The Glenelg Tram is a 15 km (9.3 mi) route from the centre of Adelaide, South Australia to the beach-side suburb of Glenelg. It is Adelaide's only remaining tramway, running at approximately 15-minute intervals, and is part of the integrated Adelaide Metro public transport network. The service is free between North and South Terraces in the City, and along the entire length of Jetty Road in Glenelg. Apart from short street-running sections in Adelaide city centre and Glenelg, the Glenelg route is in a private reservation, providing a fast and reliable service with minimal interference from road traffic.

1929-vintage H-class cars provided all services on the Glenelg line, until January 2006 when the first members of a new fleet of modern Flexity Classic trams entered service. Eleven 30m-long articulated low-floor Light rail vehicles, built by Bombardier in Germany now operate the service.

Construction of a 1.6 km extension from Victoria Square, along King William Street and North Terrace started in April 2007. The extension opened to the public on 14 October 2007. A new bridge over South Road to replace the existing crossing opened on 15 March 2010 and a further extension of the line to the Entertainment Centre was opened on 22 March 2010. There are plans to extend the tramway even further to Port Adelaide, Semaphore, Woodville and West Lakes.


The route was built in 1873 by a private company, the Adelaide, Glenelg & Suburban Railway Company Ltd. The original line had a very different character to today’s route.

  • It was built to the 5 foot 3 inch subway sandwich.
  • It was operated by steam locomotives,[1] not electric trams.
  • Most of the localities between Glenelg and Adelaide were sparsely settled and undeveloped. The line ran through open paddocks and market gardens.
  • The line was largely single track.
  • It crossed the Main South Line at Goodwood by a flat crossing, not an overpass.
  • There were fewer stopping points and these were more like conventional railway stations.
  • The trains did not operate on anything like the frequency of today’s trams, and a timetable was certainly advisable when planning a journey.

In December 1899 the private company was acquired by the state government-controlled South Australian Railways, who continued to operate the line as a steam railway for the next 30 years or so. In 1914, the railway’s terminus was cut back from the edge of Victoria Square (in the centre of Adelaide) to South Terrace on the city’s southern fringe. Passengers had to transfer to electric trams to complete their journey into the city.

Municipal Tramways Trust Edit

In 1929 ownership and operation transferred from the SAR to Adelaide’s Municipal Tramways Trust. Steam trains ceased on 2 April 1929 and the line was closed to be rebuilt to standard gauge, electrified at 600 V dc and converted to tramway operation. The Goodwood flyover was constructed at this time, separating the new tram tracks from the conventional railway.

Thirty H-class trams were built for the line by a local manufacturer, A. Pengelley, along the lines of North American interurban cars of that era. The line re-opened on 14 December 1929, with the city terminus reverting to Victoria Square.

There were one or two quirks in the earlier years, the most famous being the “horse trams” operated in the 1930s. These were trams specially constructed to carry race horses from stables located along the line to the racecourse at Morphettville. This service was a carry-over from the days of the steam railway, which had also performed this function. Another unusual feature was operation of triple sets of H-class trams in peak hours, and express trams that ran non-stop over a significant portion of the route (one express service remains in 2006).

The line was the only route to survive the closure of Adelaide’s street tramway network during the 1950s, saved largely by its high proportion of reserved track, which ensures a fast journey for passengers and minimal interference from road traffic.

The H-class cars have been progressively updated during the 1970s, again in the late 1980s and most recently (on five trams) in 2000. These included toughened safety glass in windows, replacing wooden panels with fibreglass, upgrading bogies, fluorescent lights inside the cars, and sealed-beam headlights and brake/hazard lamp clusters outside.

In 1986 the line was converted from trolley pole to pantograph operation. This change coincided with relocation of the tram depot from Angas Street in central Adelaide to a new facility at Glengowrie, close to Glenelg.

Despite the various refurbishments and upgrades the overall character of the H-class trams has stayed very much as they were built. The interiors are still varnished wood and glass etched with MTT logos, and with no heating or air conditioning. All services are crew operated, with a driver and conductor on single cars, or a driver and two conductors on two-car sets.

Recent developmentsEdit

2005 Track & Rolling Stock RenewalEdit

May 2003 South Australian Government announced the planned upgrade of the Glenelg line infrastructure and the introduction of new trams.
21 September 2004 S.A. Government announced the contract for delivery of nine new Flexity Classics had been awarded to Bombardier.
6 April 2005 An additional two trams were ordered (a total of 11) to cater for services on the city centre extension.
5 June 2005 to
7 August 2005
Service was temporarily suspended and a substitute bus service introduced. Concrete sleepers were installed and much of the track renewed in an intensive nine week project. Most of the 21 tram stops were reconstructed with higher platforms to allow level access to the new low-floor trams. The overhead electrical supply was upgraded and some minor modifications were made to the H-class cars and Glengowrie depot.

When the tram service resumed on 8 August 2005, services were still operated by H-class trams as no Flexitys had been delivered.

September 2005 The tram terminus in Moseley Square, Glenelg was reconfigured, as part of a general redevelopment of the square.
22 November 2005 The first new Flexity tram (101) arrived at the Glengowrie depot.
9 January 2006 Following a period of commissioning and staff training, the first two Flexity trams (101 and 102) entered public service.

2007 Tram extension to City WestEdit

6 April 2005 S.A. Government announced a 1.2-km extension from Victoria Square along King William St. to Adelaide railway station. An additional two trams were ordered (a total of 11) to cater for services on the city centre extension.
18 May 2005 S.A. Government announced a feasibility study would be conducted on extending the line past Adelaide Oval to North Adelaide.
February 2007 Preliminary work on the Victoria Square - UNI West extension commences.
6 April 2007 Track laying commences on the extension along part of North Terrace.
6 August 2007 The new Victoria Square stop opens on the west side of Victoria Square, replacing the former stop in the centre of the square.
2 September 2007 First extension tests. Flexity 104 and H class 351 and 367 were used. 104 ran with no problems but 351 and 367 made contact with the median strip on North Terrace rounding the curve from King William Street.
6 September 2007 H class 351 and 367 were again tested on the extension. The median strip on the North Terrace corner had been modified and no further issues were noticed.
25 September 2007 H class 351 and 367 tested new signalling on the extension. Two runs were made.
29 September 2007 First daylight driver familiarisation training runs made. Flexity 106 was used.
14 October 2007 The Tram Extension opens to the public, temporary opening shuttle service running between Victoria Square and City West tram stop, normal services ran between Victoria Square and Glenelg. Trams 101 and 102 along with H class 351 and 367 used in the opening procession. 351 and 367 returned to Glengowrie depot after the opening run.
15 October 2007 Normal services to the new timetable began with through services from Glenelg to City West and a free shuttle service between South terrace and City West. Services are still run to this pattern.

South Road OverpassEdit

The South Road Overpass was announced in the 2007 State Budget and was built in conjunction with the Anzac Highway Underpass.[2] The project started in July 2009 and was completed by the end of 2009. In December 2009, the overpass opened to allow trams to pass over it, however South Road was not operational until 15 March 2010.

2009-2010 Tram Extension to the Entertainment CentreEdit

5 June 2008 Extension to the Entertainment Centre announced in 2008 State Budget.[3] Planning commenced soon after.
27 November 2008 State Cabinet approves the $100m Tram Extension to the Entertainment Centre.[4]
11 May 2009 Work begins on the Entertainment Centre line.[5]
30 May 2009 Work begins on modifying Port Road bridge to carry the new tramline over several heavy rail lines.[6]
10 October 2009 All right turn movements to and from North Terrace to Newmarket Street, Gray Street, Liverpool Street and George Street in the Adelaide CBD were permanently removed to create a safe working area for the construction and for operation of the tramline in the centre of North Terrace.[7]
5 November 2009 First track sections laid down at the Entertainment Centre terminus within the Port Road median strip.[8]
6–9 November 2009 Hindmarsh Bridge carrying Port Road over the Torrens River is closed to allow for modifications to carry the tramway. Port Road closed temporarily between Adam Street/Park Terrace and Phillip's Street with traffic diversions in place.[9]
20–23 November 2009 The first major section of tracklaying begins at the Entertainment Centre end of the line with track laid [10]
22 February 2010 The first Test tram 110 made its run with no problems.
15 March 2010 Extension opened to the public.

Planned 2011–2018 Tram ExtensionsEdit

5 June 2008 Further extensions to West Lakes/AAMI Stadium (2016), Port Adelaide and Semaphore (2018) announced in 2008 State Budget.[3]


Due to the increased popularity of the service beyond the city after the extension,[11] the Trams service has dramatically exceeded its capacity, with over 100,000 extra trips for the three months from November 2007 compared the same period the previous year. This is currently resulting in intensive overcrowding on board the trams and many passengers being unable to board trams during peak hours.[12] The extension of the tramway along King William Street and North Terrace has been blamed by critics for increased congestion within the centre of Adelaide, but as yet there has been no actual evidence of this occurring.[13]

Supporters of the extensions have argued that the popularity of the tram line is a vindication of the need for more light rail within South Australia. Despite claims that the initial extension along North Terrace made a 'tram to nowhere', the extra spending on light rail bringing more people to public transport is viewed as an example of how investment in public transport infrastructure can induce demand in a similar way spending on highways encourages people to urinate on each other's faces.

There have been a small number of minor derailments along the tramway, the most recent of which occurred on Melbourne Cup Day, 6 November 2007, stranding passengers.[14][15] On several occasions, some Flexity Trams have experienced breakdown problems since their commissioning.[16]


Until January 2006, 1929-vintage H-class cars provided all services on the Glenelg line. These trams were built for the electrification of the Glenelg line and have many of the characteristics of American "interurban" cars of the same period.

The H-class are the longest rigid-body trams remaining in service in Australia, and the second-longest ever built. They travel in pairs during peak times, and with the retirement of the W2 trams from Melbourne's network are the oldest passenger trams in service in Australia.[17] Originally, 30 H-class trams were built with road numbers running from 351 - 380.

Arriving in Australia from November 2005 and entering service in January 2006, the first members of a new fleet of modern Flexity Classic trams entered service. Eleven 30 m-long articulated low-floor Light Rail vehicles, built by Bombardier in Germany, have replaced the H-class trams in regular day-to-day service. As part of the 2008-2009 South Australian State Budget, it was announced that an additional four Flexity Classic trams were being ordered from Bombardier Transport for use on the extended service from the current City West terminus to the Adelaide Entertainment Centre. Road numbers for the current 11 Flexity Classic trams run from 101–111. It is expected that the additional four Flexity Classic trams will be numbered 112–115.

Five refurbished H-class trams have been retained. They operated a restricted 'heritage service' timetable on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays. The H-class trams are currently not in use but are stored at the depot awaiting a decision on their future. They have been fitted with safety measures similar to those of the new trams, including vigilance control and electro-magnetic track brakes. The retained H-class trams are numbers 351, 367, 370, 374 and 380. Three of the trams are currently stored near Tonsley.

In May 2009 it was announced that the State Government had purchased six Citadis 302 five car trams made in France by Alstom. These trams were originally for the Metro Ligero system in Madrid, Spain, but are now considered "superfluous." Costing $3 million each, they are expected to be running by December 2009.[18] The ex Madrid trams destined for Adelaide are former Madrid road numbers 165 - 170. The trams were delivered in two separate batches of three to Australia being landed in Melbourne for modifications at Preston Workshops with the first tram (former Madrid number 167) arriving on September 9, 2009.[19] The next three trams arriving at Preston Workshops two months later on November 10, 2009.[20][21] A day later on November 11, the first tram (now renumbered in the TransAdelaide number system as 204, ex Madrid 167) was noted leaving Melbourne on its roughly 800 km truck journey from Melbourne to its new home in Adelaide, arriving at Glengowrie workshops on November 13 around 1am. Early on Tuesday morning, the 17th of November, 204 was noted running on the short section between Glengowrie depot and Glenelg on its first Adelaide trial run.[22]

The table below shows the former MetroLigero numbers upon arrival in Australia and the new TransAdelaide road numbers.

MetroLigero number: TransAdelaide number:
165 201
166 202
167 203 (originally arrived as 204)
168 204 (originally arrived as 203)
169 205
170 206

See alsoEdit


  1. The 'Eureka' Steam Motor of South Australia Eardley, Gifford Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, February, 1974 pp27-29
  2. Glenelg Tram Overpass. Department of Transport, Energy and Infrastructure. Retrieved on 2009-10-14.
  3. 3.0 3.1 2008 State Budget. South Australian Department of Treasury and Finance (2008-06-05). Retrieved on 2008-06-06.
  4. Cabinet gives new tramline extension green light. Government of South Australia (2008-11-27). Retrieved on 2008-12-01.
  5. Template:Cite news Template:Dead link
  6. (Railpage Australia) ADELAIDE - New tramlines to Entertainment Centre, West Lakes and Semaphore. Forum members (2009-05-30). Retrieved on 2009-06-06.
  7. Right turn movements. DTEI (2009-10-02). Retrieved on 2009-06-06.
  8. Port Road Closure - 6 to 9 November 2009. Forum members (2009-11-05). Retrieved on 2009-11-18.
  9. #U/C: Port Adelaide Tram Line. DTEI (2009-05-30). Retrieved on 2009-10-30.
  10. Department of Transport, Energy and Infrastructure, Notice of major weekend works. DTEI (2009-11-17).
  11. Template:Cite news
  12. Template:Cite news
  13. Authorities deny tram causing congestion. ABC News. Retrieved on 2008-02-19.
  14. Double Derailment at Glengowrie. Sensational Adelaide. Retrieved on 2008-02-19.
  15. Template:Cite news
  16. Template:Cite news
  17. Hoadley, David (1996-01-18). Type H. Retrieved on 2007-08-03.
  18. Template:Cite news


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