From the skies to the rails

14 Oct 2020

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Yarra Trams has been able to offer just over 30 frontline roles to those who would usually be moving passengers in the skies.

For many in the airline industry, a transition to the tram network seemed like a great opportunity to continue to deliver vital passenger services – just on the ground instead.

Over the last few months Yarra Trams has recruited former cabin crew, operations staff, and pilots to frontline roles – including as drivers, authorised officers, and customer service employees.

Emily Cashen, a former cabin crew member with Virgin Australia turned Authorised Officer, was one of the first new recruits and says that while the transition has been challenging at times, her experience in the airline industry has carried over.

“Every day I helped passengers in the air, and there are a lot of vital communication skills that you need to be able to do that well,” Emily said.

“Those same skills I’ve been using in my new role – particularly during these challenging times where people may be feeling uncertain during their journeys.”

Michael Ho worked as an Operations Analyst in the airline industry before he saw an opening at Yarra Trams which resonated with his inner child.

“I have always been fascinated by trams since a young kid (not just planes!),” Michael said.

“I was born and raised in Hobart and there are no passenger rail services there so whenever I visited Melbourne as a kid I used the tram to get everywhere.”

Adam Snelgar and Phillip Tarquino were both pilots and even flew together before the pandemic caused flights to be grounded. It was pure coincidence that they happened to bump into each other at their first day of training at Yarra Trams, and now both work out of Southbank Depot.

Adam has said the both rail and aviation share many of the same attributes, like commitment to safety and passengers, but the toughest challenge he has faced so far has been the terminology.

“I’ve had a couple times where I’ve pulled into the terminus to switch ends, and then told passengers to vacate on the right-hand side of the aircraft!” Adam said.

Phillip on the other hand, who is a Mornington Peninsula local, has said getting his head around all the streets and routes has been tough – especially without a GPS to help.

“It’s been a good time actually to get used to the role with less cars and passengers… and there are plenty of transferable skills as well – even the simulator training is similar to the ones we use in aviation.”

Yarra Trams is proud to be able to offer these roles, along with more vital cleaning and safety jobs, to Victorians who have fallen on hard times due to the pandemic.


Michael Ho on board a plane, and now on board a tram