Iconic Christchurch trams back on track

13 November 2013

The Christchurch Trams have returned to the heart of the city.  Yesterday, one tram was transported from storage in Ferrymead into its city centre home at Cathedral Junction. It will be parked temporarily at Cathedral Square.  More trams will move during the week.  It is hoped they will be in service on Show Day (Canterbury Anniversary day) Friday 15 November.

The trams have been stored temporarily at the Ferrymead Heritage Park since the February 2011 earthquakes and yesterday tram number 11 was carefully transported by loader truck back to where it really belongs. 

The trams, weighing between 8.5-14 tonnes each, were transported to the Cathedral Junction tram shed by Bus and Truck Recovery.  Each tram is carefully winched onto the trailer up a ramp fitted with temporary tram tracks. 

While in storage the trams have been repaired and carefully maintained. Each tram has been fitted with new screens and audio video content produced by Hit Lab to show visitors what Christchurch looked like before the quakes and what they could look like in the future. There’s gleaming new paint, shiny metal work, glossy varnished wood and authentic period signage.

Major repairs to the 2.6 kilometre tram tracks that loop through the city were completed earlier this month as well as overhead tram wiring and cables.  

Welcome Aboard managing director Michael Esposito is delighted to see the trams make their way back to the CBD.

“It’s been a long time coming and another milestone in our city’s recovery. They’re well loved by young and old. As a symbol of Christchurch it’s wonderful to see the trams back as part of the city scape,” says Mr Esposito. 

“There was a dedicated team working behind the scenes at the Tramway Historical Society, City Council, SCIRT, CCDU and Connetics to get the trams back on track,” he added.

Tramway Historical Society president Graeme Belworthy was there to see them loaded on to the transporter and says “the trams are an iconic part of this city and it was quite emotional seeing them on the back of the transporter trucks coming through the city. Over 10,000 volunteer and paid hours have gone into getting them back.”

Among the trams to be moved during the week was a new tram, number 30, formerly a cable car from Invercargill.  The ‘Birney’ tram has been completely restored and reconditioned ready for the trams’ VIP re-opening event in late November.

Post earthquake changes will see Stage One - a new but shortened linear city route that initially starts at the northern end of New Regent Street, through Cathedral Junction, across Cathedral Square and down to Canterbury Museum and back. Stage Two completion is planned for mid-late 2014 and will see the route extended into a loop as worksites throughout the city are made safe and tram track repairs are completed. Stage Three will see the loop further extended and trams pass through the Re:START mall, hopefully by late 2014. Reduced fares will be offered because of the shorter reduced routes.


Interesting facts:

• The 10km trip from Ferrymead into the city centre took approximately 45 minutes.

• Welcome Aboard operates five trams, a restaurant tram, plus two trailers, a total of 8.  Further trams will be in operation once the loop track re opens.

• The oldest tram ‘Number 11” tram is approx. 109 years old, and was the first electric tram in Christchurch. It was built in 1904 and put into service 1906.

• Many of the original pre earthquake tram drivers are returning to work as drivers.

• Before the quakes, an estimated 280,000 people rode the trams each year. (3million over 10 years).

• There are 10,000 locals who can start re using their annual passes.

• The trams were out of operation for almost 1,000 days (996 days) since the 22 February 2011 earthquake.