MTT tries trolley buses as competition mounts; finances halt Adelaide tram line extensions
A 1926 Garford double decker bus used by the Municipal Tramways Trust (MTT).
Displayed at National Motor Museum, Birdwood.
From 1915, the South Australian government's Municipal Tramways Trust (MTT) had to compete against unregulated private buses that often travelled ahead of the trams on the same route to steal fares.
The MTT countered by opening its own motor bus routes from 1925. The South Australian government began regulating buses within the state in 1927 but some private operators used a line in the Australian Constitution to their advantage. By notionally marking each ticket as a fare from the pickup point to Murrayville, Victoria (but allowing passengers to board or alight sooner) companies avoided having to abide by the regulation.
Up until the end of World War I, most Adelaideans depended on public transport for daily journeys but the growth of private cars decreased passenger numbers.
The MTT tried novel enterprises to bring in revenue. In 1929, cars 274 and 275 were fitted with additional air brake pipes to allowing them to haul horse transport cars between the city and Morphettville racecourse on the Glenelg line.
From the start of the Depression until the closure of the network, only one batch of trams was bought by the MTT.
During the Depression, the MTT needed to expand services but lack of finance prevented laying new tracks. It decided to trial trolleybuses and a converted petrol bus began running experimentally on the Payneham to Paradise tram line during the off-peak in May 1932. The trial concluded in 1934, with trams resuming operation.
The trial was judged a success and the MTT planned its first permanent trolley bus line. In 1937, the new trolley bus service start from Light Square in the Adelaide CBD to Tusmore. In 1938, services extended to Port Adelade, Semaphore and Large Bay.
Petrol rationing during World War II boosted passenger numbers again. Patronage remained higher than before the war until rationing was discontinued in 1951.
Meanwhile, due to lack of funds, there was minimal maintenance of the tram network during World War II and post-war shortages prevented new trams being bought.