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Tram tech gains speed

The West, 2 September 2018
State and local government officials were briefed this week on the suitability for Perth of “trackless trams” — a new concept of public transport that experts believe could revolutionise inner-city travel.

A team from Curtin University’s Sustainability Policy Institute, headed by the recently announced WA Scientist of the Year, Professor Peter Newman, went to China last month to investigate the trackless tram technology.

They found it could be the perfect solution to Perth’s inner-city population growth because it is affordable, attractive for development and can be built with minimal disruption.

Professor Newman said the trackless trams combined the benefits of rail, bus and light-rail modes.

The end result was a system that could move hundreds of people efficiently, effectively and relatively cheaply.

“The Chinese have taken the innovations of their high-speed rail — the quietness, the stability and the sleekness — and applied them to a bus to create a new kind of tram,” Professor Newman said.

“These trams rode like a tram, felt like a tram and are likely to be loved by people in Perth just like a tram … but it’s a fraction of the cost of a tram.”

Professor Newman said the trackless tram system could be built for about $6-8 million a kilo-metre — about a tenth the cost of a normal light-rail system.

They could be introduced without having to dig up roads and because they are about half the weight of a diesel bus, there was little road damage.

The trackless tram would be electric and powered by lithium-ion batteries that are recharged at each station in 30 seconds.

They can carry between 300 and 500 passengers, depending on the number of carriages, and travel at up to 70km/h.

It is trackless because it is autonomous — and the reason it runs smoothly.

A business case for a trackless tram route between Canning and Stirling, via the city, is being prepared.

Work is also being done with the cities of Stirling, Vincent, Perth, Victoria Park and Canning, the Property Council and local community groups on how the system could pay for itself.