Patrick and I were there today to see the official launch of the mock up for our new electric trains. It was unveiled by Len Brown and also present was the Spanish high commissioner, representives from CAF, the Auckland Transport board and many of the senior leadership team who had just come from their monthly board meeting. As you can see there have been a few changes to colours since we first saw it last week. The light blue and black on the sides has been replaced by dark blue which looks much nicer. The new AT logo has also made another appearance emblazoned on the aside. Another change has been the addition of a red stripe along the top which is another safety feature (i.e. Don’t go above the line when the train is under wires).

Sorry a bit blurry but gives a better idea of the changes to the livery

And here is the inside. Fairly nice and I like the blue seats. I’m not so keen on the greeny/yellow ones though. I found the step up to the high floor section not to be an issue. Another good point is that they have retained having carpet inside, it is the same pattern as exists in the trains now but a lighter colour and much better than vinyl our something similar. Lastly perhaps one minor disappointment is there is no ledge along the side of the train like exists now to holds the seats up, it’s a disappointment only because I love to rest a foot on it when sitting next to the window.

And for the drivers or those aspiring to be one, here is a shot of the cab.

All up the thing it pretty nice and it will be great to see then on the tracks, the first one is due to start arrive after the middle of next year with the first units in service in early 2014.

I’m not sure if the general public will get a chance for a look but I will let you know

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  1. Didn’t like the exterior as shown by the pictures posted the other day but for some reason, the slight changes to the colouring they’ve made has made the whole exterior look of it a lot more appealing. The front isn’t as bad as I thought either. The inside is looking great. Not too keen on the new AT logo though and I’m not liking the giant one on the side of the EMU. In saying that, I cannot wait to check out the mock-up soon (fingers crossed it will be open to the public) and see the new EMUs around in Auckland.

    1. Agree on the subtle colour changes improving the look – although it is still rather conservative. The front doesn’t look as harsh/dated either.

      I actually like the prominence of the AT logo, as a branding exercise, but not the logo itself.

      All up, exciting stuff. Just disappointed we are still 2yrs away from going live…..

    1. AT were a bit cagey about public viewing. They will get the public involved through focus groups etc. but they said that if they wanted mass viewings then it would have been set up somewhere like Aotea Squar and not at the far end of Queens Wharf.

      1. They set up Party Central at the far end of Queens Wharf and 200,000 turned up for a “mass viewing”. lol

        imho more people go through Britomart and the Ferry terminal, than go anywhere near Aotea Square (unless they only want the input of students and council employees). 😉

  2. I agree with Josh above. The exterior seems to look a lot better than it did in the photos the other day. The train now looks sufficiently different from our existing trains to get my seal of approval.

  3. I think next year is going to be a tough one for the rail network; with all the wonderful things like new interchange stations, the new HOP system and redesigned bus network starting to roll out, those banging old trains are going to struggle to keep up.

    And it will take all of four years from now to get them all replaced, I hope Auckland’s staphangers can be patient…?

    But change on this scale takes a huge amount of work.

  4. All the sharp corners where the floor meets the white enterance partitions, and the steps, will collect dirt and be difficult to clean and keep looking new. Look at trains overseas. All these corners should have at least a 50mm radius.

  5. Pretty standard European commuter train interior: it looks good. And the revised livery is much better. The logo however is atrocious: fiddly, over-complex, gimmicky, provincial and, as many have noted before, somewhat seriously dated. It could be revised though, quite simply (ask Patrick). Congratulations AT; just deal with the logo.

  6. As an ergonomist the steps and the area between the low floor and high floor section is screaming out red flags to me. That’s a one person wide step enclosed on both sides. I can see that being very problematic on busy services.

  7. I went along to Queens Wharf last week to check the mock-up out. Workmen were in the process of assembling a shed around it, and I was just in time to get a view from the front and the back. The on-site security guard took a few precautionary steps in my direction before I assured her that I wasn’t going to try to see the inside.

    They definitely seem like they’re trying to keep it hidden in plain view!

  8. It’s a shame that flat level access never made it into the tender as a universal consideration. Steps suck for anyone on a crowded train, let alone narrow ones like that.

    1. Unfortunately level boarding wasn’t an option due to the nature of our network and that it also needs to be used for freight. The floors can’t go lower due to the need for them to be over the motors and wheels, the platforms can’t be raised otherwise wagons on some passing freight trains would hit them.

      1. Understand about the platform constraints. Do no other places have level internal floors on their trains? It seems to be a design configuration choice just like it is on buses.

        1. Yes other places have level boarding but that is normally because their network was designed for it. Our network was primarily designed for freight and that is pretty understandable considering how few people used the rail network even just 10 years ago.

  9. ooh, spot the Council pohutukawa added to the existing Auckland Transport logo at the front of the outside.

    1. Yes – in my mind the markings on the train look very muddled? Right now you have:

      1. The new AT logo, which is fairly complex in itself
      2. The existing “Auckland Transport” label; and
      3. The Auckland Council pohutukawa explosion.

      After many years of fragmented ownership/branding Auckland now has the opportunity for one unified public transport brand, I don’t think two different logos for the same organisation (AT and Auckland Transport) plus some weird hybrid AT/AC logo is really cutting it.

  10. The EMUs look great in my opinion; the transformer face at the front is growing on me. I definitely prefer the dark blue external colouring, but think it’s distracted by the branding shenanigans.

    The yellow seats are very bright but I wonder if it is intended to highlight how the seats close to the door should be left for mobility impaired people?

    The step is unfortunate but possibly unavoidable? Look forward to experiencing the zoom-woosh feeling in 2014.

  11. The darker blue goes much better with the yellow/silver…much better palette than the pastiche of the other day. As noted above though, awful logo(s)…stick to one, keep it simple, if the must use this then at least lose the coloured sections – looks okay small on the front…but a logo that bad shouldn’t be made any bigger.

    AT’s attitude to viewing is very strange… if they didn’t want people to look, don’t put it in a public space, even if it is at the end of the wharf. Had a similar experience to PN’s comment above when I went for a walk down there on Friday, except the workmen went to the trouble of parking their truck between me and the front of the mockup. Do they want feedback or not??

  12. Hmmmm, Wellington’s Matangi units have a “low” section for passengers in wheelchairs, passengers carrying bikes, pregnant women, elderly etc., but they also have the high floor section. Is this not in the plan for Auckland’s new units?

    1. Yes the Auckland units will be the same. The two end cars with the driving cabs will have high floors while the centre car will have a low flow section between the doors.

    2. The mock-up isn’t an accurate rendition of what (part of) one car will look like, rather it’s to show several different elements in the limited space available. As well as the mish-mash of floor heights, note the variations also shown on strap-handle type, seat colour and layout, and (perhaps?) Auckland Transport logos!

  13. I think it is interesting to note who wasn’t there. It was good to see Christine Fletcher but none of her three rail loving C+R colleagues; Brewer, Wood, and Quax. I guess they were terrified there’d be nowhere safe to park.

    But also I am amazed to see this morning that that great up-with-the play organ the Herald couldn’t quite manage to send a photographer on a 3 minute walk down the hill to score an easy column filler; perhaps it was too rainy? It did however find lots of space this morning for a study on why nobody really likes urban living and why the trains run late. Both articles are fine of course, but the absence of this piece of new news is also telling.

  14. Patrick / Matt, did you see any overhead luggage racks at all in the mock-up interior? I couldn’t spot them in the photos. I do hope such luggage racks get included in the final model, as they are extremely useful.

    1. Yes luggage racks are very handy for all sorts of things, shopping, groceries,folding bikes, parcels, naughty children, whatever. Putting them above the fixed seating is basically ‘free’ in terms of space, no one needs that sort of headroom.

      Oh and of course very useful once we start running these on our airport line :), for ferries out to the islands, and if we ever get a proper regional or intercity services.

  15. Just to be picky, it cannot have been the Spanish High Commissioner because there is no such creature. Only Commonwealth countries credential High Commissioners, and then only to each other. It was possibly the Ambassador, up from Wellington, but more likely to be the Honorary Consul.
    It’s minor (except for the massive difference between an honorary consul and a credentialed diplomat), but getting these kinds of details right is important in a blog that is something of the source of record for things transport-related in Auckland.

    As others have said, these photos present a much better appearance than the ones posted the other day. Maybe it was just angles, but the front actually looks like it has a slope whereas the other day’s photos made it look nearly vertical. The darker blue looks great.

    I was a bit of a fan of the new logo, I have to say, but now that I see it applied it doesn’t look right. The letters AT provide a lot of scope for mode indicators (road, rail, water) to be used to create the logo, giving something totally unique but also instructive as to the organisation’s purpose.

    1. The illussion of the front having more angle is probably due to the grey corner where the side and front meet is more defined due to the blue being extended. I kind of like having that big corporate logo up there. It formalises that the trains are run professionally and gives it a kind of safety certification mark. That red pin stripe even if it is there for safety reasons also gives that illussion of authority or strength just like our PM’s suits.

      1. My problem isn’t with having the logo, it’s with the logo itself. Keep it the same size, in the same place, but not that logo.

  16. I don’t see what the problem with the stairs see, they’re quite small. The trains here have steps much higher than those.

    1. Try watching older or younger people less steady on their feet using stairs. Or people who use wheelchairs or mobility scooters. Ageing population and other factors mean you’ll be seeing way more of them during the design life of this significant public investment.

      Any design process trades off factors. It seems pretty clear what priority has been given to universal access in this one. That’s just short-sighted (if you’ll excuse the expression).

  17. I don’t what the huge deal is with those steps, which are in fact rather small. Trains here have much higher steps between levels. Sure a level floor would have been ideal, but those ones are hardly a big hinderence. The changes to the trains are looking really good IMO.

    1. My issue with the steps isn’t the height, but the width. You’ll notice on Sydney’s sets the stairs are relatively wide and flared out at the platform level, this is so that two people can use them at the same time, or pass in opposite directions.

      See here:

      I’ll have to wait until I see it in person but Auckland’s look not quite wide enough for people to use them two at a time, or for one person going down to pass a person coming up. That means people standing at the top and the bottom waiting for people to pass through. That’s the functional equivalent of erecting a wall half way down the carriage with a door that only one person at a time can move through. My suggestion would be to flare those steps out like Sydney does so they are the same width as the gap between the windbreaks opposite.

      1. The step looks the same width as the isle, what’s the point in the steps being wider than the isle? If you’re saying also the isles are not wide enough, than that’s the downfall of having a narrow gauge train system. It looks approximately same width as the current SAs anyway.

        1. If you look at the third to last photo, the steps and aisle are considerably narrower than the regular aisle and the gap between wind breaks opposite.

          Plus when you have an aisle opening onto a wider area you should flare it out a bit to assist moving between the two.

  18. Wow, I can’t believe some have a problem with the steps width. Unless you guys are quite broad? Might need to test it out if they have an open day. Sure looks large enough for two average people to use at the same time, but not so big that people are attracted to stand there.

  19. As one of the grumblers about the previous colours I have to say I am very impressed with the exterior colour scheme. Did they have the other colours just to wind us up? Logo needs to be a bit smaller and just one colour. Looks great, bring the trains on!

    1. I like the size of the logo, it’s bold and is good for brand recognition. I just wish they’d get ride of the red and green bits, and just stick with the same blue colour on the round frame of the logo.

      1. Agreed. I think a bold logo is good. But just too many colours that don’t fit. Just the simple blue would be fine as you say.

    1. We’ve got high standards, Tom, we’re all buying this service and quite reasonably want it to be as good as it possibly can be. That’s all.

      Anyway, a little ironic isn’t it to be complaining that there’s too much complaining?

      1. Exactly Patrick. Tom, we’ve waited about 60 years, Yes that’s how long since electrification was supposed to first happen in the early 1950s. We’ve waited while Wellington (and the rest of the modern world!) has come to take fast, regular, electrified urban rail services for granted. Having waited so long, we just want these trains to be as perfect as they can be. We’ll be using them for a long time!

  20. Hi from sunny Spain, here is the Chief Designer at Integral Design & Development, the company that has helped CAF on the design for these units and the mock-up manufacturer. Thank you very much for all your comments, concerns and complains, this is a very valuable tool for us designers to understand user’s needs and concerns. Kindest Regards.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to come on this blog Fernando. Maybe you can just confirm about the stair width, that two average-sized people will be able to use it, or pass by each other at the same time.

      Also Auckland is not as sunny as Spain, but with a full load of passengers in our summer it can still get sticky inside the carriage so I hope the air conditioning will be first-class! Thank you.

      1. Hi Simon, I’m sorry for the delay and I wish to thank you for the questions:

        STAIR WIDTH: the width opens towards the top as the grab bars bend sideways. The width at the bottom of those bars is 860 mm; on the other hand the stairs are different and get narrow on the second step from 850 mm to 570 mm. We did few trials to get to this proposal, the fix 850 mm width was not an option due to the structural requirements in this area. This is, in my opinion, a good compromise and two well brought up persons can pass by each other without any problem. (if one of them wants to hit the other person, of course it’s more than possible)

        AIR CONDITIONING: I’m not an expert and I’m not up to speed with the requirements for this equipment, but from my experience with CAF I can assure they are delivering first-class.

    2. Great to hear you pickup on community feedback like this. Any chance of seeing seating plans and finding out about luggage, cycle provision etc?

      1. Hello Tim,
        I’m not authorised to show drawings, but I can tell you there are four flexible areas in the T car (the train scheme is M1-T-M2, or motor-towed-motor). Right beside the doors there are 3 folding seats with room for 1 ADA person or 1 bicycle. You’ll find this condition in both sides of the train and beside the two doors so there are 4 flexible areas in this T car.
        There is not a specific area or equipment for luggage. I don’t know why in this specific project there is no provision for that, but in the last few years due to a security concern most of the places where people could forget (or hide) things are gone: maybe you can rise this question to the local authority, I’ll try to find out on this side.

      1. Thank you for being sincere and critical. This is our school, we know what we learn when we travel, whe try to understand what we see, we sometimes ask people about their feelings and needs, but is all a bit artificial. Is much better to listen and learn, sometimes we step in and say hi.
        We don’t have the power to do all we would like to (sometmes is phisically impossible), and some of your concerns are known, there is alwaysa gap between operation and people which we all try to close. Keep pushing!

        1. Thank you for joining in here, Fernando. The platform height and straightness is different at some stations in our region’s network. Can you tell us about how disabled boarding access works there? Are there built-in ramps?

    3. Thanks Fernando – it’s great to know that the people involved in this exciting project are listening in. Just don’t listen too much to anything that Nick R, Patrick, Matt L, or myself have to say. We’re CRAZY I tell you.

  21. I’d also love to know what is driving the lighting design, it looks pretty dated to me. Lots of modern designs are using led lights, and particularly downlighting, to improve the look/feel of the space, and the specifc light quality in buses and trains. Even the new NZBus buses now look better than the arrangement shown…. Can we please think about thus some more before finalising this?

    1. Good point actually – although what would you do to improve it? LED downlights in ceiling above seats?

      1. Just what I was thinking.

        Also need to look at how the (necessary) tubes are located and direct light around the cabin. Far better to partially conceal them and bounce light around. Take a look at the interior of modern intercity trains around the world – I can’t really see a practical reason why we should not aim for lighting that is more like these:

        The combination of direct (task) and indirect (ambient) lighting is common in modern workplace thinking, and can work very well. Lots of ‘messages’ come through to customers in this spotlight/bounced approach.

        – Design feel is much more up to date, and becomes more like an aircraft cabin.
        – Loses the rather institutional / anti-vandal feel of strip lighting enclosed in polycarbonate
        – Directional downlights give a much more personalised feel, and geniunely help with reading / using devices – a good selling point for PT
        – Energy efficiency – I know CFL / discharge tubes are pretty efficient, but LEDs are even more so. In the context of the electric demand of a train its probably small fry, but it all sends a message to the customer

  22. AT blog contributors / CAF design team:

    As both a long-time marketing specialist, rail commuter and follower of transport system development, there are several things I have picked up from the photos of the EMU mock-up on the wharf which I would like to highlight:

    1. There seem to be no overhead luggage racks. Such racks are extremely useful, so their omission is both a surprise and a concern.

    2. There are no TV-style display screens above the doors or mounted on the ceiling. Such screens are very useful to display the route map, news, advertisements / community notices and even news / weather. Here’s an example of such screen usage on the Keihin Tohoku line in Tokyo – a line which I frequently use:

    Both Mitsubishi Electric and TOQ Vision supply the technology and more info is here:

    A one-screen ceiling mount or one-screen above-door setup alternately displays the route map, the next station / ETA and pre-programmed still picture or moving picture ads.

    It would not be difficult, nor expensive to install above-door, one screen displays for the AKL EMUs I believe. As I currently do a lot of work in Japan in commuter marketing solutions and because I speak Japanese fluently, if CAF do not supply or do not have the contacts to supply such units, I have contacts in both Mitsubishi, TOQ and JEKI and would be happy to facilitate the addition of display screens into the interior of the AKL EMUs.

    3. Strap handles. I note there are a selection of strap handles in the mock-up. I recommend use of plastic moulded triangular (could see one such handle in the mock-up interior pictures) or circular shaped handles, as on a crowded train they are the easiest to grab and support oneself on. If CAF do not supply circular shaped strap handles, I have the relevant contacts in Japan and would be happy to facilitate supply.

    4. External colouring: From my experience as a long-time marketing specialist in Japan, a single external colour for trains is best. This is because when you use either rent an individual carriage or an entire EMU for use as a mobile billboard, it is much easier to apply transparent vinyl sheeting to the sides. My recommendation for an external colour from an advertisers perspective therefore, is either dark blue, yellow or orange. Transparent vinyl sheet advertising on the EMUs will be a very lucrative income stream for AT, particularly for the stretch of motorway between Penrose and Remuera where traffic congestion is frequent. That area alone is worth a lot in advertising dollars.

    5. AT logo usage: I recommend the new AT logo be used in monochrome white and placed below the drivers side window. Placing the logo below the drivers side window, enables transparent vinyl sheeting for advertising, to be used on the entire side of an EMU. The AT logo on the front of the train should be in monochrome white.

    6. Door external colouring: I understand that Auckland will not be implementing a door marking system on its station platforms so I recommend that only the carriage on the EMUs designed for wheelchair access have yellow doors. This will make it easy for disabled people as well as partially sighted people, to safely find ‘their’ carriage on the platform.

    7. Interior colouring: I recommend the use of stainless rails and hold bars instead of the yellow coated bars and railing currently in the mock-up. In Japan, Korea, China and Singapore, where a large percentage of the population suffers from myopia, studies have found that stainless bars and railing inside trains, are more easily seen than brightly coloured ones, particularly where train interior walls and ceilings are a cream or white colour. Seat colouring-wise, many seats in commuter trains I have ridden on over the years are dark blue but I note that there is increasing use of plain gray, plain orange or orange-patterned seating particularly in Japan. This lighter colouring makes it easier for visually impaired people to find a seat I am told. Apparently, plain gray or orange-patterned seating, shows up stains and marks, less than even dark blue seating does!

    1. I think you may need to email the council because they are likely to listen to you. I must admit those Japanese bullet trains that are mainly white or silver are very slick – yellow looks nice as well. Also I don’t know why you are the first to mention there is no TV display for advertisement and ofcourse the NEWS.

  23. Seems strange that the mock up isn’t open to the public? Surely the more consultation the better.

    I don’t use the trains very often, but for comparison the new busses that NZ Bus rolled out early this year (or was it late last year?) could have done with a bit of public scrutiny. Small things like windows tinted so dark you can’t see out at night, skylights with no tinting so you get blinded by the sun, not enough stop buttons, badly designed seats and strangely narrow aisles all make a big difference. The busses demonstrate the poor results you get when you keep the design process behind closed doors.

    Considering the lifetime of these trains, I hope they take every opportunity to make them perfect.

    1. Having the world’s largest railway companies, public consultation is very much the norm in Japan for new train design. There is a very good interaction process between the rail company, the train design team, architects, interior / product designers, artists, urban planners and the general public. It would be good to see that process begin in Auckland, now that the EMU mock-up is in the country.

  24. ‘Transparent vinyl sheet advertising on the EMUs will be a very lucrative income stream for AT, particularly for the stretch of motorway between Penrose and Remuera where traffic congestion is frequent’

    Oh the cynicism of marketing. You want to distract the attention of drivers on the heavily congested motorway with advertisements on the train because it will be lucrative. Money should not trump safety.

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