News / Transport

Cyclists and tram depot on a collision course

There are fears the tram depot redevelopment will mean the loss of a recently laid bike and pedestrian path

Mark Phillips
UPDATED: Wednesday, August 3, 2022

TRAMS will directly enter onto Sydney Road and a wheelchair-friendly super stop will be built on Moreland Road under a planned redevelopment of the Brunswick tram depot.

The upgrade would secure the depot’s future as a hub of Melbourne’s tram network by allowing the next generation of large trams to be stored and serviced there.

But not everyone is happy with works to take place behind the depot, including a set of new tram tracks parallel to the Upfield railway line, raising concerns about the potential loss of a recently opened separated trail for cyclists and pedestrians.

Initial consultation about the plans and designs for the new depot closed on Wednesday.

First used in 1887, Brunswick is one of nine suburban depots on the Yarra Trams network and is home to trams on routes 1, 6 and 19.

The current depot buildings opened in 1936 and is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register as a site of significance.

The redevelopment will allow the number of trams stabled at the depot to increase from 49 to 64. The depot building, stabling yard and number of tracks will all be upgraded to cater for the increased number of trams and staff, and maintenance facilities will be upgraded.

A new terminus is planned for Cameron Street in addition to the existing terminus inside the depot yards and there will be a direct exit for trams onto Sydney Road to reduce congestion in Moreland Road during the morning peak.

A large sealed car park for tram workers and a replacement substation will be built under the elevated Upfield railway line.

The proposed timeline for the project sees a second stage of community consultation in the middle of next year with the upgraded depot completed in 2024-25.

Moreland Bicycle User Group’s Faith Hunter on the path behind the tram depot. There are fears part of the path will be reduced to a single lane to accomodate the upgrade. Inset: Plans for the redevelopment. Source: Department of Transport (click on image to enlarge plans)

Bicycle Network, the peak cycling lobby group, has flagged concerns about the impact the addition of a third tram track and terminus in Cameron Street, behind the depot shed, would have on the bike and pedestrian paths alongside the Upfield line.

The paths have been open for less than a year after they were built as part of the level crossing removal project between Anstey and Coburg stations.

Bicycle Network says the current plans suggest Cameron Street would need to be widened to accommodate the new tram track, encroaching onto about 200 metres of the path and reducing it to a single shared lane.

The path is used by hundreds of cyclists and pedestrians every day.

Faith Hunter of the Moreland Bicycle User Group said the recent consultation period conducted by the Department of Transport had failed to clarify the future of the path.

“The initial designs are very high level but show encroachment on the separate pedestrian and cycling paths on the Upfield just south of Moreland Road,” she said.

“It’s a serious step backward and once hemmed in by the car park they are building and a new tram track there will be no opportunity to rectify it in the future.

“On one of Melbourne’s busiest cycling routes and a strategic cycling corridor it is inappropriate that people on foot and on bikes should have to share.”

Moreland South Ward councillor James Conlan said the threat to the separated paths was the result of inadequate planning during the level crossing removal project.

“With proper planning, separated bike and pedestrian paths could’ve been delivered by moving the paths slightly west,” he said.

“I think PTV [Public Transport Victoria] must figure out an alternative design so that the community doesn’t have to squabble over tram or active transport improvements. We can and should have both.”

A Department of Transport spokesperson said the department was exploring alternatives which would leave the paths untouched.

“We’re working through a solution that means we won’t need to touch the bike path and will only require overhead wire work,” they said.

Separately, there is dispute about the area earmarked for the new tram staff car park with some residents claiming the space was intended for recreational use.

This story was originally published on August 2 and has been updated with comments from the Department of Transport.