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MELBOURNE'S new tram operator KDR is pushing for its fleet to be given greater priority than cars at city traffic lights and for suburban clearways to be extended.
The RACV and public transport advocates have given the plans cautious support, saying they will improve tram punctuality.
KDR chief Michel Masson said the company, which takes over operation of Yarra Trams on November 30, had held preliminary discussions with VicRoads about the moves.
If trams in the CBD were given higher priority so they weren't delayed for so long at traffic lights, people would be more inclined to use the service, Mr Masson said.
''In the CBD the only way to increase the speed is by pushing forward the priority of the traffic lights,'' he said.
VicRoads said several sites in the CBD already gave trams some priority, but Mr Masson said this must be extended and lengthened to improve the reliability of the service.
''And … we will push for clearways on any roads that we see as appropriate. This is what's implemented in various cities in which we're operating in France and it works,'' he said. KDR has pledged to deliver 82 per cent of all its services within five minutes of the scheduled time when it takes over, 4 per cent higher than Yarra Trams' levels.
Mr Masson said improvements along Nicholson Street in Brunswick, where VicRoads is scrapping more than 100 car spots to improve tram reliability, show there is the political will to prioritise tram users over motorists.
He would not say where more clearways should be introduced but said there were numerous locations where trams would benefit from having a clear run.
The introduction of new clearways is likely to be met with resistance from traders already infuriated by State Government moves to create clearways along some shopping strips.
While Mr Masson said he expected some initial resistance, the creation of clearways was actually in the traders' best interests.
''It is better for business to have a tram that stops on a regular basis and brings the equivalent of 50 people in five minutes instead of a parking spot that holds a car that will stay parked for all day,'' Mr Masson said.
He is considering bringing some mayors over from France to explain to traders the benefits of having clearways along shopping strips.
RACV public policy manager Brian Negus said he had supported all government plans to introduce clearways and would support their further introduction to boost tram reliability.
He said giving trams more priority in the city could have considerable benefits but he warned that potential downsides, including time allocated for pedestrians to cross roads, needed thorough investigation.
Public Transport Users Association president Daniel Bowen said he was not aware of any city intersections where trams never had to wait.
He said KDR's plan would boost trams' punctuality and encourage more people to use them.
A study by the association has found that trams spend up to a third of their journey stuck at lights.
Mr Masson said KDR would introduce detailed route maps on every tram in Melbourne and encourage drivers to slow down if they were travelling closely behind another tram. ''We've seen so many of those,'' he said.
The company's aim was for ''a more regular service that enables better comfort''.
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