One of the biggest developments that has occurred this year has been the arrival of our first electric trains. There are now four in the country and the depot is filling up so fast that in a few weeks time they will have to start storing the trains outside rather than keeping them wrapped up inside. The first three units have been undergoing different stages of testing while the fourth which just arrived this week is starting to be set up.
Back in October Auckland Transport were kind enough to invite me for a ride on along when the first of our new trains took its first tentative steps with run outside of the depot. Back then the train was only being run slowly however it was already evident just how much better these new trains would be compared to what we have in use today. Since that time we’ve heard that the engineers have had the train up over 122 km/h which is faster than they will be allowed to run in normal service
On Tuesday both Patrick and I, along with TVNZ and Radio NZ were lucky enough to be invited back for another test run – this time running at full speed – so that we could experience just what the trains were like. The train we were on had been loaded up with sandbags which were there to represent passengers and so they could more accurately test how it would perform under various conditions. They had taken some of them out for the test run we were tagging along on but at the height there were 1776 sandbags piled up in the train with each one weighing 20kg.
The good news is that even loaded down with a full load of passengers these trains performed superbly. You could really feel the acceleration when taking off from a stop yet the train was quiet and smooth while doing so, not noisy and jerky like our current trains. In fact the performance was so good that I was surprised at one point when I found out we were already travelling at 110km/h – although this may have been partially related to the testing taking place at night so it wasn’t possible to get any sense of speed from just looking out of the windows.
For one run the engineers dropped us at Papatoetoe Station then took off back down the track so that they could come through the station at speed to help give a sense of just how fast the trains are travelling. You can see this in the One News piece.
There’s more good news in that while there have been a few issues that have arisen out of the testing, nothing has been major and none of the trains tested so far have had a break down while out on the tracks, something which even some of the experienced engineers were pleasantly surprised with. This hopefully bodes well for how these trains will perform in the years to come.
I think it also needs to be mentioned that despite so many different companies and agencies involved in operating trains in Auckland, they appear not only to be getting on but actually working well together. There are heaps of companies or agencies involved at all levels. There is Kiwirail who own and operate the tracks, Auckland Transport who effectively pay for the services, Transdev who run the trains, CAF who are building and maintaining the trains and the NZTA who are the safety regulators. Again this gives me hope that AT will be able to fix and improve the services once these trains really start coming on-stream from April next year.
All up it was great to be able to experience these trains at their maximum permitted speed. These trains are truly impressive to ride on and I suspect that the general public will be pleasantly surprised when they finally get to have a ride on one.
Lastly its really nice to see that we can have a PT project that is (so far) actually being delivered on time with a good result. Congratulations to all of those involved.