A disappointing ride on E class

  route14 Chief Commissioner

Yesterday my up Bairnsdale train misconnected the 22:00 Mernda train.  The latter was altered to terminate at Bell anyway, so I decided to take route 11 tram instead, which goes a few stops beyond Bell St.
    I'm aware that there is some space on the tram left vacant without seats, but I didn't know it was that much.  The width of double seats is small and the personal space is unacceptable if shared by two strangers.  
    I'm aware that this class of low floor tram is mounted on bogies as opposed to fixed wheels on C & D class, which is supposed to increase its ability to negotiate track components and curves, but to my disappointment, the tram had to go through crossovers and curves with extreme caution, including the curve in Macarthur Rd. described as "moderate curve" in the drivers' training manual.  Such locations is only a matter of cutting off power and allowing the tram to free wheel on WZAB class.  The left white arrow at Thornbury is short and turned to amber when the first bogie was still crossing the first frog.  The tram still had to traverse the curve at low speed, holding up north-bound traffic in St Georges Rd.  On a Comeng tram it is possible just to floor the accelerator and shoot through.  I'm aware of its high acceleration and total traction power, but there is hardly any straight long clear section without points, crossings and curves for it to stretch its legs.  Service speed is nowhere near before.
    The sliding doors are as slow as those on C & D class, making it impossible to obey the rule to keep doors open until the previous signal phase turns amber when having a red light at a safety zone (and platform stop).  You just have to wait with the doors shut so that you are ready to go at any time, assuming there are no late runners intending to board.
    I was also hoping that it could have mechanical gongs as those on Variotram, another low floor tram class by the same manufacturer at Dandenong, but it's electronic, which is also disappointing.  It's not just a gong, it's part of Melbourne's character which we might lose completely after 2032.
    The three classes of low floor trams have successfully avoided everything a Melbourne tram needs.

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  Heihachi_73 Chief Commissioner

Location: Terminating at Ringwood
This is what happens when you put light rail vehicles on tram tracks which weren't designed for anything newer than a W class. Get rid of flange running* and speeds will increase.

* Flange running is where the tram wheels ride up onto the flanges (a small ramp is placed between the rails to accommodate the flanges on points and other crossings), the tyres leave the rails and the tram basically drives on the ground. Apparently it is quieter than using normal railway points, but anyone who has used a tram in Melbourne in the past hundred years can probably say otherwise. In practice, new flange-based points actually are quieter - for about a month or two. Box Hill terminus is as rough as guts for example (coincidentally, the heavy rail points at Box Hill station are just as bad, go figure).

As for curves, I believe there is also a speed restriction that only applies to low floor trams, E class included. Apparently they still can't negotiate curves as well as a Z/A/B can so they have to run slower. If you look out the window while catching route 58 through the Metro Tunnel works area, the fairly new tracks have been worn down to about 2/3 of their original width, I am only guessing that the D class trams are causing this rather than the Z3s/B2s - it's a particularly sharp curve on segregated track and with no stops, the trams tend to go faster than normal and the wheels grind the sides of the rails.
  route14 Chief Commissioner

I also rode an E class on route 96 today. Obviously the speed limit over the two crossovers has been changed from 30 to 15.  There also seem to be speed limit over the Albert Rd. bridge and another two bridges near South Melbourne.  Does it only apply to E class as well?  Unfortunately a tram ride along the St Kilda light rail will never be as exciting as before.  It makes you wonder, if they are so incompatible with Melbourne's network, why adopt a tram class of such specifications?
  kitchgp Chief Commissioner

This VicRoads paper may be of interest. Table 1 gives the total weight, wheelbase and axle load of all the current tram classes (ignore the history of the W7 and perhaps read it as W8). Click on the thumbnail to download a copy:

Interesting that the W8 and C2 Classes have ~1600mm wheelbases and the rest have ~1800mm. The axle loads of the C and D Classes are well above the others.

This may also be of interest:
  Matthew Chief Train Controller

 It makes you wonder, if they are so incompatible with Melbourne's network, why adopt a tram class of such specifications?
The C and D classes are from the split private operator era, who picked the 'standard' trams made by the partner in the consortium. There was a near-total disconnect between the owner/maintainer of the tracks and the operators of the vehicles.

The E class was specially designed for Melbourne, while it's not a 100% bespoke design, it's based on Bombardier's Flexity Swift, they made a lot of changes to accommodate Melbourne's specifications, some of which was a more 'track friendly' tram, hence the rotating bogies.

But the Flexity Swift is a more expensive tram - for one thing, it has 4 bogies per 30m of tram instead of just 3.

Meanwhile, Melbourne has large fleets of fixed truck track-wreakers that will be in service for many years yet.

Melbourne isn't the only system that has found that the trams didn't really fit the infrastructure, but the fixed truck trams are cheaper, so people keep buying them, but there is a growing awareness of taking into account the 'whole' costs - including track damage. Hence all the majors make rotating bogie low floor trams now - if the customer is willing to pay extra for them.

Over the last week or so I've ridden many European trams that are only 70-50% low floor - as the operator requested traditional full axle motor bogies under the ends to make the cars more track friendly. The operators that buy these trams are primary still vertically integrated operations, so what damage the trams do the track is considered.

New build systems are built with much-relaxed curves over 'traditional' systems so the fixed bogie trams have an easier time of it.

BTW flange running through 'special work' is supposed to make the crossing quieter and is very commonly used. But if you are going to let the flangeways fill up with dirt and rubbish.....
The only other way to make a quiet crossing is to have very shallow angles so some of the wheel tread is always supported. Often there isn't the space to do this.
  route14 Chief Commissioner

Thank you Matthew.  Anyway, from a gunzel's point of view it's not as good a tram class as Comeng trams.  I believe many general passengers and drivers think the same.  I rode a Z3 class today, which is so refreshing.  I'm sure drivers also find them easier to drive.  It rode over complicated intersections such as Malvern Town Hall and Malvern Rd. so nicely.  Having ridden E class even the ride on a D2 class on route 6 felt nippy.  Perhaps the average load for every four-wheel module is lower, making it possible to pick up some speed over a curve.  Of course, the track ware is a different story.
    I went to Malvern Depot, hoping to see its museum, but unfortunately its operator no longer runs it.  Still I found some interesting modification to the two sets of points at the entrance, which are V-tag points that can be selected from multiple detection loops.  The friendly depot starter told me that if conflicting commands are selected by trams approaching from different ways, points will be set according to the sequence of arrival on loops, with its memory able to store 5 commands.
    I also rode a B class on route 75 to Vermont South.  There seems to be some gauge inaccuracy across the Springvale Rd. intersection.  You hear the same noise as you would going under Northern Ring Rd. on route 86.  There also seems to be some track damage on the up before the U turn point prior to the Blackburn Rd. crossover, slowing the tram down, which might be misread by U turn motorists as the tram was giving way to them.
    To my disappointment, the tram was altered to have Apollo seating.  How much less space is someone sitting on the bum rest going to take than someone on a proper seat?  It seems Yarra Trams keeps doing things that inconvenience passengers with nobody pragmatically benefiting from it.
    The tram has undergone life extension programme, which I hope will actually lengthen its service life.  All exterior lighting and courtesy lights at doors have been replaced with LED lights.  High beam is now in the same case as usual head lights.  I asked our kind driver to switch it on momentarily when the tram was safely stopped at a red light, and it made no difference.  The driver believed not all work has been done to make high beam work.
    There is one more side indicator by the artic, which hopefully will give motorists some more distinct warning, provided they know what it means.
    The point switch has been replaced with three buttons.  The use of centre button for straight is only theoretical as that's the default command without selection.  Perhaps they could have saved a few dollars per tram by only having 2 buttons as on the Citadis.
    The point lantern at Riversdale Rd. and Power St. now shows a right bar for turning into Power St. whereas it's still the straight command.  It's not a problem for drivers driving past the location on a daily basis, but it would be confusing for drivers from other depots doing depot transfer duty.  The position of point lantern should have nothing to do with the dimension of the intersection, but in line with the command that needs to be input.
    That's all for my discoveries today.
  Halo Chief Train Controller

Should have bought an Alstom, just my personal opinion when comparing out Bombardier compared with out three bogie Alstom trams in Adelaide.

To name but a few bugs.

No audible sound when next stop buttons pressed.
Top front lights not maintained by Transadelaide.
Seats "look" soft, however they are rock hard. (I almost broke my tail one)
PID displays too small for half the passengers or vision disabled.
Not enough next stop buttons.
Bad yellow paint not UV stabilised now fading out.
Destos badly typed, trying to jam all info on one screen.

And validators, card only, "inaudible" paper and card, drowned out by dot matrix printer. Hearing impaired not accounted for.

On a positive, new voice annocements much improved on the trams over what we now hear on the trains.... A cold over-pronounced robotic voice that shouldn't be anywhere near I microphone. (hell I'd waive my fee and do it for free!!)

Think that will do today.
  Heihachi_73 Chief Commissioner

Location: Terminating at Ringwood
When riding the 75, how did you find the track along Camberwell Rd? I can only think that the Scenic Railway at Luna Park is in better condition! It used to be just as bad all the way to Warrigal Rd but the tracks were recently relaid after the curve. I believe the roughest section in Melbourne is the Kooyong tram square crossing on route 16 (try it in both a Z3 and a D1, I find that the D class actually rides better over the crossing even though the Z3s normally are the smoothest of the two on normal track).
  route14 Chief Commissioner

The more comfortable ride on D1 class over Kooyong railway square might be caused by their shallower flanges, which is just another reason why Comeng trams negotiate curves better than low floor trams apart from having pivoting bogies.

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