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applicatoni for temporary exemption - Melbourne trams

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Friday 14 December, 2012

melbourne trams application

21st Century Accessibility

This
is the text of an exemption application lodged with the Human Rights and
Equal Opportunity Commission by the applicants named below. It represents
the applicants' views and is not a Commission document. It is posted on
this site to facilitate public comment. Please refer to the Information
Sheet for information about how to obtain hard copies.

DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION
ACT 1992
UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 55
EXEMPTION APPLICATION BY:

PUBLIC TRANSPORT
CORPORATION
MET TRAM 1 and MET TRAM 2
(YARRA TRAMS AND SWANSTON TRAMS)
DEPARTMENT OF INFRASTRUCTURE
MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT

 

November
1998

Application
for exemption from sections 23 and 24 of the Act in so far as they relate
to tram/light rail services in Melbourne.

In
the context of this application, any reference to the Public Transport
Corporation means the PTC and any successor, transmittee, assignee, franchisee,
or subcontractor (whether immediate or not) of the whole or part of the
business conducted by the PTC.

Similarly,
in the context of this application, any reference to Met Tram 1 or Met
Tram 2 (Yarra Trams and Swanston Trams) means Met Tram 1 or Met Tram 2
and any successor, transmittee, assignee, franchisee, or subcontractor
(whether immediate or not) of the whole or part of the businesses conducted
by Met Tram 1 or Met Tram 2.

1.1 PREAMBLE

Compared
with all other Australian cities, Melbourne's very extensive tram service
network is a unique feature of the public transport system. In all other
cities, the primary mode of on-road public transport is bus.

While
Adelaide and Sydney do have single light rail/tram routes, these services
are minor. In Melbourne, trams carry around 35 per cent of all public
transport boardings; in the city centre and city fringe areas trams carry
virtually all of the relatively short distance 'distributor' trips that
are made. (The dominant role of train services is to carry longer distance
commuters into the city and the major role of bus services is to service
local and cross-suburban needs.)

Trams
are designed to have a long service life and, as a consequence, some of
the requirements imposed by the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA)
are open to a degree of uncertainty.

This
Exemption Application is being submitted to minimise this uncertainty.

Victoria
has been a strong supporter of the DDA, both in general and specifically
in regard to public transport operations. To confirm its commitments,
a DDA Action Plan has recently been lodged with the Human Rights And Equal
Opportunity Commission (HREOC), outlining all measures being taken to
progressively make Victorian public transport services compliant with
the DDA, including the intention to respond to the Draft Disability Standards
for Accessible Public Transport (Draft Standards) by introducing low-floor
trams to Melbourne's services when the current trams reach an age of approximately
30-35 years. This is considerably in advance of the maximum achievable
service life for a tram, which is at least 40-50 years.

Under
normal circumstances, submission of the Action Plan may have been, of
itself, sufficient to remove most uncertainty. However, the special circumstances
associated with the forthcoming privatisation of the operations of all
Victorian public transport services mean that it is appropriate to submit
to a formal process by way of this Exemption Application for Victoria's
tram fleet replacement proposals. Thus, this Exemption Application is
being submitted to confirm Victoria's commitment to the objectives of
the DDA, as demonstrated by its intention to bring forward the replacement
of trams. It is also intended to gain as much certainty as is possible
so that the forthcoming privatisation process is not unduly complicated
by the necessarily non-prescriptive nature of the wording in the DDA.

1.2 THE APPLICANTS

1.2.1
Name of applicant and the persons on whose behalf the application is made

This Exemption Application is submitted jointly by:

  • the
    Public Transport Corporation (PTC), as established under the Transport
    Act 1993
  • Met
    Tram 1 and Met Tram 2, as established under the Rail Corporations (Amendment)
    Act 1997, and which are now known as Yarra Trams (YT) and Swanston Trams
    (ST)
  • the
    Department of Infrastructure (DoI), which administers the operation
    of public transport in Victoria under the provisions of the Transport
    Act and other legislation
  • the
    Minister for Transport.

In
the context of this Application, any reference to the PTC means the PTC
and any successor, transmittee, assignee, franchisee, or subcontractor
(whether immediate or not) of the whole or part of the business conducted
by the PTC. Similarly, in the context of this Application, any reference
to Met Tram 1 or Met Tram 2 (YT and ST) means Met Tram 1 or Met Tram 2
and any successor, transmittee, assignee, franchisee, or subcontractor
(whether immediate or not) of the whole or part of the businesses conducted
by Met Tram 1 or Met Tram 2

The
Application is being submitted in the names of the present operators and
other parties because the organisational and ownership regime applicable
to public transport in Victoria is currently being reformed; this is further
discussed in section 1.2.3. Throughout the rest of this application the
various parties are referred to as 'the Applicants'.

In
the course of consultations conducted prior to submission of this application,
especially with the Accessible Transport Consultative Council (a reference
group established to provide policy input to the Minister for Transport),
it has become clear to the Applicants that users are concerned that the
privatisation process does not diminish progress towards accessibility.
Inclusion of any successors, transmittees, assignees, franchisees or subcontractors
to the current operators, therefore, serves to offer a guarantee to users
that incoming operators will be bound to follow the tram fleet improvement
program set out in this application. It also serves the dual purpose of
providing for understanding of, and commitment to, the intended tram replacement
program by incoming operators at the bid stage, while offering them protection
against complaints which could otherwise arise in early years, before
the proposed fleet replacement program commences.

1.2.2 Exemptions under the DDA

From
previous cases (notably re: Women's Legal Service), it is understood that
the power to grant exemptions should only be exercised by HREOC to further
the objects of the DDA. Therefore, an applicant for an exemption must
prove that the public interest in having the objects of the DDA furthered
would be met if the exemption were granted.

It
is also accepted that evidence demonstrating unjustifiable hardship to
the applicant is not sufficient to justify the grant of an exemption,
but that evidence showing hardship is a relevant consideration for HREOC
to take into account on an application for an exemption.

The
Applicants submit that the exemption sought in this Application advances
the objects of the DDA and incidentally relieves an unjustifiable hardship
that the Applicants would suffer if the exemption were not granted. While
the Applicants understand that exemptions can only be sought under the
DDA, not the proposed Disability Standards, in seeking to demonstrate
this hardship the Applicants have had regard to the assessment criteria
relating to unjustifiable hardship which are discussed in sections 33.9
- 33.11 of the Draft Standards. This issue is discussed further in section2.2.2.

In
summary, the Applicants are seeking an exemption from complaints which
could arise from their failure to replace existing trams with accessible
vehicles ahead of a proposed replacement timetable set out in the Application.
The Applicants have devised the fleet replacement timetable in consideration
of their obligations to provide accessible public transport on the basis
that the proposal is, from the point of view of people with a disability,
the best viable method for meeting the objects of the DDA and complying
with the Draft Standards.

The
replacement timetable is not driven by commercial necessity nor is it
the lowest cost alternative to achieve compliance.
The replacement
timetable can only be implemented if full compliance with accessibility
requirements (as assessed by the Applicants on the basis of the Draft
Standards) is deferred through the grant of this exemption. If the exemption
is not granted and the Applicants are obliged to comply sooner, accessibility
may be achieved through retro-fitting of trams with hoists or lifts, with
the vehicles not then replaced for many years.The Applicants submit
that this would represent a less desirable alternative in terms of the
promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities.
Therefore, the
circumstances of the application are a clear case where better long-term
compliance with the objects of the DDA is achieved by the grant of a temporary
exemption.

The
Application is made in the context of a comprehensive program of removal
of barriers to accessibility and the Application details other measures
being taken by the Applicants in accordance with the objects of the DDA.
The Application also provides details of the hardship which would be suffered
by the Applicants if the exemption were not granted.

1.2.3 Operational and ownership arrangements

The
major legislation covering public transport operation in Victoria is the
Transport Act 1983. The PTC was established under that Act to:

    efficiently
    manage and provide safe and reliable transport services that have due
    recognition for the needs and interests of the users of those services
    and the taxpayers of Victoria and that complement the transport services
    provided by any other person or body under contract with the Secretary
    (of DOI).

The
Rail Corporations Act 1996, and the Rail Corporations (Amendment)
Act 1997
are recent pieces of enabling legislation to facilitate reform
of the operation of train and tram services in Victoria. Under the provisions
of the 1997 Act, YT and ST have been established as distinct and self-contained
entities, each with their own staff, vehicles and infrastructure and each
providing a defined part of the tram network. Since 1 July 1998, YT and
ST have functioned as fully corporatised entities, each with their own
Boards and Chief Executives.

As
part of the State Government's announced policy intentions for public
transport, the PTC has ceased to be an operator and YT and ST are to be
sold/franchised in a tender process which is to commence later in 1998
and culminate in new operators being in place during 1999. The new operators
will operate under contracts with DOI.

1.3 EXEMPTED ACTIVITY

The
Applicants submit this Exemption Application in regard to the provision
of tram and light rail services in Melbourne. Specifically the activity
for which an exemption is sought is the provision of tram and light
rail services to the public of Melbourne with respect to the physical
ingress to (boarding) and egress from (alighting) vehicles used by the
operator.

In
terms of the DDA and the Draft Standards, tram and light rail services
in Melbourne are inaccessible because the vehicles can only be boarded
via steps ( the relevant Draft Standards are 8.1 - 8.3 and 8.5 - 8.8 concerning
boarding and 14.1 -14.3 concerning stairs). This Application does not
seek exemption from Standards not related to physical access (refer section
2.2.6 of this Application).

It
should also be noted that the width and other layout features of the mid-roadway
tram waiting areas known as safety zones have been designed with regard
to the current vehicle boarding regime; it is not intended to fundamentally
redesign safety zones ahead of the fleet replacement program, so, to that
extent, the Application is also intended to cover safety zones. (But it
should be noted that the provisions of Draft Standards relating to matters
such as signage, information displays and colour contrasting paintwork
will be complied with at safety zones in accordance with the expected
timelines and are not included in the Application.)

1.4 EXEMPTED DDA PROVISIONS

The
exemption is sought from the provisions of section 23 of the DDA, to the
extent that the definition of 'premises' in that section covers vehicles
and, therefore, encompasses trams and light rail vehicles; and section
24, which refers to the provision of goods and services, and public transport
is included within the definition of a service, and which encompasses
the transport services themselves and also any ancillary facilities such
as safety zones.

1.5 PERIOD OF EXEMPTION

The
Applicants seek the exemption for the maximum period of five years allowed
by the DDA. As discussed in section 2.2 of this paper, the Applicants
assert that a tram fleet replacement program should begin in 2008 and
therefore a follow-on to the current exemption could be sought at the
time of its expiry (although the Applicants also understand that, if Disability
Standards are proclaimed, the process of seeking exemption will be superseded
and they would be obliged to rely on a defence of unjustifiable hardship
under the provisions of the Disability Standards if a complaint should
be lodged).

2.1 MATERIAL FACTS AND CIRCUMSTANCES

The Applicants have formulated the fleet replacement policies which
they intend to follow; these replacement policies, as discussed further
in section 2.2 of this application, will become part of the business planning
documentation issued in support of the forthcoming tender specifications.
For commercial reasons, it is imperative that the proposed privatisation
process includes the clearest possible statement of the status of the
proposed fleet replacement schedule under the DDA. The key facts which
have contributed to the development of the proposed tram-fleet-replacement
schedule are:

  1. Melbourne
    has a large fleet of trams, comprising 476 vehicles in daily service.
    This is much larger than in any other Australian capital city, as Adelaide
    (21 vehicles) and Sydney (seven vehicles) are the only other capital
    cities with tram services.
  2. The
    Melbourne tram fleet is quite modern, since more than 400 of the vehicles
    have been commissioned within the past 20 years. Nevertheless, the tram
    system has a significant historical characteristic, which sets it apart
    from the public transport system in other cities; this is reinforced
    by the heritage value associated with the 53 older-style W-class trams,
    which remain in service and which are more than 40 years old and have
    the status of being a Melbourne icon.
  3. Trams
    are designed to have long service lives, as confirmed by the results
    of a recent consultancy study conducted by the international firm Interfleet
    Technology Ltd, which indicated that Melbourne's modern-style trams
    (Z, A and B-class) could achieve service lives of at least 40 years.
    This means decisions about how to achieve accessibility on the tram
    network are correspondingly more complex than for other public transport
    vehicles.

2.2 GROUNDS FOR THE EXEMPTION

2.2.1
Commercial nature of new contract arrangements

In
seeking to become the new owners of YT or ST, prospective operators will
be establishing themselves on a fully commercial footing. In essence,
their bid will nominate a rate of required government funding, to which
they will add their estimated fare revenue from passengers in order to
cover their costs and return a profit.

The
Government is entering the transport reform process for a number of reasons,
but one key objective is to achieve a lower overall publicly-funded financial
contribution via the competitive bidding processes, and the introduction
of world-class operating expertise and innovation.

The
replacement policy currently formulated does not necessitate any trams
being replaced until approximately 2008. This is compatible with the intention
to offer an initial seven-year franchise for tram operators (1999-2006)
which would not require capital funding to be provided for investment
in fleet replacement. Subsequent franchises may be longer, up to 15 years,
given that fleet replacement and the associated availability of capital
funds would then be required.

2.2.2 Victoria's approach to the DDA

The
DDA was passed by Federal Parliament in October 1992 and became operative
in March 1993; it is consistent with broader, modern social justice legislation
in place in Australia and in many other countries.

The
DDA acknowledges that the achievement of immediate and comprehensive compliance
with such a far reaching piece of legislation could not reasonably be
expected. Primarily for this reason, section 31 of the DDA provides for
the formulation and promulgation of Disability Standards, and sections
59-65 cover the development of Action Plans by service providers.

Public
transport is one of the areas where Disability Standards are envisaged
(other areas include employment, education and accommodation). Once Disability
Standards are promulgated, it will become unlawful not to comply with
them. The aim of the Disability Standards is to set timelines, with legislative
force, for achieving equal access and to provide more definitive benchmarks
for what constitutes accessibility and equality.

Draft
Standards for accessible public transport have been in the public domain
as a discussion paper for several years; a formal Regulation Impact Statement
is currently being finalised and it is expected that promulgation will
take place by early 1999. The proclaimed Disability Standards are not
expected to differ substantially from the current Draft Standards.

 

DOI
has recently prepared a comprehensive Action Plan, to be lodged with HREOC.
The Action Plan outlines Victoria's approach to meeting its obligations
under the DDA and the Draft Standards, and includes commitments to implement
a range of measures across the public transport system, including trams,
to meet the objects of the DDA and the specific requirements of the Draft
Standards.

The
Action Plan flows from and summarises the extensive work already done
in Victoria to improve accessibility to public transport for people with
disabilities; this has included the conduct of comprehensive access audits,
the establishment of ongoing consultative mechanisms so that the Minister
receives informed advice on accessibility issues, the creation of a specialist
unit within DOI and the commencement of programs to remove many barriers
to access.

The
Applicants regard the Draft Standards as illustrative of the obligations
arising under the DDA and have proceeded on the basis that, where the
Applicants cannot comply with the Draft Standards (leaving aside issues
relating to unjustifiable hardship), they may be in breach of the DDA
(again leaving aside a defence of unjustifiable hardship).

In
the case of trams, the Draft Standards relating to boarding (Standards
8.1-8.3 and 8.5-8.8) and stairs (Standards 14.1-14.3), which require full
compliance to be achieved in 20 years with progressive milestones of 25
per cent, 55 per cent and 90 per cent required after five, 10 and 15 years,
are not met by the current trams as steps are the only means of access
onto a vehicle, boarding devices such as ramps or lifts are not provided
and the geometry and configuration of the steps are not in accordance
with required dimensions. It is on this basis that the Applicants are
seeking the exemption, as the Action Plan includes reference to an intended
fleet replacement rate which is designed to overcome the present breaches
but will not conform to the compliance schedule in the Draft Standards.
The proposed fleet replacement program is discussed in the following sub-sections.

2.2.3 The Melbourne tram fleet

The
total operational fleet of trams comprises a number of different vehicle
types, as follows:

Number

Class

*Year
of delivery

Average
age

53

W

1936-56

50

106

Z1
and Z2

1975-79

22

115

Z3

1979-86

17

70

A

1984-87

13

132

B*

1988-94*

8

 

* Note:
all trams are rigid-bodied vehicles, except the B-class trams, which are
larger capacity, articulated vehicles. 130 of the B-class vehicles were
delivered in a program between 1988 and 1994, but two prototypes were
delivered earlier, in 1984 and 1985.

All
trams are designed to have an extremely strong body shell and repairs/maintenance
are undertaken on a modular basis. The Applicants have received advice
from Interfleet Technology Ltd that the current good condition of the
vehicles and reasonable maintenance costs are such that, in the absence
of statutory requirements for access, there is unlikely to be an engineering,
safety or commercial reason to begin a fleet replacement program for at
least 20 years. The high cost of new trams, approximately $2 million for
a rigid vehicle and $3 million for an articulated vehicle, means that
significant repair/replacement of individual components will be justified
on commercial grounds in preference to purchasing a new vehicle.

Given
their long service life, the position of trams in relation to the timelines
embodied in the Draft Standards is ambiguous. Explanatory guidelines have
been issued with the Draft Standards and, in referring to the timely adoption
of the Draft Standards, it is stated:

    Public
    transport is primarily expected to become accessible by replacement
    or upgrading of conveyances, premises and infrastructure at the end
    of their service lives. All new items must comply so that non-conforming
    stock is gradually retired or upgraded.

But
the Draft Standards themselves nominate a compliance timetable which indicates
that boarding facilities should become accessible, most likely requiring
fleet replacement, at the following rate:

After

5
years

25
per cent of fleet

10
years

55
per cent of fleet

15
years

90
per cent of fleet

20
years

100
per cent of fleet

For
buses, which are the primary mode of on-road public transport in other
States and Territories, there is no inconsistency between the timelines
in the Draft Standards and the intent expressed in the explanatory guidelines,
as the vast majority of major bus fleets are replaced within a 20-25 year
cycle. For trains, the fleet replacement issue does not arise as the vehicles
are built to match the height of platforms anyway, and the Disability
Standards will not create the need to replace vehicles.

However,
as already stated, the effective maximum service life for Melbourne's
trams greatly exceeds 20 years (the W-class trams are already 50 years
old on average). Assuming that a life of 40-50 years is achievable for
the other trams, this service-life benchmark would result in perhaps 100-150
trams being replaced within 20 years (approximately one-third of the fleet,
not the 100 per cent likely to be implied by the Disability Standards).

Clearly,
in the case of trams, the intent of the DDA as expressed in the Explanatory
Guidelines to the proposed Draft Standards does not match the outcome
which would be required if the milestones contained in the Draft Standards
were to be literally applied.

The
concept of the engineering or design life of a tram can also be considered
as an alternative to service life. For trams, this design life is usually
adjudged to be 30-35 years, and this is the basis of most design specifications
and financial analyses of replacement options, as well as the most common
minimum life for a tram quoted in worldwide references. Even on the basis
of this life span, the rate of tram replacement would not meet the targets
implied by the Draft Standards.

2.2.4 Z, A and B-class trams

There
are 423 tram vehicles of the Z, A and B-class types. These vehicles are
used to operate the vast majority of the overall tram network. The oldest
of the trams was purchased 23 years ago; thus no vehicle requires replacement
for many years and, even on the basis of replacement at the end of design
life, no vehicle would be replaced for at least another seven years.

The
implications of this replacement situation have been analysed in terms
of compliance with the DDA and the Draft Standards. A comparison of the
replacement rates implied by the Draft Standards and engineering life
is as follows.

Timeline
and target replacement date

Number
of years

After
5 years (25%)

After
10 years (55%)

After
15 years (90%)

After
20 years (100%)

After
25 years

After
30 years

Cumulative
number of vehicles replaced

According
to Draft Standards

106

233

381

423

423

423

According
to design life

nil

62

256

291

331

423

*Note: Assumes proclamation of Disability Standards in early 1999.

Fleet
replacement is not necessarily the only method of achieving compliance
with the Standards; in the Melbourne circumstances there are two other
alternatives. These have been examined and are discussed below.

i) Retro-fitting of trams with wheelchair hoists
to achieve compliance and then retention of the trams indefinitely.

The
major device to be fitted in a retro-fit program would be a wheelchair
lift or hoist, with consequent changes to the tram body and doors and
to the interior of the vehicle. (Changes at safety zones and other stops
would also be required.) It has been estimated by the consultants Rust
PPK that the cost of a retro-fit program would be up to $160,000 per tram
or approximately $68 million for the total fleet of 423 vehicles. A retro-fit
program could be spread over 20 years as a means of meeting the progressive
compliance timelines and the trams, once retro-fitted, would not need
to be replaced until at least after a 40 or 50-year service life. As a
means of meeting the compliance targets and yet avoiding (or at least
substantially deferring) the much higher costs of full fleet replacement,
retro-fitting can be seen as an attractive commercial approach.

However,
on many other grounds, it is not seen as desirable; it is widely acknowledged
that retro-fitting of wheelchair hoists is a poor solution from a customer
perspective. Among the reasons for this are:

  • hoists
    do not offer benefits for passengers other than those in wheelchairs
    (it is estimated that only around 1 per cent of people classified as
    having a disability would benefit from a wheelchair hoist)
  • it
    is likely that many people in wheelchairs would still be concerned about
    the extent of the benefit they would derive from a wheelchair hoist
    retro-fitted to a tram.
  • tram
    boardings via a wheelchair lift would involve substantial disruption
    to timetables.

Previous
consultation with disability reference groups in Melbourne was conducted
on this issue during 1996 and at that time the Accessible Transport Consultative
Council confirmed, in a letter to the Minister, that retro-fitting is
not considered to be the most beneficial option.

This
opinion was given in the context of it being apparent from international
evidence that a range of low-floor designs for new vehicles are available
and would offer more accessibility benefits. As a consequence, the retro-fitting
option is not the Applicants' preferred outcome. (Discussion of the process
of selecting a particular low-floor design for Melbourne's conditions
is in section 2.2.6.)

ii) Use of other modes

Under this option, tram services could be replaced or supplemented by
other modes of transport, involving some combination of:

  • partial
    or full replacement of the tram system with low-floor buses to achieve
    accessibility
  • retention
    of trams but operation of an accessible bus service or an expanded Multi
    Purpose Taxi scheme as a comprehensive parallel service.

This
alternative is considered either unworkable or undesirable, basically
on the grounds that it is either:

  • outside
    Victoria's policy to retain trams; or
  • outside
    the intention of the DDA, which is clearly designed to achieve accessibility
    through policies of inclusion (parallel systems are envisaged by the
    DDA and the Draft Standards in certain interim circumstances, but not
    on a systemwide and long-term footing).

Fleet
replacement is, therefore, the only remaining feasible option. The Applicants'
intention is to commit to replace current trams with low-floor vehicles
much in advance of their open-ended service lives, according to a schedule
derived from assuming an engineering/design life of 30-35 years and resulting
in a reasonable extension beyond the compliance schedule included in the
Draft Standards. This will require a commitment to fleet replacement funding
of approximately $1 billion, to be incurred as follows:

Years

Number
of trams to be purchased

Type
of tram replaced

Estimated
unit cost $m

Approximate
total cost $m

1999-2004

nil

n.a.

nil

n.a.

2004-2009*

62

Z1
and Z2

2

124

2009-2014

194

Z1,
Z2, Z3 and A

2

388

2014-2019

35

A

2

70

2019-2024

40

B

3

120

2024-2029*

92

B

3

276

*Note:
the fleet replacement program would actually begin in 2008 and conclude
in approximately 2026.

This
replacement program may ultimately be refined to some extent, mainly in
order to smooth the delivery schedules of new vehicles. To the extent
that the proposed fleet replacement program has been derived with regard
to a reasonable extension of time beyond that required by the Draft Standards,
the Applicants would also reserve the right to review the proposed fleet
replacement schedule if the proclaimed Disability Standards differ substantially
from the Draft Standards. Given the unsatisfactory nature of the alternative
methods of achieving accessibility, the Applicants assert that the proposed
replacement schedule is the best method of advancing the objectives of
the DDA and providing a superior standard of service to all passengers.

It
would be unreasonable, on both engineering and financial grounds, to expect
this replacement schedule to be significantly advanced to meet the timetable
in the Draft Standards. In any case, the additional community benefits
from a more accelerated replacement rate would not be substantial when
the alternative access measures detailed in section 2.2.6 of this application
are also taken into account.

The
financial penalty of bringing forward the tram replacement program to
fit within the 20-year timelines has been estimated by KPMG consultants
to have a present value of approximately $400 million (this exercise compared
an immediate commencement to a fleet purchase program against the base
case of beginning to introduce new trams from 2008, with all comparisons
expressed in 1998 dollar values and with the present value calculated
from the proposed start of the replacement program in 2008).

The
financial penalty of $400 million, equivalent to approximately $45 million
a year in present value terms, compares to an annual revenue stream from
passenger fares of approximately $82 million, and the magnitude of this
differential is such that a future private operator, making decisions
only on commercial grounds, would seek to re-examine retro-fitting options,
review the method of providing services or dramatically increase fares
in preference to implementing the vehicle purchase program (with the required
fare adjustment being of the order of 40 per cent and, as such, being
unachievable in Melbourne's multi-modal fares system). In all the circumstances,
the extension of approximately seven years to achieve full accessibility
on trams is claimed to be reasonable.

The
tram fleet replacement program would involve the purchase and operation
of low-floor trams which, when operated in conjunction with a bridging
ramp, will meet all relevant Standards. The full design details of the
new trams have not yet been decided as a number of alternative styles
are available; this is discussed further in section 2.2.6. In parallel
with the intended vehicle purchase program, associated tram-stop infrastructure,
including safety zones, would be reviewed and, where necessary, remedied
to be compatible with the new vehicles and with the appropriate Disability
Standards.

2.2.5 W-class trams

The
Applicants own approximately 200 older-style W-class trams, all of which
are at least 40 years old. Many of the W-class trams are in storage at
depots; over recent years, up to 100 have been required for service, either
in regular operating rosters or as reserve vehicles to cover breakdowns.
The trams are widely regarded as icons of Melbourne, as demonstrated by
their frequent inclusion as features in tourism and other promotional
material for the city. The City Circle tram service, operated exclusively
by older trams, has recently won a major tourism award and is developed
under the oversight of a committee which includes representatives of Tourism
Victoria and the Melbourne Convention and Marketing Bureau.

In
their 1996 publication, Profile of Travel to Victorian Regions,
Tourism Victoria estimated that tourism activity had generated approximately
$4.3 billion for the Victorian economy in 1995, and approximately 60 per
cent of this occurred in and around Melbourne. The unique appeal of the
older trams is one of the key identifiers used to differentiate Melbourne
from other potential destinations.

There
has been significant National Trust interest in the historical nature
of the trams. In December 1997, the Trust's conservation officer was quoted
as stating that 'Melbourne would lose some of its identity if the W-class
trams were scrapped' (Herald Sun, 13 December 1997). In October 1997,
the Chairman of the Trust, Simon Molesworth, wrote to the Minister and
emphasised that: 'W-class trams are an important part of Melbourne's heritage
assets, enjoyed by both tourists and commuters' and that: 'the National
Trust, and indeed the wider community, expects that significant numbers
of W-class trams will remain on the streets of Melbourne.' (National Trust
letter to the Hon. Robin Cooper, 3 October 1997.) This has led to an agreement
by the Minister that 53 will continue in public transport usage for heritage
retention.

While
it is acknowledged that the trams are not accessible, the requirement
for accessibility needs to be balanced against heritage and other issues.
To achieve this it is expected that DOI and the new operators will negotiate
an overall tram deployment regime such that use of the W-class trams provides
for maximum visibility in a tourist/heritage/ city image sense, but that
their use in public transport terms is increasingly that of a niche role.
It is expected that the W-class vehicles will be mainly deployed on services
such as:

  • the
    free City Circle route, which offers tourists and other city visitors
    a heritage/experience trip around the edges of the Central Activities
    District
  • St
    Kilda Road trips where there are multiple routes and the overall frequency
    of trams is such that there will never be a long wait for an alternative
    vehicle (for example, route 8 to Toorak, which is a relatively short
    route beyond the St Kilda Road section, and route 16 to St Kilda Beach,
    which has nearby alternative routes on that part of the route beyond
    St Kilda Road)
  • city
    shuttle services (for example, Brunswick Street to Spencer Street along
    Macarthur Street and Collins Street) which are typically provided in
    the busy middle-of-the-day peak to supplement other trams and where
    the frequency is again such that a long wait for another tram is never
    necessary
  • route
    12, to South Melbourne and St Kilda Beach, where alternative tram routes
    into the city are close by, and a demand responsive accessible bus service
    also operates.

It
is the Applicants' contention that no decision about the retro-fitting
or replacement of W-class trams should be made at this time. This takes
account of:

  • the
    reasonableness of the desire to retain some W-class trams in operation
    for heritage purposes
  • the
    likely feasibility of deploying W-class trams on services where other
    vehicles are also available (with the ability to review this aspect
    as further details of fleet deployment are finalised)
  • the
    ability to revisit the retro-fitting option for W-class trams in the
    future if technical innovations emerge which would allow retro-fitting
    without damage to the historical value.

All
other measures mentioned in the following section of this application
will be implemented equivalently for all trams in service, including W-class
trams.

2.2.6 Alternative measures and commitments

As
well as bringing forward a $978 million program of tram replacement, by
replacing vehicles at the end of their design life not their service life,
the following interim actions will also be adopted.

a) Other tram accessibility measures

This
Exemption Application is being developed in parallel with a comprehensive
Action Plan for the entire Victorian public transport network. A number
of other accessibility measures relating to trams are committed to in
that Action Plan and will be implemented ahead of the proposed fleet replacement.

In
particular, a number of on-vehicle measures will be continued, including
improvements to such features as stop buttons, pull cords, grab rails,
handrails, lighting along tram aisles and destination signs. There will
also be thorough maintenance of these features, once they are implemented,
and also of the yellow coating on step edges and stanchions, which is
already substantially implemented.

b) Bus/Train services

Notwithstanding
the tram fleet replacement rate, progress towards the accessibility of
Melbourne's public transport network is already substantial and will continue
to be in accordance with the objects of the DDA and the Disability Standards,
as outlined in the Action Plan already referred to.

In
particular, while the network of tram routes is quite extensive, it is
not isolated from the rest of Melbourne's suburban public transport services.
The metropolitan train system is already largely accessible and bus fleet
replacement is to occur at the rate of 80 low-floor vehicles a year. There
are many locations on the tram network where the alternative of using
a bus/train journey is also available.

The
central public transport information service will be equipped to offer
advice on these alternatives.

c) Customer Service Employees

The
tram network has roving Customer Service Employees on the system; these
employees are trained in customer service and provide direct assistance
whenever appropriate.

d) Direct assistance by drivers

Melbourne's
tram system is now a driver-only system.

Tram
drivers are available to provide direct assistance to passengers as reasonably
required; new tram drivers undergo customer service training which includes
a disability awareness module, and any refresher training for existing
drivers will include a similar module.

e) Detailed investigation of vehicle designs

Prior
to the current trams reaching the end of their design life, the Applicants
will undertake a comprehensive investigation of alternative low-floor
vehicle designs and the interactions between different vehicle configurations
and infrastructure requirements. It is envisaged that this investigation
could involve the digitised simulation of the operation of low-floor trams
in Melbourne's conditions to assist in the development of appropriate
specifications for the design of new trams, the associated remedial work
at safety zones, and all interaction between vehicles and infrastructure.
If appropriate to optimise the outcome of this investigation, consideration
will be given to the advance acquisition of some pilot low-floor trams
to test alternative operating solutions.

This
would achieve a number of highly desirable objectives most importantly:

  • allowing
    the comprehensive fleet replacement program to begin early in the second
    franchise on the basis of the pilot program results
  • facilitating
    the evaluation of several alternative designs to allow informed selection
    of the best low-floor tram for Melbourne
  • demonstrating
    how a fully low-floor system will eventually operate
  • contributing
    to better identification of the associated infrastructure improvements
    that are needed, especially at safety zones, and the testing of alternative
    treatments at such locations.