TRAINEE light rail drivers have taken the helm on the city’s new trams, spending the week building their hours on the track under the supervision of their mentors.
The 10 recruits selected from 800 applicants moved from pre-service checks and driving in the depot to hitting the track on Wednesday.
Former McDonald’s store manager and the youngest driver, Tim Major, 24, said up until now, the largest vehicle he had driven was a car.
“It’s going pretty good,” said Mr Major, who has been training with driver mentor Andrew Wallace.
“I did not think I’d pick it up as quickly as I have.
“There are a lot of simple manoeuvres, like going forward and stopping, but a lot to learn.
“The shared track between Queens Wharf and Newcastle Beach – it was not something I was really expecting, sharing with cars as well. Pulling up behind a car in front of me was different.
“The slight gradient requires more concentration because you have to manage speed and push up the hill.
“Going back down that gradient as well, you have to be using the brake enough to maintain momentum and manage the speed. It’s a challenge, but I find challenges fun.”
The driver desk has three control panels comprising 35 buttons with functions that include opening the doors, sounding the bell and raising the pantograph for the tram to charge at each stop; the t-bar master control on the left to move between traction, coasting, brake and emergency brake; a red mushroom switch on the right that enables all the brake systems; a screen; two cameras to see the sides of the vehicle; a speed meter; microphone; and a radio.
“Driving the light rail vehicle requires using your left hand on the master control to move the vehicle forward – there’s a sensor on the side and if you let go it comes to a stop after 2.5 seconds,” Mr Major said.
“We are also learning about the light rail vehicle’s capability as they can take much longer and further to stop than people think.”
Mr Wallace said the drivers were learning to think ahead and anticipate pedestrians’, cyclists’ and drivers’ actions.
“We look to make eye contact with them to make sure they have seen the light rail vehicle and know it’s there, while at the same time assessing the vehicle’s ability to stop.”
He said bells would be used sparingly.
“We don’t want people to ignore them because they hear them too often,” he said.
“We don’t want it to be white noise.”
He said it would be used in situations such as at a blind corner, when passing another tram to warn its alighting passengers and “as necessary to prevent an incident”.
If the bell does not catch attention it may be followed by a horn, flashing the lights and applying the emergency brake.
Trainees will be assessed before gaining a certificate three in rail driving.