A light Wray-l option?

Since roadworks began earlier this year as part of the South Street upgrade, I’ve become very conscious of the increased amount of public transport travelling on Wray Avenue. Even though the roadworks have finished, I’m pretty certain that more routes travel up Wray than did previously.

While it has certainly made my trip home from work easier, as more bus connections stop by my house than ever before, it has also made the street considerably noisier and more hazardous. Case in point, earlier this week I heard a loud bang on the street. When I went to look, I discovered that a bus had collided with a parked ute, its driver having left the tail of his vehicle jutting out from the parking spot on the corner of Brennan and Wray while he shopped at Galati’s. I’m certain that buses speed along this stretch and the narrow street, with parking either side, means that they often overhang their lane. Car drivers aren’t exactly supportive. And don’t get me started about the hazards faced by cyclist!

I should point out that I’m a big fan of public transport, even with these perils and fully support it. In fact, I’m the sort of nut that gets excited at the development of public infrastructure. I don’t know why, but I find myself enthused by proposals to extend railway lines, improve connectivity and reintroduce tramlines.

I’ll admit then that I’ve often sat on the porch of my Wray Avenue cottage and wondered what it would be like to have trams, rather than buses, rolling past on their way east to the suburbs or downtown to the train station.

To my mind, Wray Avenue would make a perfect road for such a tram line. I would imagine that the corner of South Street and South Terrace is too tight and the gradient of South Street too steep to climb. With increasing retail in the Wray Avenue precinct, a stop at the bottom would be essential.

This led me to investigate the history of trams in Fremantle and whether they’d ever run up Wray. It turns out that they did.

Fremantle’s first tramways began in 1905. I haven’t been able to find a map of the routes but from what I can gather, by April of 1906 there were several routes servicing Fremantle [1].

One ran along South Terrace (then called Mandurah Road) at the bottom of Wray Avenue, taking passengers all the way to South Beach.

The Beaconsfield route ran along Hampton Road and turned up Wray Avenue where Moondyne Joe’s (formerly the Beaconsfield Hotel) is and headed up to turn southwards at Solomon Street. This route terminated at the primary school (I presume by continuing along Solomon Street). It was later extended eastwards along South Street to Central Avenue and later again to Carrington Street.

What is interesting is that, from photos that I have seen, there is hardly anyone living along the end of the Beaconsfield lines at these times. It means that people actually had the forethought and vision to put this infrastructure in, anticipating that it would grow with time. It seems strange in our times when there is a lot of talk but no real action on delivering this kind of infrastructure.

As an interesting aside, William Ernst Wray, after whom Wray Avenue was renamed, was elected to the tramways board in 1919 and served as chairman in 1920.

1 – http://pets.railpage.org.au/pets10f.html