New trains – 2000 people?!

The Age broke the story last week that the new High Capacity Metro Trains (HCMTs) are being designed to cope with up to 2000 people, at a density of up to 6 people per square metre, and seats for 30-40% of the total load.

Cue the outrage (from some quarters) — but it’s important to look at the numbers, because when you break it down, it’s not actually much different to what we already have.

The important thing is that the load standard is different to the gross/maximum/crush load capacity.

Let me summarise it in a table, then you can read the long boring explanation if you wish.

Cars Load standard Per car Gross capacity
/ crush load
Per car
Comeng* 6 900 150 1526 crush load 254
Siemens* 6 900 150 1584 crush load 264
X’Trapolis* 6 900 150 1394 crush load 232
HCMT 7 1100 157 1380 gross capacity 197
HCMT 10 1570 157 1970 gross capacity 197

*Crush load figures for the existing fleet are from before seat modifications were made.

The current train “load standard” is 900 people per 6 carriages, with about half of those seated, and half standing. (The magic number used to be 798, or 133 per carriage. Recent changes made it 900, or 150 per carriage, with more changes to come).

But 900 is NOT the capacity. It’s meant to be the upper limit for a comfortable load; the trigger point at which they should be planning for more services.

In a crush load, such as was seen on many lines on the morning of the Age story, you might get 1500 people onto a 6-car train — in fact the Comeng fleet “crush” capacity is said to be 1526.

Channel 7’s Brendan Donohoe enterprisingly got a metre square and took it on a train to show how 6 people per square metre looks. Not much different to the above.

So if the current crush load is about 1500, that’s 250 per carriage.

The 1,970 quoted for the new fleet is not a “load standard”, but a “gross capacity”, aka a maximum for planning purposes.

(At first I thought this was similar to a “crush load”, perhaps in more politically-correct terms. But perhaps not; at 197 per carriage, it’s quite a bit lower than the current figures of around 250 per carriage.)

The 1,970 figure is also for a much longer train.

From the documents I’ve seen, the load standard for the initial 7-car configuration will be 1100, or 157 per carriage. Not much different from the current 6-car load standard of 900, or 150 per carriage.

Extending the trains from 7 to 10 cars later (on the Sunbury and Dandenong/Cranbourne/Pakenham lines via the metro tunnel) will therefore extend the load standard to 1570.

Comeng train

Planning for a crush load of up to 1970 on a 10-car train is not unreasonable.

It means that the carriages will safely carry that many people (factors such as weight and braking come into play), and if they get the interior design right, there’ll be places for everyone to hold on.

This is a big issue with many of the current fleet: the Siemens and Comeng trains have very few handholds apart from around the doorways.

Most of the X’Trapolis fleet is better, but those handholds are mostly too far towards the side of the carriage, meaning you have to reach over seated passengers to grab them.

Singapore MRT train in peak hour

Having participated in stakeholder consultation for the new train design, I can tell you: the carriages have a mix of seating: longitudinal (along the carriage) at the ends, providing more standing space, and areas for wheelchairs and bicycles, and transverse (across the carriage) seating in the middle areas.

The semi-permanent marshalling into 7 or 10 car sets, with no intermediate driver cabs, will save space, and the walk-through design will make it easier to move to the next carriage if it’s less crowded.

And they intend on having more vertical poles than the current fleet, meaning far more places to hold on, as well as handholds from the ceiling.

Crowded train, Richmond

So rather than get outraged at the prospect of 2000 people crush-loaded into a train, the real questions are:

Will the new train fleet be designed to better cope with that many people?

Will there be enough seats for people travelling long distances, and/or those who can’t stand?

And will there be enough trains running that trains that crowded are the exception rather than the rule?

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.

9 replies on “New trains – 2000 people?!”

@Marcus, very good question! The current stations already struggle during peak times, including the relatively new Southern Cross. And that’s even when all the escalators are working.

On the bright side, the longer trains when they arrive in the CBD will serve the brand new stations about to be built. One would hope that passenger throughput is a core part of the designs.

This morning, I swear the ComEng train I was on felt like it had at least 6 people per square meter. I think if that was the crushload, I think the 10-car HCMT can easily fit more than 2000.

Also, I think you forgot to caption one of those photos as being taken on a Singapore MRT train. I didn’t like it that much then, but now I’m actually quite fond of those 3-prong vertical poles and the 3 rows of handles. Nothing can be more annoying than not having anything to hold onto because people insist on resting their bums or any other body parts (except the hands!) on those poles.

I wouldn’t mind if some time in the future, the government would invest some money into building pedestrian bridges or ramps on the other end of heavily used stations. Yes, I’m looking at you, Laverton. One of the lifts is not working and I feel sorry for those who have to depend on them.

Longer trains for Dandenong line, meanwhile 3 carriage trains are still running between the city and Ringwood at night, while the trains going to the city after 8:30PM are twice an hour. But we have shiny new X’Trapolis trains mixed with others slowly creeping towards twenty years old, so we should STFU, right?

Also, what the crap is with the ads inside trains being entirely in Chinese these days? The last two trains I was on were 50M-1325T-49M (OzPathway) and 5M-1303T-6M (Melbourne Village), all with ads stuck on either side of the end doors. I’d rather have the graffiti back!

Daniel Bowen wrote…..’And will there be enough trains running that trains that crowded are the exception rather than the rule?’
With fares only recovering about 30% of operating costs, then this will still be the rule rather than the exception. The Government (or operator – not sure how it actually works) will not put on any extra trains unless there are a series of trains that are consistently full to crush loaded. We have seen this on the Craigieburn and Werribee lines, where the additional capacity created by RRL has not made its way into many extra services.

Comments are closed.