Why did Melbourne keep its trams, especially during the 1950s and 1960s when other Australian capital cities, the major cities in New Zealand, the UK and Ireland, and most US and Canadian cities didn’t? Melbourne now has the largest tramway system in the world, as measured by route length, though not by passenger numbers. This paper will explore how the automobile clubs and bus lobbies campaigned to get rid of trams. What is it in Melbourne’s topography and political culture which enabled its tramway system to survive, while Sydney, with a bigger system, closed its entire network? Cities abandoning their trams promptly turned to buses. Only a handful of ‘heritage’ tram lines survived, though there is now a resurgence of light rail in some cities, and of all places, on the Gold Coast. The paper will set the analysis in the context of the coming of mass car ownership in the 1950s and 1960s, and the apparent attraction of getting rid of trams in the name of modernity.
The author 2014
Proceedings of the 12th Australasian Urban History Planning History Conference 2014