On Monday, the Andrews Government announced plans to make 134 retired trams available to the public. The historic trams are part of a group of 237 currently stored at the Newport Railway Workshops depot in Melbourne’s west. Some of the trams being given away include the iconic green and yellow W-Class trams, which were built between 1923 and 1956.

Those seeking to acquire a tram can do so through an expression of interest system where the applicant’s ability to maintain, restore and repurpose the trams will be assessed by an independent panel.

Proposals that benefit the general public will be given priority. Under the Retired Trams Strategy, schools, community groups and not-for-profit organisations can apply to own one of the heritage-listed trams for free. (Others would have to pay to acquire one of the carriages.)

Retired trams have been given away before, with some being repurposed by schools into classrooms, and others into cafes.

Graham Jordan, the secretary of the Tramway Museum Society of Victoria, hopes the strict expression-of-interest process will ensure the history of Melbourne’s transport system will be preserved.

On a Facebook page dedicated to the W-Class fleet tram enthusiasts labelled the move as a “sell-off” with some stating the trams belong on rails, in the city.

Get our pick of the best news, features and events delivered twice a week

Jordan says that the W-Class trams were retired for a reason, adding that repurposing them would be the safest option.

“Would you get in a 1930s car and drive to work in the morning?” Jordan asks, adding that most retired tramcars are inaccessible to people living with disabilities and aren’t compliant with most modern tram standards.

Applications to acquire one of the trams can be lodged between May 28 and July 6 this year.

“If they’re not going to be used on the network, we want to keep these trams accessible to the community,” minister for public transport Jacinta Allan said in a statement.

“These Victorian icons will now be available to come to life once again and preserved for future generations to enjoy.”