HistoryTransport

Tram roundabouts of Melbourne

With 85 percent of Melbourne’s tram network mixed with general traffic, it is inevitable that they will have to pass through some interesting intersections.

B2-class tram running a down route 59 service, Essendon

In Melbourne, there are 19 roundabouts that have tram track running through them.

They are almost all located in the inner south-east (Middle Park, St Kilda, South Melbourne, etc.) or the inner north-west (Essendon, Moonee Ponds, etc.). The only exceptions are the Peel St/Dudley St roundabout in North Melbourne, the Miller St/Gilbert Rd one in Preston and, of course, the Roundabout of Death (aka the Haymarket Roundabout).

See full screen

Their spatial distribution is almost a straight line (the Axis of Roundabouts?)

Types of tram roundabouts

Given the vast array of locations and contexts where these roundabouts exist, there are many different arrangements for their operation.

Some of them are straight-on, whereas others have trams turning at various angles within the intersection.

Richardson/Mills Street in Middle Park is one example of the former category:

Epsom Road/Racecourse Road in Flemington is one example of a tram roundabout with a curve:

One feature of tram roundabouts (without traffic signals) is that all vehicles must give way to trams passing through the intersection. Presumably this is part of the road rule to give way to any vehicles already in the roundabout but expanded to also include trams approaching it.

'Give way to trams' sign at Park Street roundabout, South Melbourne

Other countries have somewhat more elaborate roundabouts – like this one from Rotterdam.

Hofplein, Rotterdam

A special mention – the Haymarket Roundabout

The infamous ‘roundabout of death‘ is notable for its complexity and age. It’s the only roundabout that has a tram junction within it.

In 1939, a report was presented and considered by Melbourne City Council on the installation of these newfangled “round-abouts” in areas close to the CBD. The proposal was panned on the basis that it would require extensive and expensive modifications of existing intersections.

Three intersections were proposed as being suitable. The “most ideal” location was at Haymarket, where the large roundabout stands today.

According to this article from The Herald at the time, the reason for picking this particular spot was that trams could be diverted underground to grade seperate them from road traffic.

In the end, Haymarket was not selected as the trial site.

However, in 1951, Melbourne City Council approved plans to construct “Melbourne’s first” roundabout (a title claimed by several others, and the subject of a future post) at Haymarket. There was a lot of confusion over the road rules for the behaviour of vehicles in this new “whirligig” intersection which took some time to iron out.

Soon after its completion, there were plans to build a large water feature in the middle, on the basis that “…Melbourne did not have a really satisfactory fountain”. It also featured a large display for the Olympic Games in 1956 of the Olympic Rings.

3 thoughts on “Tram roundabouts of Melbourne

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.