TERRIFIED passengers threatened to break a window on their St Kilda Rd tram when the driver refused to open the doors after it was rocked by an explosion caused by overhead wires.
A passenger has told the Herald Sun they were on the tram with their work colleague when the wires failed, causing sparks to fly up the side of the tram about 9.30am at the corner of Toorak Rd.
“Passengers kept calling out to the driver to release the doors but nothing happened,” the passenger said.
“After the second explosion with sparks flying up the side of the tram passengers moved to the front of the tram and threatened to break a window if the door was not released.
“We were very shaken and moved away from the scene as quickly as possible once the front door was released.
All outbound trams running at the time of the incident were turned back towards the city.
Replacement busses ferried people from outside the Melbourne Arts Centre along St Kilda Rd.
Diane Oliver, who works on the busy strip, described the city’s public transport system as a “nightmare”.
“We were told to get on a tram and then jump off at the Arts Centre and wait for a bus. There’s never any details, how long do I have to wait?
“You don’t even know if you can get to where you want to go, it’s just typical of the transport system.
The tram was carrying about 30 passengers when the overhead lines failed.
Witness Kate McIntyre said she was sitting in her car at the traffic lights when she heard a massive explosion.
“I looked over and could see flames under the tram and then it exploded again and there was fire up the side.
“All I could see was flames and the people in there and I thought ‘ my god, it’s going to go up’.
“It was a full tram, there were mothers with prams and babies trying to get out.”
Local workman ran over and helped usher people to safety, Ms McIntyre said.
Cafe Rosco owner George Gereige said he saw the whole ordeal unfold through his front window.
“I heard a couple of bangs and then I looked out and saw the cable jumping from the tram,” he said.
“Luckily, no one was standing near the burnt window or under the power line, it could have been catastrophic.
“The workers blocked the area off so no one could get near it before the fire crews came.
“This cable was just put in a few weeks ago, so it’s either not up to standard or faulty.”
Yarra Trams said overhead wires came down near the corner of St Kilda and Toorak roads just after 9.30am.
Replacement buses had been ordered to ferry stranded passengers with repairs expected to take up to four hours to complete.
One witness told 3AW the tram exploded twice within a matter of seconds: “People were trying to get off and then it exploded again.”
A Metropolitan Fire Brigade spokeswoman said when fire crews arrived at the scene about 30 people had been evacuated from the tram.
“The tram had overhead lines that came off and caught the tram alight,” she said.
Tram routes 1, 3, 5, 6, 16, 64, 67 and 72 have been affected in both directions, with no trams between the Arts Centre and St Kilda Junction.