50 new Melbourne trams to be locally built.

Tram news from a different Preston: Fifty new Bombardier trams for Melbourne are to be constructed locally, according to reports released this week. They will be based at a new depot in the Melbourne suburb of Preston.

Artist's rendering of new Melbourne trams to be built by Bombardier at the former Comeng plant in Dandenong.

According to this report by The Age newspaper,  Canadian transport giant Bombardier on Monday beat out out France’s Alstom to win the $300 million contract. Most construction work on the 33-metre-long cars will be done at Bombardier’s plant in suburban Dandenong, formerly a Commonwealth Engineering (“Comeng”) plant which churned out hundreds of Melbourne cars in decades past. The Age reports that the factory’s last tram was built in December 1993.

In classic Australian style, there’s already been media coverage over a snafu regarding the cost breakdown initially announced by the state government, as reported here by the Herald Sun’s Ashley Gardner. Also in classic Australian style, the Australian Workers’ Union is pleased by the news and issued its own statement heralding “a great day for Bombardier, for its workers and for all local manufacturing.”

The low-floor trams will be phased into service over five years starting in 2012, according to this Bigpondnews.com report. Sadly, they won’t look like the green-and-gold beauty at left, used by Bigpondnews.com to illustrate its Web story, but that’s a nice thought. This car, SW6 932 of 1947, is currently stored at Preston Workshops, according to the excellent Vicsig.net site, a comprehensive resource for trams and trains in Melbourne and the State of Victoria. Video accompanying the Age story, as well as with this ABC News report, indicates that new trams will ultimately allow the retirement of the last W Class family trams, such as these, still on the system.

"Bumblebee 4" is seen on Melbourne's 96 St Kilda-East Brunswick service on Nov. 29, 2008. Photo by Flickr user avlxyz and used via Creative Commons license. Click image for photostream.

The ABC report also underscores another potential snafu in the making: With the new trams not set to hit the rails until 2012, the government is negotiating to extend the loan of five trams from the French city of Mulhouse, which are due to be returned at the end of the next year. The Alstom Citadis trams, dubbed Class C2, arrived in Melbourne in 2008 and have been nicknamed “Bumblebees” due to their yellow and black livery. They were featured in this April 2008 newsletter from operator Yarra Trams.

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