A Lifeline For Melbourne’s Tramcar Restaurants

Written for Broadsheet

Melbourne’s tramcar restaurants were forced into serving stationary meals after failing safety tests last month.

The three rolling restaurants – the oldest of which dates back to 1947 – used to run three daily lunch and dinner services each through the CBD, Albert Park, St Kilda and South Melbourne. In late October, the meals-on-wheels service came to a halt after the trams failed a Yarra Trams safety assessment, which found their “crash-worthiness” had been “compromised by parts of the structure being badly weathered.”

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our employees and passengers on our network,” Yarra Trams’ director of safety and security Adrian Rowland told Broadsheet at that time.

Paul O’Brien, head of Colonial Tramcar Restaurant Company, the tramcar operator, told the Age the company had been given two weeks to fix the trams, but the state’s Bendigo-based tram workshop was unable to fit the repairs into its schedule until 2020.

O’Brien called for transport minister Jacinta Allan to intervene, and fans of the trams started a Change.Org petition, which at the time of publishing has been signed by more than 6000 people.

Now, Public Transport Victoria (PTV) has advised it will lend a hand by offering to loan the company a tram. “We’ve met with the owners of the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant and explored options for returning the tramcar restaurant to service,” PTV CEO Jeroen Weimar said in a statement. “We have agreed to make the next upgraded W8-class tram available to the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant for fit-out when the upgrade works are completed in November.

“We’ve also reprioritised the works schedule for the W-class tram and have made the next upgrade opportunity in December available to the restaurant tram to begin the upgrade of the existing restaurant trams.”

While it’s a win for the historical tramcars, the cost of the upgrades is still the responsibility of Colonial Tramcar Restaurant Company. It’s unclear if they will accept PTV’s loan tram offer.

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