Last Thursday at the signing of the contract for Auckland’s electric trains some technical information was handed out, which I don’t think has been made available elsewhere yet. It’s an interesting read for those curious about the technical details of the trains. Here’s a summary: Most of the details are things that we would expect to see from modern, world-class, trains. I am happy to hear that the door width will be increased a bit from what we currently have, to aid faster boarding and alighting.

Notes on the technical details are included below: Getting from 0-60 in almost half the time it takes our current trains will probably be the biggest advantage of the electric trains, and this faster acceleration is highlighted by the 10 minute time savings made from a trip between Britomart and Papakura.

One interesting development is that it would seem the latest thinking is to operate the diesel shuttle services with ADL trains (the smaller ones that currently operate the Onehunga Line services) rather than with locomotive-hauled SA/SD trains.This makes some sense as the ADLs are probably cheaper to operate than the SA/SD trains. However, it does mean that we will end up with a heck of a lot of surplus carriages by 2015 once the full rollout of the electric trains comes online and in service. One does wonder what use they will be put to, as they have quite a bit of life left in them.

Share this


  1. The old trains could go to Christchurch or Dunedin. I think there is potential there for commuter rail. Could they be used for long distances? E.g. Hamilton to Auckland, or longer?

      1. Why not raise the platforms then, these are going to be the only trains AKL runs for 20 years it would seem worthwhile to make the platforms match.

        1. My understanding is the platform heights are resricted by the size or shape of some of the freight wagons, its not ideal but what we have to deal with.

  2. Interesting to see that they will be scrapping more than half the ADL fleet from 10 two-car units down to just four. I wonder what made them pick just four? That seems to preclude the option of running express longer distance services from places like Pukekohe and Huapai to Britomart post-CBD tunnel when Britomart would have the capacity to receive them.

    The newer five ADL sets are 26 years old, the older five are 31.

  3. These trains certainly seem to have a lot of power which is good, Wellingtons new Matangi trains are different, they have one motor car and one trailer compared to Auckland having two motor cars however the power output is only 680kW so even if they could stick another power car on the other end they would still only have half the power of the Auckland units (not sure if there is a limit due to the power system). Also 2700kW is the same as the brand new DL freight locos Kiwirail has just brought so these things will have some serious grunt and from what I can tell their level of power output is at the top end of of the range for EMU’s of their size. I guess all the power is needed to be able to get up the tunnel once that is built.

    Another thing is that while the total number of carriages is only increasing by 31, the additional capacity of each carriage will add a lot more capacity to the network. Based on our current setup the maximum number of seats arriving at Britomart during the peak would be about 5700-6000. By comparison I would expect that with the exception of Onehunga all trains at peak times will be double sets so 6 cars long, that should give us a seated capacity of about 9200, about a 50% increase.

    As for the time savings, that fits in pretty will with the model I built a while ago and suggests that the Swanson – Britomart time will be a similar amount quicker.

    Also from everything I have read the plan was always to keep the ADL’s and not to use SA sets, I believe they are significantly cheaper in operation as they suck a lot less fuel down and will be much more suited to the capacity required. I had thought they were going to get another refurbishment though.

    1. these things will have some serious grunt and from what I can tell their level of power output is at the top end of of the range for EMU’s of their size. I guess all the power is needed to be able to get up the tunnel once that is built.

      I have a feeling that the 2.7MW max rating is for a 2 unit 6 car set,

      **If this is true** than this would make a single set rated at 1.35MW or around 170 KW per powered wheel, similar in design to the Matangis. (a six car Matangi set for comparison would be rated at around 2MW, ) so the Auckland EMUs are around 30% more powerful on a per car basis, but given that the Auckland EMUs are about 15% longer than a Matangi (and we don’t yet know their weight) the Auckland set are probably 15-20% more powerful.

      The Matangis are spec’d for some fairly grunty hill work on the Johnsonville line (highest point Raroa @162m ) which is 9.3mm from Wellington, but the hill climb section is only about 8km in length as there are the Wellington Yards the line runs through)

      1. Quite possible that 2700kW is the power of a 6 car set, the above info definitely has had the influence of marketing on it so it wouldn’t surprise me if they had fudged things aroung a little to make them sound better.

        Also with Chris Harris’ comment about the speed I think they might have mixed their figures up, at 1m/s it would only take about 16 seconds to reach 60kph not 24 seconds. Possibly the person who wrote this thought it would be 16 seconds quicker not 16 seconds all up.

        Weight wise, the Herald graphic in the paper last week stated that a fully laden set would be about 155t which is in line with the Matangi’s.

        1. They quote the rating as Maximum power of 2.720kW.

          The DF locomotives are rated at 1800kW continuous.

          And you are correct with the 1m/s acceleration. 60 kph is about 16 m/s, which makes it about 16 seconds.

  4. A capacity of 120 per car sounds a bit on the low side – would make the capacity of a three car unit not that different from a two car Matangi.

    @Matt L
    “(not sure if there is a limit due to the power system)”

    Yes, several additional substations have been added just to cope with that too. The joy of dealing with a legacy system rather than a clean slate…

    1. Yes but even compared to systems with similar setups these seem more powerful, i.e. the newest Perth trains are also 3 cars long and have two motor cars but from what I can tell the maximum power is about 1500kw. As I said, I guess the extra power is to get them up the tunnel when that is built.

      Also on the seating, a Matangi has 147 seats, 73.5 per car compared to 77 for the Auckland units, as for standing it probably depends on how much space per person is used in the figures. AT have been pretty clear in their monthly reports that they are closely monitoring the capacity of trains have have a goal of no more than 4 people standing for every 10 sitting to try and maintain a comfortable ride for everyone but we also know that in the past some services have record more people standing than sitting. The 120 capacity figure works out at about 5 standing for every 10 sitting which makes sense as there will likely be more interior space but I suspect in a crush situation a lot more would fit in. I also suspect the author of the Matangi page on Wikipedia has got some figures mixed up as 230 standing seems pretty high but if you took that figure as the seating and standing it works out about the same as the Auckland one.

      Another thing I noticed is that HR’s page on the Matangi states that it has one air conditioning unit per train but this suggests we will have 2 per car (although probably each slightly smaller)

      1. Not just the CBD tunnel, but the Parnell tunnel too. The ADK DMUs are effectively banned from the western line, as they can’t handle the climb out of Kingsland with a full load. Perth is much flatter than Auckland.

      2. “no more than 4 people standing for every 10 sitting”

        Please tell me that’s an average over the day, and not peak figures. Or only for the first half of the line through the outer suburbs. Otherwise it seems very extravagant to me.

        1. No AT has stated in its business reports that they want all services on average to have less than 4 standing for every 10 sitting

          From the August report:
          “…there were two services reported to have average load factors above the 1.4 (i.e. four passengers standing for every ten seated passenger) target planning standard during the month, both of which were mid-afternoon (school) trips. Individual daily loadings will vary…”

      3. “goal of no more than 4 people standing for every 10”

        That pretty much confirms my opinion that the 120 is a fiction for political purposes. A good guess is that the capacity will be at least double the number of seats, and possibly higher depending on the internal configuration …

        “Matangi page on Wikipedia has got some figures mixed up…”

        Wasn’t using wiki – my info is from GW, the owners of said units. Same source puts the capacity of a Ganz at near 300 and I know that’s fairly accurate from experience. Not experienced a fully loaded Matangi yet, but they have more standing room (no dog box, more longitudinal seating, wide inter car gangway), so easily over 300 …

  5. Please say they’re joking about audible announcements of the next station and stuff going on there. There is almost nothing worse than noisy train announcements disturbing a good book.

    The same applies to flying. I really can’t care less about the names of the crew, that you’d like to thank me for flying with you, or what the weather is at the destination. The only acceptable things to announce on an aircraft are: 1. We’re about to take off, so sit down. 2. We’re about to land, so sit down. 3. These are the choices for the meal. 4. Panic!

    1. They’re already doing the voice announcements for stations on the rail system and it’s quite unobtrusive. Nice not to have to look up from your book and peer out the window to see what station you’re at, especially in the dark.

    2. To be honest I have pretty much completely tuned out to them now so don’t notice them and if I have my headphones in I don’t hear them at all. I also think they may have fine tuned them a bit more, when they first started rolling out after the initial trial they were much louder and had extra words in it i.e. initially it said at a few stations “Please mind the gap between the train and the platform” where as now they dropped the “please” etc.

    3. Obi has obviously a prophesy that he will never be blind in his old age – good for him. If, OTOH, he does end up blind, he will learn some humility in a hurry or will be overcarried to other stations.

      1. How do blind people get on in cities like London or Wellington where the trains are generally silent? And how many blind people travel around Auckland on the train?

        I helped a totally blind girl at a UK station a few years ago. An announcement of the upcoming stations might have helped her get off the train, but not helped her transfer to another platform, told her when her connection was due, or arranged a station staff to help her board her connection. Or to stop off at the station shop, purchase a top up for her pre-pay phone, and apply the top up. She overcame these issues by asking for help. That seems a pragmatic way ahead.

        More generally, a UK transport newsgroup I followed years ago had a participant who was a militant wheelchair advocate. His position was that the Tube should be entirely wheelchair accessible and anything less was a human rights violation. The trouble is that it just isn’t feasible to outfit some stations with lifts, no matter the budget. You just can’t fit them in to the station topology because of the intersecting lines, service ducts, machinery rooms, and street level architecture. Other newsgroup participants pointed out that wheelchair users get subsidised or free taxis and that was a pragmatic response to the problem.

        1. I seem to recall all the Tube trains I went on announced the next stop, that was handy in a packed carriage when I couldn’t see the PID. All of Melbourne’s do too, and I think Sydney likewise.

        2. I would have sworn that London didn’t do it. I remember drivers announcing the destination before a line branched, and Mind The Gap at Bank, but not next station announcements. I wonder if it is a new thing? I’ve found a couple of references to a “new” digital voice announcement being installed in refurbishments about five years ago, but it isn’t clear if this was a new feature or an update of an old generation system.

          It is quite possible I’m getting forgetful.

          I can’t ride the free circle tram in Melbourne. The tourist commentary drives me nuts. It’d be a useful way to get between a customer on Spring St and the office in Southbank, but I’d sooner walk.

        3. Yes, tube trains will typically have automated announcement of the station you are stopped at, the next station, the line you are on, and the destination station. Very useful if you’ve got to the station and want to jump on without waiting to read the signs and possibly miss it and have to wait a couple minutes for the next one. Suburban and intercity trains do pretty much the same too, their annoucment takes a bit longer as they usually announce every stop the train will make.

  6. In my opinion, the SA/SD carriages (and locos, for that matter) should be used to set up inter-urban commuter services in the Waikato. Hamilton has rail infrastructure that Auckland is dying for (an underground station in the centre-city), and the lines run past key destinations (The Base, University, Claudelands Event Centre, as well as key industrial areas), many of which already have plans to upgrade the infrastructure at them (the Base will get a station as part of the Auckland-Hamilton service; work is going to happen just north of Uni during the development of the Ruakura rail port, and so on).
    I live on SH1 near the edge of the city. Every day I witness congestion in the mornings and afternoon, which is people commuting from the other centres (in my case, Cambridge and Morinsville). The bus from Cambridge fights its way through, with an average of 3 people on board. No one takes it, because they know it’ll just sit in congestion. It’s the same with the services from Te Awamutu, Morinsville and Huntly. Yet those three towns all have a rail station, and Cambridge has a line running almost all the way to it. This could be extended, or a park and ride set up. Services could possibly operate on pendulum-style routes throughout the day (Cambridge to Huntly, Te Awamutu to Morrinsville), though you’d need to look closely at that first.
    Train services would have the advantage of beating congestion, delivering you right into the city centre (next to the bus station – train tickets could provide free service on the buses, like long distance bus tickets do already), and there could be free parking at the towns. It’d be win win.
    Sorry, this is a little off topic, I know… 😀

  7. I read somewhere last year that the average speed on the wellington network is about 55km/h, where as in Auckland it’s about 35. Based on all journeys being the 20% faster that britomart to papakura is, the average wod be 42km/h. If our trains are much more powerful, why is this still so low? Are our speed limits much lower, or are our stations closer together? I can imagine some track realignments and a rethink of station locations could make a huge difference to commute times

    1. It might be something to do with the length of Wellington’s network — we have long interstation gaps at quite a few points which might skew the overall avg speed.

  8. 2x1450mmm doors is nowhere near enough for rapid transit. A 1450mm door is really only one channel when a young man with a gadget stuck in his ear is standing against the windbreak barrier oblivious to everyone trying to get off.

    To maximise capacity of the city tunnel in the long term you will need to absolutely minimise dwell times. Three GENEROUS doors (like Sydney’s at 1800mm) for six channels should be the minimum.

    Whether wind break barriers beside the door are set back, so that aforementioned young man does not totally block the doorway, is an important detail.

    1. I think that a great opportunity has been missed to go with three doors per side. Melbourne used to run three, then with half its new fleet it went to two ‘larger’ doors per side… only to declare that a failure such that all new trains are now the three door type again.

      A big door is all well and good for person throughput through an open door, but it takes the doors longer to open and most importantly it takes people longer to get to the doors, be that inside the train or on the platform. A slower stream of people moving further though the aisles translates directly into longer dwell times. Furthermore an extra door section means 50% more standing room, this is obviously at the expense of some seating but I think it would be more than worth it.

      Fundamentally I think they have set the specifications as very much a suburban commuter railway, when in reality Auckland will end up as a hybrid of commuter and metro due to the closely spaced stations, high frequencies, generally short trips and a high turnover. For that to work they need short dwells and more standing and circulation space.

      1. What do you define as a short trip? On the western line, most pax board before New Lynn, and alight at Newmarket or Britomart (from observation and AT’s figures). I would class those pax as suburban, but the City Zone after New Lynn could be classed as metro. Sydney is looking at converting their inner network to single-deck metro to deal with the same problem.

        One important design element will be how to discourage people from standing in the doorways – perhaps a rolling maul from the blocked passengers would discourage the practice. lol

        Apart from Melbourne, what other cities use 3-door carriages?

        1. I would classify approximately 30 minutes as a short trip. With the new EMUs and the CBD rail tunnel this ‘metro’ zone would be pushed out to approximately Henderson and Puhinui/Manukau, including all of the eastern and Onehunga branches, and the airport line if built.

          An easy way to prevent people from standing in doorways is to provide standing room away from doorways, in particular making sure the wind break barriers are set back from the edge of the door to allow leaning room that doesn’t block the way. People are going to lean and stand no matter what so the only thing to do is design for this to occur efficiently. Apart from that increasing the number of doors by 50% would have a huge impact on getting through a doorway quickly.

          As for three door carriages, just about every urban railway or metro system in SE Asia, China, Russia and Europe have three or four doors per set. I think I went on ones in Singapore and Hong Kong that had five doors per carriage, although these were evenly spaced along the full length of a continuous internally connected train set so basically half the side of the whole train opened up for access. Certainly there are many suburban and interurban trains in these countries with two or even one door per side, but my point is that Auckland’s system will be a lot closer to a metro system than a suburban railway for much of the life of these new trains.

          A better model for Auckland would be the RER of Paris, the Stadtbahn of Berlin or London’s new Crossrail. These all have the same characteristics of a high frequency suburban surface network that runs in tunnel through the city centre using metro style vehicles and fast headways. Each of these are (or for London, will be) operated by trains with three doors per side, or in the case of RER-B, four doors per side. The only exception to this is double deck sets that have major design constraints on having doors and stairwells anywhere except above the bogies (two per carriage), however as double deckers have been ruled out under Auckland’s small loading guage this isn’t a consideration anyway.

        2. Sorry, just rechecked my references and all RER trains actually have *four* doors per side, except the double deckers that have only *three* per side. I guess the French overcame the issues of the central door and stairwell that Sydney said was impossible.

  9. The Western Line will really benefit from the faster acceleration with so many stations spaced closer together, and lower average speeds. Should make a decent dent on journey times.

    Given the changes, stock utilisation will be better. A return journey from Britomart to Papakura would take 20 mins less. That over the course of a day creates a lot of potential for more services.

    Any news on doubling more of the Onehunga branch to increase frequencies? How about Parnell?

    1. Recent quote from Mike Lee suggests construction will begin at Parnell next year (hopefully early next year!).

      There is already a passing loop adjacent to Te Papapa station that would allow at least a doubling of frequency on the Onehunga line, however there isn’t space at Britomart for two more Onehunga slots so it’s unlikely to happen any time soon.

      1. Can’t really feel happy with that – especially until we get our fancy, quick-accelerating trains, Parnell will just be another stop for the thousands of Britomart passengers, and a badly placed stop for local patronage as well.

        Sigh, the things one has to deal with when one has a bull-headed guy like Mike Lee at the head of transport. His saving grace is that we NEED a bull-headed guy for this, here and now!

    2. There’re no free time slots at Britomart to increase frequencies for Onehunga, so even if they double-tracked the entire line we need either the CRL or a change in AT’s mindset away from “Britomart must be the source or destination for every rail service” before anything can be done to improve services on the Onehunga Line.

  10. Is it too late to change the Parnell station location? A few hundred metres is all it takes to be the difference between success and failure for this…

    1. Yes, the track lowering works at Parnell are out already out for tender unfortunately (its on the governments tenders website at the moment). My understanding is that the track work will be done over the Christmas shutdown but I’m not sure if the station itself will go in then or if that will happen during the first half of next year.

  11. I am interested in finding out the new EMU floor height and the and the average platform height as I read that they were not the same. Two doors and a step will affect boarding and alighting times, which could be an issue if the peak headway is low (<2 min)

    1. The two doors of centre car of each 3 car EMU will have level boarding, the rest of the doors will require a step but it should hopefully not be any worse that what exists now. It’s a shame we weren’t able to raise the platforms to enable them to be level with the doors.

      1. Thanks for the feedback. I found an “access level” of 800 mm above the TOR at the depot. But that could be for the driver’s cab. When looking at the picture of the train, it seems that the centre doors are below the “cab” door level. I am curious to find out what is the height of the floor of the centre car as well as the height of the floor of the end cars and whether there is a step less corridor between adjacent cars.

        As for raising the platform, based on your own earlier response I assume that raising the platform would require a wide gap between the platform edge and the vehicle door threshold. Nowadays this is a “no-no” for safety reasons, especially for people in wheelchairs or with ambulatory difficulties.

        1. The standard platform height in Auckalnd is 750mm above the rails (I believe that Wellington has adopted this as well now). As for the heights of the other doors I don’t think we will know till more detailed information is released.

          As for my raising the platform comment, my understanding is that platform height is limited by a few wagon types, yes one solution would be to move them further away from the rails and to compensate they could have made the EMU’s wider so the gap was the same but that platform height was set long ago and before electrification was a reality. Also one thing to note is that the platforms at Britomart actually have to be lowered as they are 800mm or 850mm above the rails but that would mean the low floor carriage wouldn’t line up.

        2. When the lateral gap is an issue, “gap filler” located below the train door thresholds can be used. It works for tangent tracks and or large radius curve with no cant. The real challenge is the vertical gap! In the late 70, the Paris Region financed the development of rolling stock (MIXX) that could be operated on the the Paris transit authority (RATP) suburban line and the and the French National Railroad (SNCF) suburban lines. One of the many challenges of this projects was the difference of platform heights(high for RATP and low for SNCF). This was achieved by having a configurable access that was automatically changed whenever a train changed network. As Auckland appears to have a variety of standards, a fully configurable access would be more complicated than the one developed for Paris.

  12. Level Boarding will never happen in Auckland, as there are various differing heights of new platforms on the network, plus you can’t actually have level boarding on curved platforms, because the trains lean downward or upward on curves. 750mm is just an approximate specification, while actual levels will vary between 500mm and 1000mm (such as at Manurewa).

    1. My understanding was that they would all be brought to the same level, or at least within a set tolerance so that the middle car would always be pretty much level so that disabled passengers/people with prams etc could board without assistance. Post electrification there is potentially not going to be anyone but the driver on trains. Also I noticed at one point last year that most of the platforms had been measured as their height at various stage was marked along the sides, this was even done on recently built platforms like Avondale so it is quite likely there will be some modification made to the tracks to level them up more than they are now.

  13. I am surprised that some of the ADL sets are kept after 2015. These units are extremely noisy. The generator car and the power car are both terrible to travel on. I like the SA SD train sets with the DC or DF locomotive which are a pleasure to ride on.
    Also where is all the power coming from to feed the electrification. Haven’t seen any transformer feeders apart from Penrose.

    1. The system will be powered by substations at Penrose and Southdown. I think each will be able to power the entire network if the other fails.

      1. Thanks for your reply Scott. That is still a long run to Swanson. Imagine between Penrose , Britomart and the West lines with all the hills, multiple trains running at the same time. Voltage drop will occur and I can see that the voltage at Henderson won’t be 25 kV and a lot less like 20 kV, hence less traction power available.
        The OH catenary is only single conductor with support wire, and not a 2 phase 50 kV system as on the North Island Main Trunk with auto transformers every 10 km or so.
        Time will tell how it works out. I can see voltage issues here.

        1. There is a transformer at Newmarket (in the middle of the triangle) and also one between Glen Eden and Fruitvale Rd station (backs on to Clayburn Reserve). There will be a few others scattered around as well.

          They will only be keeping the best of the ADLs and they are due for another refurbishment which should hopefully improve things. One of the reasons for keeping them over the SA sets is that they use a lot less fuel than a locomotive so are much cheaper to run.

        2. That would make sense to have some auto transformers for voltage regulation at certain locations along the rail corridor.
          Thanks for your reply.

  14. Are there any plans to extend the Western line beyond Swanson ? Before the line was electrified, the commuter trains used to run to Waitakere station. Obviously one major obstacle would be the tunnel at Tunnel Hill. Perhaps a couple of diesel units could run from Swanson to Kumeu or Huapai, as a short-term alternative, and provide information as to commercial viability.

  15. I remember travelling across Austria in an Intercity train in the 1980s and the station announcements were on Cassette which got out of step with the stations, so the driver replayed it several times over until it was in synch. I quickly learned the line! Then on Great Railway Journeys was an episode where the Austrian TV announcer was interviewed about her 6 month job recording all the tapes, over 10,000 stations!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *