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Transport & Logistics

Operating the world’s largest tram network – Yarra Trams’ CEO, Nicolas Gindt

13 Feb 2018, by Informa

Gathering expert commentary from government, operators and industry bodies, the Australasian Railway Association’s Light Rail 2018 event features major industry names including Nicolas Gindt, Chief Executive Officer, Yarra Trams, Keolis Downer Victoria.

This week at Informa Insights, we spoke with Nicolas about Yarra Trams and its future as the world’s largest tram network ahead of his presentation at the conference.



Safety is an ever present concern, with a recent article in The Age claiming an increase in passenger injuries and vehicle related incidents in the past year. What in your opinion has contributed to this trend, and what can be done to prevent or further mitigate these incidents?


Yarra Trams’ priority is the safety of our passengers, our people and the community. In the last year, there has been a 60 per cent increase in the number of traffic incidents that disrupt trams.

Traffic is increasing in Melbourne with an extra 2,000 cars on our roads each week, and with seventy five per cent of Yarra Trams’ network shared with traffic, vehicle to tram incidents can happen anywhere on the network.

On average, there are two to three vehicle to tram collisions every day in Melbourne. Almost all of these incidents are caused by motorists doing a right-hand turn or a U-turn in front of a tram. The effects of these types of incidents are widespread, causing serious injuries, disrupting services and causing significant delays for passengers.

We are working closer than ever with our road partners to improve the safety of the network by increasing separation, giving trams better traffic light priority, passenger safety campaigns and improved marking of tram lanes.

Our message to motorists is to stay clear of the yellow line and always check for trams before turning and to respect Melbourne’s unique laws regarding stopping behind the tram, carefully overtaking and not u-turning across tram lanes where there are solid yellow lines.



Last year Yarra Trams launched the ‘Tram Coach’ safety campaign, what has been the feedback on the campaign and has it been successful in promoting safety across the network?


Trams have been a part of Melbourne for over 100 years but there is always more that can be done to improve safety.

More than 200 million passenger trips were taken on Melbourne’s tram network last year. Tram patronage and traffic density are both expected to continue rising as our population grows, increasing the need for passengers to be aware about safety.

Tram Coach brings a new approach to reminding and educating passengers about tram safety. The response to the campaign so far has been really positive with great engagement on social media and through our customer feedback channels and we look forward to seeing a further reduction in the number of passenger falls on our network.

Everyone who travels on public transport can help others travel more safely by offering seats to those in need and making room for people to access handholds and railings.

Of course, we support this with other actions to assist in improving safety such as working with VicRoads on driver education.



Yarra Trams’ new contract set a demanding new performance target, what steps have Yarra Trams taken to meet that target and how challenging has it been?


Keolis Downer, operator of Yarra Trams, is proud to have been awarded the contract to continue operating the world’s largest tram network until at least 2024.

Yarra Trams delivers more than 5,000 services a day and our focus is on delivering safe, reliable and easy-to-use services for our passengers.

There is no doubt there are challenges as Melbourne’s population grows and infrastructure ages. There are 100,000 people moving to Melbourne each year, leading to more vehicles on the roads that could affect tram journey times. In addition, we operate nine different classes of tram, which is unique by global standards, and one-third of our trams are more than 30 years old.

Yarra Trams has committed to a number of initiatives to help improve the passenger experience, operational performance and employee welfare. These include installing new real-time digital passenger information; developing our disruption management approach with a view to multi-modal solutions, a new regime for cleaning of trams and stops, revitalising 85 per cent of the tram fleet to improve tram reliability; improving fleet maintenance practises; and digitising a number of currently manual processes at depots.

We are also working closely with the State government through VicRoads and Transport for Victoria to improve tram priority and tram separation which will of course both reduce incidents (which lead to delays) and improve the speed of trams as traffic increases.

In an ideal world, we’d like to see progress on:

  • Improved separation: Networks of similar age have 70-80 per cent separation and we are the complete opposite at 25 per cent separated.
  • Smart traffic light priority: Melbourne’s trams spend 17 per cent of their journey time at red lights, in Paris it’s as low as four per cent
  • Better accessibility: There are over 410 accessible stops and more than 160 low-floor trams, and we hope to do a lot more work with the Victorian Government to make the network more inclusive.



What innovations are Yarra Trams currently working on/implementing, and what else can we expect to see in the next seven years?


Yarra Trams is exploring a number of different innovations at the moment which will improve safety, operational performance and the passenger experience. We have the benefit of being able to draw on the experience of our shareholders, Keolis and Downer, with examples from around the world.

For example, Keolis in France is working with a company called Connect Things, which uses beacons to push disruption information out to passengers at stops. This type of innovation will be key to helping passengers through the next 10 years with the incredible changes we are going to see on our network with the delivery of the Melbourne Metro Rail Tunnel.

Another current example; we are working with the Australian Roads Research Board and VicRoads on trialling new tram traffic light priority technology to improve tram punctuality. This innovation includes both on board new technologies and changes to the traffic lights.

We are also looking at various innovations to improve safety. One such idea is aimed at reminding car drivers to stop behind the tram when the tram stops at a roadside stop. This could be in the form of a hologram projected out from the tram, or in changed, innovative street design around the stop.

We see it as our role is to identify potential improvements and make recommendations to government about the technologies that can deliver them.



Many Light Rail development programmes across Australia and the world have been embracing new technology to streamline their networks – such as Sydney CBD’s ground level power solution and Newcastle Light Rail’s on board energy solution. Can we expect similar innovations from Yarra Trams over the next 7 years?


We see our role in Melbourne as far more than just a transport operator – we are a social enabler, helping people get to the places they want to go in our city, and improving Melbourne’s liveability.

As part of our future operations we have committed to increasing the focus on sustainability, which will take us beyond compliance to leading best practice.

To me, sustainability and public transport go hand in hand – by providing a safe, accessible, reliable transport service, we improve social, economic, and environmental outcomes.

Through our renewed sustainability approach, we will take a long-term view of these social, economic, and environmental factors affecting our work here in Melbourne. This will enable our business to respond to emerging issues early and create innovative initiatives and investments for the long-term.

Yarra Trams is committed to working with our partners across the public transport sector to provide our passengers with real-time, multi-modal information so they have the power to navigate the inevitable disruptions that will occur in this increasingly congested environment. One innovation we are exploring is solar powered lighting at all our stops on smart poles that would also include CCTV, real time passenger information and free Wi-Fi for our passengers.

Another challenge we face is that we – public transport, including trains, buses and trams – are one of biggest emitters of carbon emissions. We have an impact on the environment, but this also means we have a significant opportunity to make a real and tangible difference to our long-term environmental sustainability.

The Victorian State Government has committed to making our tram network 100 per cent renewably powered by the end of 2018. This will make Melbourne’s tram network the first solar powered tram network in the world. Keolis Downer is also assessing opportunities to integrate energy-saving technologies in future trams, like battery operation.

This exciting initiative will have fantastic environmental outcomes, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80,000 tonnes every year. It will also create new jobs, demonstrating that investment in sustainability leads to economic outcomes.


Nicolas Gindt, Chief Executive Officer, Yarra Trams, Keolis Downer Victoria will be speaking at Light Rail 2018 with a presentation ‘Yarra Trams: The Next Seven Years’. This event is set to be the standout industry event of the coming year. Located in the heart of Sydney at the Sofitel Wentworth on 1 and 2 March, 2018. Find out more here:

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