Electric train services are finally a part of the city with the first ones running earlier this morning and yesterday I went along to the official launch of the trains. The first thing I noticed was that Auckland Transport had set up stalls and activities for kids including shutting down the central part of Gore St through the Britomart Precinct, a much better use of it in my opinion. I don’t actually know why we need that road open but that’s perhaps a discussion for a different day.
Auckland Transport clearly really wanted to promote the electric trains as futuristic and had a number of promo girls (and some guys) dressed up like something out of The 5th Element.
One thing that was definitely noticeable at the launch was the number of politicians present. They were there representing most of the major parties and at a local level a heap of councillors and local board members. Perhaps the one that surprised me the most was seeing John Banks there.
As with all of these types of projects there are numerous speeches and I understand that Auckland Transport has filmed them all and will be putting them online later today. Before the speeches started a group of dancers in silver suits and masks entertained to some Daft Punk. It started getting a bit odd though as it just kept on going and going and ended up feeling like it carried on for far too long – not that it distracted too much from mood of the day.
On to the speeches there were a couple of highlights and some lowlights too.
- First up was Ngarimu Blair who is a Trustee on the Ngati Whatua o Orakei Maori Trust Board and also on the board of Waterfront Auckland. He opened the launch on behalf of iwi and got a cheer when he said they want to see the CRL started asap and completed in 2020.
- Iñaki from CAF was next to speak and talked about how good the trains are.
- A lady from the Blind Foundation spoke about how they had worked with AT on improving the trains to make them more accessible for people with disabilities.
- Lester followed with what was essentially his op-ed piece to the herald on Saturday.
- The next speech was perhaps unsurprisingly the oddest of all. Gerry Brownlee talked about the need to invest in other nodes too (yes he said nodes, not modes). He then proceed to talk about how the government was doing just that by fast tracking a number of motorway projects around the region. I think the crowd were stunned in to silence by this that there was an eerie silence. I must of missed something as after Gerry’s speech David Warburton who was emceeing the event made a comment that he wasn’t referring to Gerry as the Fat Controller.
- Len was the last to speak and was as enthusiastic as ever and clearly directing a few comments towards Gerry about the need for the CRL. He ended by calling on more people to get off the parking lots of the motorways and on to trains, buses and ferries (missed cycling though) which would free up roads for commercial traffic.
After a brief reminder from Warburton about just how much effort had gone into the production and testing of these trains it was time to head down to the platform for the cutting of a ribbon (of which I understand Cam’s son was involved) and then the first official ride.
As always seems to happen, everyone was piling on to the first carriage available and so Patrick, I and others headed to the middle one which has the advantage of level boarding and more space due to longitudinal seating. Acceleration out of the station was super smooth as was the trip around the back of Vector arena. After clearing those curves though the driver was able to open the train up a bit and the acceleration was such that people had to hold on. In other words these things have a lot of power and of course that will be needed to get trains up the CRL, although they’ve been designed with enough power so that one EMU will be able to push another completely dead one up the grade. Someone on a later trip filmed the acceleration and you can hear people surprised it as well as see the speed increase out the window from about 3:40 onwards.
The only problem was the acceleration and speed was that it seemed so short lived as it seemed the frustrating Sarawia St level crossing didn’t work in our favour and we almost had to completely stop as a result. It’s perhaps a shame the eastern line wasn’t able to be used for a race across Hobson Bay.
Even so, all up it seemed everyone was thoroughly impressed with the new trains. You can see the AT press release here but the most interesting part is really the facts and figures at the bottom
- There are now 12 electric train units in Auckland. Seven have been commissioned – that is, they have their registration and warrants with five more about to be tested.
- The supplier, CAF has used equipment from Japan, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Spain – taking the best from the world to create trains specifically for Auckland.
- It takes more than 15,000 hours to fabricate and assemble one electric train unit, there are 110km of wiring in each unit.
- Each train is tested for 1000 hours on the tracks.
- To create the weight of passengers while we were testing the trains, we used 1800 20kgs sandbags on each train.
- To date we have trained 47 drivers, 86 train managers and 13 supervisors.
- We have spent 3008 hours on driver training and 1504 hours on theory.
- Drivers have spent 752 hours on the electric train simulator.
- To date we have driven more than 25,000kms with the electric trains during testing and commissioning.
A couple of other things that caught my attention about the day:
This poster which Auckland Transport had kids (and a few adults) painting. I’m guessing there were multiple versions of it.
The bike and pram parking. I like this development from Auckland Trasnsport at events.
AT were selling a limited edition HOP card to celebrate the new trains. I’m not sure whether to keep it as a souvenir or actually use it
The new uniforms for staff. It looks ok on staff in the EMU’s but a bit out of place when a driver is sitting in a bulky locomotive. It’s clear that AT are owning the customer service brand even though the staff work for Transdev which is an interesting change. I’ll post about this separately.
All up I think Auckland Transport did a really good job of organising the day which had the added bonus of further activating Takukai Square. If there’s one complaint I have it’s not about the launch but that Auckland Transport have yet to do anything to boost the frequency on the Onehunga line off peak. This week particularly is likely to be busy and additional services would be welcome. After all hourly frequencies are so old fashiond.
So did you take a ride on them yesterday (or today). If so what was your experience like? After the break some images people sent to me of themselves on one of the trains.
Our former admin enjoying the new trains on his birthday and with kids in tow.
Electrix train selfie! pic.twitter.com/GlJicbLmtU
— Joshua Arbury (@jarbury) April 27, 2014
— Daphne Lawless (@daphlawless) April 27, 2014
— Tim (@Zoltuger) April 27, 2014
Finally! Auckland has electric trains! pic.twitter.com/ReCPsxxOpJ
— Vernon Tava (@vernontava) April 27, 2014