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MOTORISTS who speed past stationary trams will be caught on camera — and could eventually receive fines and demerit points for it.
Yarra Trams is testing still and video cameras on two trams, as it tries to reduce pedestrian accidents and improve driver behaviour.
Yarra Trams chief executive Dennis Cliche said the trial, which began last Friday, was only in a testing phase.
Two B-class trams have each been fitted with eight cameras. Some are on the front of the tram, and others are fixed on the side and point to the rear. "What we are trying to do is detecting motorists who violate the road rules," Mr Cliche said.
"We are hoping to be able to, basically, photograph motorists who are passing stationary trams, and motorists who are blocking tram fairways."
The trams are based at the West Preston depot, and have been used on route 112 to Fitzroy Street, St Kilda.
The project, called TramCam, has been developed in co-operation with the police and the Department of Infrastructure's public transport division.
"We don't want to get any controversy if it goes ahead," Mr Cliche said.
"It is currently on a program of testing. No photos will be released, and no motorists will be fined."
But if the trial succeeds, it will open the way for the police and the department to lobby the State Government to introduce legislation for fines.
Mr Cliche said trams were often at the mercy of other road vehicles during heavy traffic, with most of the network sharing road space.
"Video will be used to reinforce the fact that something has been done, and the still will take a photograph of a numberplate, much like the speed cameras today," he said.
Tram speeds have dropped to an average of 16 km/h. "In spite of increasing congestion, we've been able to stop the decline and hold tram speeds where they are," Mr Cliche said. "But if we can get people to obey the road rules, we'd be streets ahead."
For the first eight weeks of the trial, drivers will operate the system, which works just like any camera.
It the manual operation is successful, it will have a six-week trial on automatic.
Cameras on the tram will be able to detect motorists speeding past. Yarra Trams has reported about 1000 incidents involving trams and other road users, including pedestrians, every year — more than three a day. Most Melburnians know too well about the dangers of stepping off a tram into busy traffic.
Mr Cliche said the trial was aimed to ensure the safety of all road users, not only tram passengers.
The State Government last year committed $48 million to extend the ThinkTram project — a joint initiative between VicRoads, the Department of Infrastructure and Yarra Trams.
The project aims to increase tram speeds, particularly through busy shopping strips such as Clarendon Street, South Melbourne, and Bourke Street in the city.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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