They have toured the Yarra trams hub in the CBD and met Damien Chabas, the manager of accessibility and standards, and Emilie Perrot, the director of customer experience.

But what does the French language have to do with Yarra Trams?

You wouldn’t believe it but in fact Keolis Downer, the transport provider of Yarra Trams, is a joint venture between Keolis, the largest private sector French transport group, and Downer Rail, an Australian railway engineering company that operates bus and tram services in Australia.

My students were impressed to discover the operational and power centres where the electricity needs are assessed on a 24 hour basis.

After an interesting and informative brainstorming session with Damien, reflecting on the pros and cons of tramways, the students made some suggestions for improvements as they are heavy users of this popular Melbourne mode of public transport.

They learned there are tram stops every 300 or 400 metres, that Melbourne has 1700 stops and that our tram network is the longest in the world - or as the French would say 'le plus grand réseau du monde'.

The trams are very convenient and liked by tourists, but as they share the road with bikes, motorbikes, and cars, they are relatively slow, travelling at between 13 and 15 km/h.

So, the situation is not to be compared with other parts of the world where the tram has its own space. About one Melburnian out of three takes the tram and Yarra Trams carries 200 million commuters every year. 

The fact is that the tram remains a cultural icon - or 'une icône culturelle'.

Safety is number one priority for Yarra Trams, with happiness of commuters a close second.

Yarra Trams have been complimented for their prompt reaction to the devastating recent Bourke Street incident, with the company's motto of “Keep people moving” being enacted to the letter that day.

Finally, fare evasion was also on my students' list. They learned that the rate of fare evasion in 2010 was 20 per cent but has dropped to 4.6 per cent in 2017.

My students have realised that speaking French is a real asset to companies like Yarra Trams and that it allows them to travel and see other places.

But most of all, they have discovered that behind the scenes ('dans les coulisses'), people are working very hard to help you arrive safely at your destination.