Next gen trains are coming – what can we expect?

We’re starting to learn a lot more about the proposed next generation of trains for Melbourne’s suburban rail network — known in the biz by the acronym “HCMTs” — High Capacity Metro Trains.

The rolling stock strategy released in May had some detail — and more has been revealed by an Expression Of Interest document put out last week — I’ve managed to get a copy.

So here’s what we know about what the government wants:

It’s 37 trains costing $1.3 billion TEI (that’s Total Estimated Investment) including supporting infrastructure — primarily a new depot (stabling plus a Train Maintenance Facility, or acronym TMF) at Pakenham East to store and service them.

That’s enough trains to run the entire Cranbourne/Pakenham (aka Dandenong) line — via the Loop, eg the configuration until the Melbourne Metro Rail Tunnel (which by the way seems to be going by the acronym MMRT) comes into service.

  • Update 15/3/2016: The government says the order has been expanded to 65 trains, which seems to allow for running through the tunnel to Sunbury. Will update further in the footnotes as more information comes available.

Interior of Hong Kong MTR SP1900 train
Interior of Hong Kong MTR 1900/1950 train. Source: Wikipedia. I’d expect our new trains to have more seats than this.

The trains/depot project accompanies the level crossing removals between Caulfield and Dandenong, so they can run very frequent trains without impacting road users, as well as other works such as signalling, platform extensions and power upgrades.

Of course the Siemens and Comeng trains currently running on the Dandenong line will move to other lines. And they’ve also recently funded 6 new X’Trapolis trains, as well as a $75 million “life extension” upgrade for Comeng trains on other lines.

HCMTs will cater for an average load of up to 1100 people. It sounds like this would become the new “load standard” (currently 798) for this part of the fleet.

The actual “gross” capacity would be 1380 — that’s with 40% (552) seated, plus 4 passengers standing per square metre), but with potential “extended” (more carriages) and “crush” (fewer seats) configurations — see below.

They want the contract signed by end of 2016, prototype mock-up trains by early 2017, and the first train on the rails from late 2018 — presumably just in time for the 2018 election.

Money starts flowing from the state to the PPP operator once the fifth train is delivered.

They’re assuming 15 trains delivered per year, with all trains delivered by 2022, and the contract would include 30 years of maintenance from that date.

At least 50% local content (design and manufacture), which obviously supports jobs. And obviously there will be ongoing maintenance jobs where the new depot will be at Pakenham East.

Project delivered as an “availability-based” PPP, which includes the HCMTs and the TMF and ongoing maintenance.

Comeng trains at Bentleigh
Comeng trains. These will have upgrades to keep them going, but the oldest will start to be retired next decade.

Anticipated expansion of the order at a later stage. Over time it would be the intitial 37 HCMTs for the Dandenong line, another 25 for the Sunbury line when the two are linked/through-routed by the Melbourne Metro Rail Tunnel. On top of that, another 38 (making a total of 100) to allow retirement of the oldest Comeng trains mid next decade, while still boosting overall fleet carrying capacity.

Of the initial fleet of 37, they want 35 available to run the Dandenong line peak service, and 24 available at off-peak times (including weekends). Potential for 24 hour service, though initially planned for 19 hours/7 day service, 150,000 km per annum.

Based on current round-trip times, I make that roughly a train every 4 minutes in peak, every 6 minutes off-peak.

In terms of reliability, they want 50,000 kilometres between failures (going by the lovely acronym MDBSAF — Mean Distance Between Service Affecting Failure) of three minutes, and asset availability over 95%, with a performance regime for that, with incentives and penalties.

Realtime automated status/fault monitoring.

Minimum 35-year HCMT design life, and minimum 50-year TMF design life. They also want a train simulator to help train drivers.

The depot Train Maintenance Facility needs to have capacity for 40 trains initially, with provision to expand to 80 extended trains.

The depot stabling needs capacity for 18 trains initially, provision for up to 30 extended trains. The PPP will construct the stabling, but not manage it (unlike the TMF). There’s state land east of Ryan Road, between the railway line and the Princes Freeway, which is where it will be.

Extending trains

The trains will initially be 7 cars, “semi-permanently” coupled together, with a maximum length of 160 metres.

They want provision to be able to extend them to 9 or 10 cars (230ish metres), to cater for 1570 people. Obviously this will require platform extensions. The Melbourne Metro Rail Tunnel will be built with long platforms, and recently rebuilt stations such as Springvale, Footscray and West Footscray all have provision for them. No doubt designs for the stations to rebuilt with grade separation will also include provision.

But they also want an option of a reduced length train, which can later be expanded to the 7 or 9-10 car configuration. Not really clear on why this is.

Unlike the current fleet (which is designed to quickly configure trains as 3 or 6 cars), these will have no intermediate cabs. Walk through access all the way along, as seen on trains in places such as Hong Kong.

And yes, they definitely want them single deck, not double deck. (Check this ABC Fact Check from last year for some good material on the debate around capacity.)

Acceleration of at least 1.1 metres per second squared up to 35 km/h (but not greater than 1.3). Similar braking speeds. Maximum speed 130 km/h. One of the benefits of running a single type of train on the Dandenong line is to maximise throughput/capacity.

They want at least the same performance in the Shortened or Extended configuration.

While initially planned to be deployed on the Dandenong line, they need to be compatible with the entire rail network, and they will run in mixed traffic with other types of trains.

Walk-through Siemens train
Siemens trains have a walk-through design, but fewer doors and more seats than the new fleet will have. Not to mention far too few handholds and grab rails.

Train design

End couplings compatible with other trains and locomotives (possibly with an adaptor) for recovery purposes, but otherwise not visible.

Seating that is reconfigurable relatively quickly, such that they can change it later at the rate of one train per week, with the train able to carry crush loads if the seating was reduced from 40% to 30% of passenger numbers.

Consistent door spacing to allow for future platform screen doors.

They haven’t directly specified the number of doors, but have said the number, location and size need to support dwell times of 40 seconds based on up to passenger alight/board of up to 1100 people at a busy station.

They also want automated systems to estimate passenger numbers… which I’m speculating might allow for later platform information advising passengers which carriages of the approaching trains have more space in them.

6 dedicated spots for wheelchairs behind the cab. Priority seats clearly identified close to doors.

Provision for bicycles in non-cab cars.

Handholds/grab rails — at least one available for each standing passenger.

External destination displays on the ends of the trains, and every second car along the side. Internal displays in each carriage.

Internal CCTV, of course, kept for at least 14 days. Intercom and alert systems.

Safeguards to ensure the train doesn’t move unless doors are closed and locked.

Train able to handle power between 1300-1800 volts, and degraded performance down to 1000 volts and up to 1950 volts. Ever get the feeling that the power supplies are becoming a big issue on our aging rail network?

Air-conditioning rated for conditions of up to 46 degrees. Provision for future WiFi.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this develops. Sounds like we’ll be seeing quite a modern design of train, in line with the practice of busy Big City metro systems worldwide… just the thing we’re increasingly going to need on our busy rail system.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

34 replies on “Next gen trains are coming – what can we expect?”

No provision for 25kV AC conversion. Suggests that’s not on the cards in the next 50 years.

46C also seems on the low side with expectations of climate on the next 50 years. I guess aircon units could be replaced though in a mid cycle refresh.

Platform screen doors is interesting. Would likely require some level of control/approach automation to achieve perfect stops every time…

@Dave, it does say the trains should be compatible with a possible “3000 Volt DC overhead power supply”, which may indicate a possible future upgrade.

It also says it should have provision for future Automatic Train Operations (ATO) — note this does not necessarily mean driverless, as many ATO systems work with a train operator. See Wikipedia.

I can’t see any mention of future gauge conversion.

Your reference to “semi permanently” coupled in quotes suggests something odd or unknown about this. For those who don’t know, it’s the way that most of our carriages are already coupled. The three carriages that make up a three-car set are semi-permanently coupled; they can’t be separated by the driver.

The automated system to estimate passenger numbers could equally likely be to avoid hiring casual staff to count passengers to see how loaded the services are, to help planning on where additional services are needed.

Dave wrote: “46C also seems on the low side with expectations of climate on the next 50 years.”
Not given that the expectations have proven quite overblown, with a pause in warming for about the last 18 years, which none of the models predicted.

I noted that the example in the photo has hard surface seating. While it might not be as comfortable to sit on it will be much easier to keep clean and it is more vandal proof than the currant cloth seating. They should consider using hard seating on new trains. One of my biggest gripes is that the seating on the trains and trams is often very dirty and sometimes even wet with who knows what. I’m sure it costs a lot to steam clean or reupholster seating as it is obvious it is not done often enough on some of the trains. The dirty seating also makes the trains and trams look more poorly maintained and shabby than they really are. I think New York City uses hard seating on it’s subway cars.

It’s great that we’re getting Metro-style trains (instead of Commuter-style, like Tait trailer 201BT and all trains Harris and later designs), but it’s downright stupid to think they’re in any way suitable for runs as long as Pakenham (until Dandenong CBD is large enough to compete with Melbourne CBD).

The new trains would be at home on lines like Sandringham, Upfield and Williamstown, and that might free up enough Siemens (retrofitted with, say, VLocity-style interiors) to provide a better level of service on the longer runs.

Taking a snapshot of exactly 8am on weekdays from the public timetables indicates 159 train rosters. Of those, 61 are on the Hillside half of the network, and can be covered with the 67 Xtrapolis 6-car sets reasonably available out of 79 total (soon to be 87 total, 73 available for service).

The remaining Bayside half of the system is made up of 98 rosters split thus:
Williamstown line: 3 trains
Westona line: 4 trains
Werribee line: 8 trains
Sunbury line: 14 trains inc. 6 Watergardens runs
Craigieburn line: 12 trains inc. 1 Broadmeadows run (shunting, to form 0804 up)
Upfield line: 5 trains
Pakenham line: 22 trains, inc. 1 Westall and 10 Dandenong runs
Cranbourne line: 2 trains
Frankston line: 19 trains inc. 1 Moorabbin, 2 Mordialloc, 2 Carrum runs
Sandringham line: 9 trains

Daniel’s said that the Government wants 35 of the 37 trains to be available for peak services. That’s not really practical – most railways around the world tend to operate at 85% in service, 5% live spare and 10% rostered maintenance, and Connex’s worst reliability occurred when they exceeded that limit, and was restored to reasonable when they got more trains and returned to that limit*. So of the 37 trains, 31 in service plus 2 live spare in peak hours seems reasonable.

Those 31 trains could be allocated to, say, Williamstown, Westona, Upfield, Dandenong and Sandringham rosters to start (31 trains by current schedules), which are all relatively short runs with closely spaced stops forming a Metro-style of service. If more flexibility is needed or if more trains are ordered, then runs like Broadmeadows, Westall, Moorabbin, Mordialloc and Carrum could be thrown into the mix, along with the increased services in general.

*Incidentally, the bus network tends to work best at 90% total rostered (not clear whether that includes live spares or not), and the tram network currently operates at 95% in service, 4% live spare or nonPSR schedules and 1% maintenance, which is why reliability is so pathetic by comparison.

Crickey! I’d hate to be the person who writes the contract for the supply/service of those trains. It’s all very complicated. And what you’ve given us, Daniel, is a short (neat) summary, thanks.
PS “The actual gross capacity would be 1380 — that’s with 40% (345) seated..” Am I reading this correctly – 40% should be 552.

have been following the blog for some time, enjoyed it, thanks. subscribed to the newsletter this morning, however I found in passing that the information detailing how to subscribe to the yahoo group was helpfully redacted by your blog software, so you might want to change that … :)

I predict that in order to “save jobs in Ballarat”, the new trains will end up being 7-car X’Trapolis trains, the same as the ones we’re getting now but with no middle cabs, and 2×1 seating. These things never end up being as impressive as they sound.

If we get longer trains, the need for more train entrances and exits becomes even more compelling.

Walking past the whole platform to get to the station entrance and just missing the train is annoying. So is getting on the last carriage and then having to walk 100 metres to the station exit at your stop.

I did some cost-benefit analysis on the benefit of installing extra entrances and it was well worthwhile:

I agree with the poster above, there is no way those trains will be welcomed if the operate beyond Dandenong.

In fact, if we are really going to go the way of London, The existing Pakenham and Cranbourne lines should not change at all after the opening of Metro Tunnel, other than selected peak runs. Rather, Metro should provide additional services as far as Dandenong.

It may be possible to have a limited peak hour extentions beyond Dandenong

I fear what those trains will do to the image of public transport in the outer suburbs. I really fear it.

@John, I was aware of the concept of “semi-permanently”, but I’m not sure I’d seen it expressed like this before. Maybe I haven’t been paying attention.

Re: 46 degrees, I don’t intend to turn this into a debate about climate change, but suffice to say there is no consensus from climate scientists that there has really been a pause. See: Scientific American.

@Jed, I’d be surprised if we get hard seating like that here. We had something like it in the original Hitachi fleet, and since then they’ve moved away from it to to cushions. I agree though, cleanliness is a real problem, especially in the original Siemens train (blue) and tram (green) seats.

@David, Connex’s reliability might have slipped when using a high proportion of the fleet, but as I understand it, Metro are on a high availability percentage, and also it’s worth remembering that older trains may be more prone to failure. What might be worth comparing is the desired mean time between failures of this new fleet with the older models. (I don’t think I have those figures, alas.)

@Roger, oops, corrected – thanks!

@L2, I really doubt it. Would X’traps meet all the other requirements?

@Jason, inclined to agree. Frustratingly there seems to be some resistance to this in the context of station rebuilds related to the level crossing removals. More about this in a new post soon.

@Jim, “selected peak runs” is a great way to limit track throughput and confuse people. Dedicated tracks/routes and high frequencies is the way we seem to be going, mimicking systems such as London, and I for one welcome it.

Number of seats may be an issue, but the 40% figure indicates they do not in any way want to go as far in seat reductions as the HK photo at the top.

The old blue seat fabric on the Siemens trains is the most dirty of all but I am seeing it less and less now as they get reupholstered. Even though these seats can be the most dirty they are in my opinion also the most comfortable of all the train seats with good support all the way up to shoulder hight. Even though they are older the Siemens trains also seem to have a quieter and smoother ride and in the summer their A/C seems to work better and feel colder and more refreshing too.

Re sets being semi-permanantly coupled, my understanding was that it was based on drawbars vs autocouplers (or screw, chopper etc). Then there’s things like the 3-car portions of N sets (ACN-BRN-BN) which I think are autocoupled both ends but it’s just not the done thing to split them; and 32ABU-40ABU at Korumburra which each only have autocouplers on one end, and screw couplers in the middle so splitting the pair would not achieve anything.

Re availability, yes there are a whole series of other reasons why a network can collapse, but overuse of the fleet, in Melbourne’s experience, is probably the most obvious guarantee of consistent failure. All the other factors have to add up with each other to cause network-wide problems; a lack of trains equally spread among the system causes problems all over the place.

Re Xtraps, I wonder if the modular design allows for, say, four or five door-pairs per carriage? Also running to Pakenham would require fixing the 90 km/h speed restriction (which we can ignore if we put them on the shorter, lower-speed runs).

Re short vs long runs, it’s mostly a marketing and track capacity issue. Quadding to Oakleigh and Moorabbin provides sufficient capacity to allow for a regular mix of expresses and stoppers, and since the rosters don’t mix it is entirely practical to segregate.

Do the documents say anything about the train door height relative to the platform for the new trains? This aspect is important for the fixed wheelchair ramps. The existing train types have doors at different heights meaning that a ramp set at the correct height for one type of train is not suitable for others. For example the ramp at the Flagstaff end of platform 2 at Melbourne Central is too low for Siemens trains. I assume that it is at the correct height for Comeng trains.

@Chris, yeah I noticed the other day a Siemens train driver deploying a ramp at that location and wondered if the Siemens train floor was too high.

The document does say the floor should be “1170mm -0mm / +10mm above the top of the rail” – I haven’t checked how this compares with the relevant standards for platforms and other trains in the fleet.

The Vicsig site has some details of the three current types of suburban train used in Melbourne. The floor height of the Siemens is given as 1230mm, some 60mm higher than that specified for the next gen trains. No floor height information is provided for the Comeng or X’Trapolis types but presumably they are close to the1170mm specified for the new train.

It’s common knowledge that the Siemens design wasn’t made for Melbourne. when they were introduced they were too wide and most platforms on the M>Train network had to be cut back. I don’t know whether that was a failure of the contract language, or outright ignoring of the contract. Daniel, do you have access to M>Train’s tender for rollingstock?

Platforms in general are at 1170mm from rail height (and 1525mm from track centreline), but Mitcham and Springvale were built at 1180mm. This was allowed for in the design specs but never used before, and it was intended to avoid needing to build on-platform wheelchair ramps.

Unfortunately, 1180mm is just high enough to conflict with the external doors fitted to V/Line’s luggage vans. Apparently they were *always* out-of-gauge, and it’s just never mattered until now. So when a V/Line train with luggage van went through the new Springvale for the first time (a few weeks after it opened), the door struck the rubber platform extensions. It then fell off somewhere in the vicinity of Dandenong yard (possibly on the return trip?). Since then the vans have been banned from running through to Traralgon, though some have since had their doors replaced with a roller design.

I suspect the ban also affects the wider W-type carriages (numbers 60+) that Steamrail has, but I haven’t seen any evidence.

You’re right, Daniel, there’s no consensus that the warming has completely paused, but then there was never a consensus that the dire predictions were warranted, and it’s pretty clear, as I mentioned, that the pause or slowdown in rise or whatever wasn’t predicted. If I can point out a bit of irony, for years we were told that the science is settled, and that the only ones who disagreed were unscientific “deniers” (like holocaust deniers). Now that the predictions have been shown to be wrong, we are told that the science is not settled, and apparently the ones who won’t accept that it’s not warming as predicted are still supposed to be taken seriously.

By the way, I forgot to mention that I think you have a typo: “There’s state lane east of Ryan Road”, should refer to “state land”, I presume?

@David, I don’t recall seeing that document.

@Tony, thanks. Note that reduced seating is only one aspect of high capacity trains. They really need to be designed to minimise dwell times as well, otherwise the time taken at stations reduces total line capacity. (Brisbane has similar layouts in some carriages — see here).

>Air-conditioning rated for conditions of up to 46 degrees

I hope it specifies what temperature the carriages should be cooled to and how quickly it can recover from opened doors etc. Not much point if it can only cool to 40 degrees when it is 46 degrees outside.

The shortlist of bidders to build Melbourne’s new fleet of 37 new high capacity trains has been revealed.

Minister for Public Transport and Employment, Jacinta Allan, today announced that three consortia headlined by local manufacturers have been selected for the next phase of the tender process.

They are:

Bombardier – comprising Bombardier Transportation Australia, Macquarie Bank, ITOCHU and Infrared Capital Partners
Eureka Rail – comprising Alstom, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ and John Laing
Evolution Rail – comprising Downer EDI, Changchun Railway Vehicles and Plenary

I am known as an advocate of double-deck trains. The Farrell claims were specious to the point of being outright lies. Single deck does not move more people per hour per track, and dwell times are irrelevant for that. Increasingly, dwell times have to allow for wheelchair loading/offloading; Victorian drivers have got that down to 60 s. The Victorian specs just cannot work, particularly those for acceleration on Melbourne power supply. There is the perpetual confusion of what a metro is and what a suburban railway is, and the perpetual refusal to look at the world’s best example for Melbourne: Paris RER. The so-called ‘high capacity’ comes from stripping seats: a move which will end up biting any government sufficiently gullible to follow PTV advice. The whole project is focussed on just one line, and the rest of the system suffers with no improvement, and no money for any improvement. Mumbai has just converted dc to ac, under in-traffic conditions.

How about buttons to allow the passengers to close the doors? Like they have on other trains across the world? That would keep the heat in on cold days and keep it out on hot days, rather than the current idiotic setup where we have to wait two minutes or so after opening a door before it eventually closes itself.

They need the option to be shorter than 7 cars initially as they will run on the Pakenham/ Cranbourne line until the metro tunnel is opened.. So they will need to run via the city loop until the new tunnel opens… Most platforms can be extended but not fss without major works & also the city loop.

In reply to David Stosser, how do you get that information? I’d love to know.

Also, I believe that they should be built to have their gauge changed if required, especially if they are running on say the Upfield line when it gets extended to Wallan, as that whole line to Seymour and Shepparton may have been standardised by then, and it would be silly to build new broad gauge tracks.

@Peter – The 7 car trains are the short ones at ~160m long (same length as the City Loop / FFS platforms). The plan is to extend them after the new tunnel opens to ~220m long which is 9 or 10 carriages long.

Hooray, new trains! Oh wait, they’re all going out east. again. meanwhile the west gets more awful hand-me-down Comengs. thanks PTV!

I might at least hope the new seat configurations have swing backs like in Sydney but that probably makes to much sense for us Victorians. Knee to knee, that’s how we like it. am i right or what?

PTV has already stated that Comengs will start retiring by 2018 with the remaining retiring by 2022

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