An exciting new era of public transport commenced in Newcastle on 17 February 2019 with the official opening of the city’s highly anticipated light rail network.
With light rail services now underway, it is important for drivers, especially, to understand how to behave and be safe around trams and tram tracks.
The following are some of the main rules contained in the NSW Road Rules 2014:
New speed limits are in force for some areas in close proximity to tram lines. For example, the speed limit for all vehicles on Hunter and Scott streets between Worth Place and Telford Street is 40km/h.
Probably the most important rule to remember is that drivers must not stop in a tram lane, a tramway or on tram tracks. This means using a tramway to pass slow moving vehicles or cyclists is not permitted.
A tramway is part of the road that is marked by tram-only signs and two continuous yellow lines or a structure on the left-hand side of the track. Other vehicles are only permitted to use a tramway to avoid an obstruction, such as a broken-down vehicle.
Tram lanes, on the other hand, are marked along the left side of the tracks by a continuous yellow line parallel to the tracks. Like tramways, drivers must never stop or drive in a tram lane. An exception is made for truck drivers who need to use a tram lane to reach a delivery or drop-off point.
Drivers are also prohibited from stopping at a tram stop or within 20 metres before a sign that indicates a tram stop, unless parking signs permit stopping.
Driving Past a Stopped Tram
Generally, if a tram stops at a tram stop, drivers must not pass the rear of the tram if any doors on the tram are opening or closing, or pedestrians are entering or crossing the road. If neither of these scenarios are in play, a driver may only proceed past a stationary tram at a speed of 10km/h.
The section between Newcomen and Pacific streets is designated for mixed running. This means trams and other vehicles share the road.
In this section, drivers should treat trams like any other large vehicle under the road rules.
Keeping Clear of Trams
Drivers must not move into the path of an approaching tram travelling in a tram lane. If a driver is in the path of an approaching tram, they must move out of the path of the tram as soon as it is safe to do so.
Passing or Overtaking Trams
Whether drivers are permitted to pass or overtake a tram, depends on whether or not the tram tracks are located at or near the far-left side of the road.
If tracks are not at or near the far-left side of the road, drivers must not pass, or overtake, a tram to the right of the tram, unless the driver is permitted to do so by a traffic sign or road marking.
If a tram is turning left or is indicating left, drivers must not pass or overtake unless they are turning left and there is no danger of a collision with the tram.
Alternatively, if tracks are at or near the far-left side of the road, a driver must not pass or overtake to the left of the tram unless they are turning left and there is no danger of a collision.
Drivers should also avoid driving past, or overtaking, a tram if the tram is turning right or is indicating right.
Finally, drivers should be aware that the maximum penalty that applies to most of the above road rules is a fine of $2,200.
*2019 March Advantage Review image courtesy of ABC.net.au