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Adelaide LRT
Adelaide: Tramway extension
[Photo: Henk Graalman]


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Light Rail Continues to Grow With Tramway Extension

Commentary By Dudley Horscroft, Roger Wheaton, John Hoyle, and Tony Bailey • November 2007

Adelaide – long promoted as a "Bus Rapid Transit" showcase because of its O-bahn guided busway – continues to redictrect its major public transit development priorities into electric light rail transit (LRT). The latest extension of the upgraded Glenelg interurban tramway is described in this commentary by several Australian transit advocates and industry professionals.

The latest long-awaited extension to Adelaide's light rail suburban electric tramway to Glenelg was opened on 14 October 2007 by the Hon. Patrick Conlon, Minister for Transport South Australia and the Hon. Mike Rann, Premier of South Australia at 11:00 in the morning. Present were a number of specially invited guests, including Fred Hansen, General Manager of the TriMet transit agency in Portland (Oregon) USA.

Adelaide LRT Crowd attends ribbon-cutting ceremony of Adelaide's new central-city extension to Glenelg tramway.
[Photo: Roderick Smith (thanks to TramsDownUnder)]

The new extension – which comes on the heels of the earlier opening of the totally refurbished, 10.8-km (6.7-mile) Glenelg line – is about 1.5 km (0.9 mile) long. The official party was conveyed to the ceremony in modern Flexity tram 101 followed by coupled heritage H-class cars 351 and 367, followed by Flexity 102.

Adelaide LRT A pair of heritage Glenelg trams (at right) alongside modern Flexity tram (left) at station on new tramway extension on Opening Day.
[Photo: Henk Graalman]

NOTE: The photo above was originally erroneously attributed. Attribution has been corrected to identify the actual photographer, Henk Graalman.

The extension project was formally announced in mid 2005, when the line was to go only about 1.1 km (0.7 mile) from the existing terminus at Victoria Square to the Adelaide Railway Station in North Terrace, at a cost of A$21 million. Since then, the extension has itself been extended in a June 2006 announcement to run on North Terrace to City West at a total cost of A$31 million. (See map of entire line, below.)
[Map: SADTEi]

Adelaide LRT map

The former Victoria Square terminus has been abandoned, the line being diverted around the western side of the square. This section of track uses track embedded in grass. Further north along King William Street and around into North Terrace the line is laid with medians about 135 mm (5.3 inches) high to keep vehicular traffic off the formation except at intersections. (See map of city center route, below.)
[Map: SADTEi]

Adelaide LRT map

in regard to rolling stock, two additional Flexity trams were added to the original order of 9 to cover this section when the decision to extend the line was reached. Because of budget constraints, the Flexity order was an add-on to a Frankfurt/Main S-Class Flexity order, resulting in Adelaide now having the narrowest trams currently operating in Australia – at 2.4 m (about 7 ft 10 in). ironically, Adelaide used to have the widest trams operating in Australia.

Curiously, this is the first time that trams have run regularly from Glenelg through King William Street as far as North Terrace. Glenelg was originally connected to the City by two steam suburban railways, one of which was converted to an electric tramway between Victoria Square and Glenelg, opening on 14 December 1929, with trams terminating at Victoria Square. in another irony, the city trams paralleled the Glenelg line southward from South Terrace but in the middle of the street, while for some way the Glenelg trams were on their own reservation.

Before the O-Bahn guided busway was built, it was intended that that route would be a light rail line, and would use King William Street to connect to the Glenelg line. However, there was fierce opposition from the Adelaide City Council, motoring groups, and other vested interests and the plan was shelved in favour of the O-Bahn – claimed to be cheaper – which entered the city on an east-west routing, now subject to heavy traffic congestion.

The opening of the latest extension has been deemed a success, with tram patronage increasing by 39% in the first week. in the longer period since the opening, the increase in paid patronage is about 20%. According to a report in The Advertiser; of 17 October 2006, there were about 6,800 paid passengers (boardings) on the tram line, whereas this year (2007) there were about 9,500 paid passengers.

Some patronage has undoutedly been increased also by the new tram service replacing the free Route 99B Bee Line Bus Service along the same route, but the free travel area has now been extended to South Terrace from Victoria Square. it has been suggested that a number of these fares were "dips" by confused "free city travel" passengers as the tram replaced the Route 99B bus service, whose vehicles required no ticket machines! However, the paid ridership is particularly important, as it probably represents ridership demand which was suppressed previously because of the edge-of-town terminus.

it will be interesting to see if there is ever a determination as to how many of these new passengers were carried on parallel bus services which ran to the City centre and how many are totally new transit passengers. Certainly, the requirement to change vehicles or walk into the City must have deterred some, particularly the less fit or agile – and the removal of this requirement surely has boosted ridership. Unfortunately the usual "collapse to the motoring lobby" means that public transport does not receive any priority at intersections and the journey time on the City West extension is not much faster than can be achieved by a fit walker.

Adelaide LRT A day after the opening, modern Flexity trams operate in revenue service amongst center-city traffic.
[Photo: Bill Drury (thanks to TramsDownUnder)]

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Updated 2008/07/11

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