Lonnie deserves fair deal for tram comeback inquiry

WHY shouldn't the state government cough up a few bucks to test whether a Launceston tram comeback is feasible?

Our political representatives have after all trumped up $135,000 to hire consultants to examine whether Hobart again gets trams in a mooted $70 million to $100 million project.

What about Lonnie? Perhaps our proposed $3 million project isn't seen as half as exciting.

Let's lay it on the line here, trams are beautiful beasts.

Shiny and smoothly railed (not so rattly these days), these transports of delight glide quietly along gradually lengthening networks worldwide.

Fixed rail city street transport is enjoying a resurgence from Sydney to Prague and Birmingham, UK, where tracks have been relaid in the northern city's centre.

Now enthusiasts in both Launceston and Hobart have plans to see trams back on the tracks.

While Launceston tram fans propose a $3 million project to run a 1.2-kilometre track along Lindsay Street on the northern side of the North Esk River, Hobartians are salivating at the "big city" status that would be granted them with the mooted $70 million Riverline light rail to run from the city to Moonah and possibly beyond.

The difference between the two cities' concepts is that, while the Launceston Tram Society-backed idea is seemingly stalled somewhere in the terminus, the Hobart dream may become reality as the state government calls in consultants to check out the concept's feasibility.

The Hobart idea has a big plus for it in infrastructure, ie. rails, already in place around the Domain and onwards to Glenorchy, Berriedale and (pause for awed silence whenever it's mentioned down South) ... the Museum of Old and New Art.

The track is a legacy of the state's main line rail system running into Hobart's port.

Be that as it may, we haven't heard a dickey bird concerning the Lonnie project since last October.

Perhaps that pleases the usual nay-sayers who don't want to see our historic yet rejuvenated old trams, the 30-seat No. 1 and 50-seat 29 for starters, among others trundling along.

The Launceston society originally proposed a more highly visible $10 million plan for a city service from Home Point, via Civic Square, to Inveresk.

We wonder whether the Northern city's prospects of a city service would be enhanced were Lonnie to follow Hobart's lead in using tracks that are already there.

Around 10 years ago, a section of Launceston's extensive tramline network resurfaced, found lurking beneath the bitumen in High Street, near David Street, as contractors realigned the road.

Then they covered it over again.

We recall tramlines that reappear at the Charles Street- Paterson Street corner when the tarmac wears off a bit.

Who knows where else steel hides beneath the tar?

Between 1911 and 1952, the tram service took passengers to Mowbray, Trevallyn, West Launceston, Newstead and to Kings Meadows where a dedicated track went as far as Carr Villa cemetery.

In 1928, to pick a year, the trams carried an amazing 4,720,644 passengers in a city of 35,000.

In an extraordinary example of early trade globalisation, while the original trams were built here by J. & T. Gunn using Tasmanian timbers (blackwood and huon pine), rails were imported from America's Lorain Steel Co., points and crossings shipped from England's Hadfield Foundry in Sheffield and electric motors made by German firm Siemens.

The last Launceston tram bell clanged along Elphin Road on December 13, 1952.

Trams stopped in Birmingham in 1953 but are now being reborn, boosted as "bringing trams back to the heart of the city" and considered more environmentally friendly than diesel and petrol- driven buses.

They're expected to generate 1300 jobs.

It's time to revive a Lonnie tram route.

If a state government funded tram inquiry is good enough for Hobart, how about Lonnie?

Fares please!

Martin Stevenson.

Martin Stevenson.


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