Do Melbourne’s new trains have fewer seats?

Seems like we’re now stuck with the rather dull term HCMT (High Capacity Metro Train) for the new train fleet to run initially on the Cranbourne/Pakenham line.

The first train was out and and about taking passengers just after Christmas (for one return trip), but more are expected to be running when the new timetable takes effect at the end of January.

The question has been repeatedly asked: how many seats will the HCMTs have? Some people assume it’ll be far fewer than the existing trains, but it’s not really the case.

Carriage types

Unlike the existing fleets, which consist of just Motor and Trailer cars (hence the M and T suffixes you see on the carriage numbers) the HCMT will have several different carriage types:

(Edit: Revised after I messed this up the first time)

  • Tc – Trailer car with cab
  • DMp – Motor car with pantograph and intercar door
  • Mp – Motor car with pantograph without intercar door
  • DT – Trailer car with intercar door

The consist of a seven car train will be: Tc – DMp – Mp – DT – Mp – DMp – Tc

New metro train mockup: diagram showing 7-car layout and consist

This means the end carriages with the cabs are actually trailers – the motors are in other parts of the train.

Presumably the slightly complicated carriage type acronyms are to help cater for future expansion of the trains to 10 cars each.

The passenger area will be continous, and the intercar doors will normally be open, but can be closed in an emergency (to stop the spread of a fire, for instance).

New metro train mock-up: seats

The different HCMT carriage types have different numbers of seats. There’s some sections of longitudinal seating (along the walls) which adds space for standing, luggage, wheelchairs and bicycles, but reduces seat numbers compared to the transverse seating more commonly seen in Melbourne.

Why not have the entire train filled with longitudinal seating? Because unlike on some inner-city metro systems, a lot of Melbourne train passengers travel for 40, 50, 60+ minutes, so seats are important. (Even on metro systems like London Underground, trains on some lines include some transverse seating to cater for longer journeys.)

How many seats?

Squirrelled away on Metro’s web site is this technical document, which on page 13 has a summary of seats and total capacity in the different types of trains. Unlike some sources you might find, it takes into account the seat reductions from a few years ago – that was the change that increased the “load standard” from 798 to 900.

For the sake of comparison, I’ll include the old and new seat counts, and also the numbers from the retired Hitachi trains.

Train typeTrain length (cars)Previous seatsCurrent seatsCurrent average seats per car
Hitachi141.7m (6)53689.3
Comeng142.4m (6)536-55642070
Siemens144.4m (6)52843272
X’Trapolis143.4m (6)52843272
HCMT160.2m (7)50271.7

So the HCMT has about the same number of seats per carriage, and more seats in total per train. But it’s also a longer train (which is why some platforms have had to be lengthened), with more continuous usable area for passengers, and without mostly unused driver cabs halfway along the train taking valuable space.

And that’s where the “High Capacity” in HCMT comes from. It’s not magic, and it’s not fewer seats – it’s about making more space, and more efficient use of it.

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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.

11 replies on “Do Melbourne’s new trains have fewer seats?”

Since they have wheel chair spaces in intermediate cars, are there electric ramps from every door? What sort of stop request protocol will be in place? It will be very time consuming if the ramps are to be deployed at every scheduled stop.

So, am I a bit pedantic to ask: 1) Does a Tc have a cab at one end (for the driver to see out of) and an intercar door? 2) Does a DT actually have two intercar doors or just one? 3) What distinguishes DMp, Mp1, and Mp2 from one another? Is it just seat and door layout? I’m presuming that they all have intercar doors at both ends. 4) I’m guessing that this design makes the minimum train a three car unit; Tc – DMp – Tc, precluding the possibility of two car stack ups? Does this matter? 5) Any idea how a ten car train will stack up?


Re the Tc cars, the word ‘cab’ means ‘drivers cab’, for the purposes of the driver being there to run the train from.

There will only be two of these cabs on the whole 7-car HCMT set, and, still two cabs on the 10-car HCMT set. They being at the extreme ends of the 7/10 car set.

@Tramologist, I think the intent is only to use the front carriage for wheelchairs initially, though in the longer term the standardisation of platforms and removal of gaps might potentially allow them to board elsewhere along the train.

@Brian, Jim is right – these trains will only ever be in 7 car sets, until expanded to 10 later.

c means cab. p means pantograph. D means intercar doors (I’m not sure but it may be at both ends, so those carriages ensure every intercarriage connection has a fire door). T means trailer (not a motor), M means motor (but unlike the older trains, the cabs are not on the motor carriages).

(I’ve removed the numbers from Mp1, Mp2 etc as I found another source which didn’t have them, and this simplifies things a bit.)

c means “control”, although essentially it’s from a driver’s cab. The Chinese term is kong zhi tuo che (driving trailer). Almost all metro trains in China consist of intermediate motor cars and two driving trailers at ends. (All third rail powered trains have all-motor consist because there are long insulated sections over points so they want to make sure there are some cars that can provide traction in case the train doesn’t have enough inertia to roll through)

First time we’ve had a driving trailer since the ill-fated 4D train, which also had its motors in the middle cars..

If anyone remembers Hitachis having several unused driver’s cabs facing the back end of another carriage, they were former driving trailers (originally called D cars until the D suffix was abolished in the 80s) with the control equipment removed and the cab doors permanently locked. Funnily enough, the control equipment in them was actually recycled by ripping everything out and placing it into brand new shells of the very last batch of Hitachi motors built in 1980-1981 (numbered in the 220s and 230s, identified by having the pantograph at the non-driving end like a Comeng instead of the front like every other Hitachi). The conversion was supposed to have the D car cabs cut off and replaced with a standard flat end like a normal trailer, but after converting a number of them it was deemed too expensive so the rest remained unchanged; some of the unused cabs even had the original walk-through front door from the early 70s, a feature that was removed from all M cars and most D cars very early on (from 32M on they were built without the door). In Sydney they also did the same thing with a few of their equally-ancient S sets, but with the control motors (since the motors were at the front like a Comeng/Hitachi), by removing the pantographs and motors and converting the cabs to seating – the converted cars could be easily identified by having a lower section on the roof where the pantograph used to be. The converted carriages ended up ended up numbered in the 4700 region with a T (trailer) prefix replacing the original C. Unfortunately the Hitachi D cars which retained the cabs were never opened up to passengers so the cabs were just wasted space.

In the 80s, V/Line (or VicRail?) were considering doing a similar thing when the Harris trains were converted to H sets. The BCH cars were originally going to retain the driver’s controls from the Harris motor with the locomotive at the other end, similar to a DBSO car in the UK, but the plan fell through due to the perceived safety issues of a heavy locomotive at the rear pushing much lighter carriages at speed. If anything, it would have resembled an orange version of the refurbished “Grey Ghost” Harrises under The Met. A face only a blind mother could love!

Amtrek has quite a few locomotive powered trains with a driving trailer at the other end, so the locomotive doesn’t run around when changing end. So having the locomotive pushing the train on the main line is workable.

Do all trains need intercar doors? Will the HCMT train eventually be universal across the Melbourne train system?

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