram manufacturer Bombardier in 2020, has become the state’s leading rolling stock producer. The VLocity trains that travel on the V/Line network were manufactured by Bombardier.

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