Councils explore trackless tram solution to congested road

Trackless tram.
Trackless tram.

THE cities of Fremantle and Melville are exploring the idea of trackless trams along South Street as one idea to improve public transport in the region.

Both councils have chipped in $40,000 for a light rail feasibility study, while the South West Group has put in $20,000.

The study aims to build a case for the State Government to include the Melville to Fremantle route as part of Metronet in the future.

Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt visited two Chinese cities in 2019 to check out the trackless tram technology and was impressed by the technology on show in Zhuzhou.

“It was also autonomous and electric. It could fast-charge at the station, so it didn’t need overhead wires,” he said.

“There is global evidence that people are more likely to get on a tram or train than a bus.

“What was impressive was that it felt like a light rail vehicle, it didn’t feel like a bus.

“The indicators were that it could be delivered at a fraction of the cost of light rail.”

Dr Pettitt said there was huge potential for trackless trams to link the Murdoch Activity Centre to Fremantle.

“It’s important how you move people around. South Street can get pretty constrained and you can move more people per lane via a trackless tram than a car,” he said.

“This could be a game-changer if the technology lives up to its potential.”

A trackless tram in China. Picture: Brad Pettitt

 

Curtin University Professor of Sustainability Peter Newman said he now favoured trackless trams as a future Perth transport solution, especially given the costs and associated disruption of installing light rail.

“If you look at Sydney with George Street, that was closed for five years, it’s Australia’s most important economic asset and you can’t do that,” he said.

“Trackless trams have smart technology such as sensors, smart optical systems and they are electric so they are quiet.
“It took me some convincing (about trackless trams) because I’ve always been a proponent of light rail, including what was happening in Sydney.”

Melville Mayor George Gear.

Melville Mayor George Gear said the City of Melville had been investigating options for dedicated public transport along South Street through the South West Group for several years.

“The work goes back to 2007 and is fairly comprehensive, though disappointingly any efforts to convince the State Government to take on this project so far have been unsuccessful,” he said.

“We are currently working closely with the City of Fremantle and the South West Group to investigate what a Murdoch to Fremantle dedicated transport connection, which we all agree is needed, could look like and how it could benefit our collective communities along the route.

“This work will involve an analysis of different transport technologies, including trackless trams, and is due to commence in January and conclude in May.”

d497321q A bus along South Street. Picture: Andrew Ritchie

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said a light rail connection between Murdoch and Fremantle was an exciting proposal for the future and confirmed initial discussions had occurred with the local governments.

“Meanwhile, we have invested $100 million on the Murdoch Drive connection to address congestion on South Street between the Kwinana Freeway and Murdoch Drive,” Ms Saffioti said.

“This will result in shorter, more predictable journey times into the Murdoch precinct for patients, visitors and workers.”