It’s become clear to me from comments and posts both on here and elsewhere that a lot of people really don’t understand just how difference our new electric trains will have on the capacity of the system. It seems that many think that the trains will be just new versions of what we have now, or perhaps just a small bump in capacity and that we won’t be able to get substantially more people onto them, limiting the capacity of the entire system. But nothing could be further from the truth. With this post I hope to show just how much of a difference these new trains will make.
To start with it is worth explaining what we have now. At the moment we have an eclectic mix of trains each with different characteristics. Our current types of train are:
ADL – Two carriages – 136 seats with space for another 54 people standing. Sometimes two are joined together doubling the capacity.
ADK – Four carriages – 270 seats with space for 108 people standing.
SX Set – Five carriages – 282 seats with space for 114 people standing. We only have one of these sets.
SA Set – Four carriages – 250 seats with space for 100 people standing.
SA Set – Five carriages – 320 seats with space for 128 people standing.
SA Set – Six carriages – 384 seats with space for 154 people standing.
Note: these figures are based on what I could find online so they may be out by a little bit. Standing capacity is based on Auckland Transports current capacity ratio of four people standing for every 10 sitting.
But how does that compare to electric trains? The new trains are three carriages long however each carriage is a bit longer than the ones on the trains we have now). They will have 230 seats with space for 145 people standing. They will operate a either as a single three car set or combined with another EMU to form a 6 carriage long train. Because of the length of each carriage, a six car EMU will be considerably longer than a six car SA set. The six car EMU will be 144m in length compared to the six car SA set at approx. 120m long + the locomotive.
But I don’t think that just saying that trains will be longer and have more capacity really helps people to truly understand the impacts that the EMUs will have so I have put together this little image to try and illustrate it.
As you can see from both the figures and the chart above a single EMU has equivalent capacity to a four car train on the network today. By comparison the capacity of a six car EMU absolutely dwarfs anything we have today with it being able to move approximately 40% more people than our longest trains today (of which we only have a few).
But this isn’t the end of the story. Our current rolling stock is stretched thin which is preventing us from running longer and more frequent trains which is one of the reasons most of the trains around the network only have four carriages. The number of EMUs we are getting will allow us to run more longer trains than we do now meaning the capacity increase is actually even greater than I previously mentioned. It is expected that during the height of the peak period, all trains arriving at Britomart – with the exception of those from Onehunga – will be 6 cars in length and the difference that this will make will be astounding.
As an example the western line currently has four trains an hour during the peak period. Based on the current rolling stock used, trains arriving between 7:30am and 8:30am are currently a mix of four, five and six cars in length. This gives a total capacity in the peak hour of just under 1900 passengers. With electrification it will be possible for the western line to have six trains an hour with each being six cars long. That will boost the total capacity of the line during the peak hour to 4500 passengers, a 140% increase.
Even Papakura which already has 6 trains departing in the peak period sees a substantial increase in capacity as a result of these new trains. The impacts of this are shown below.
As you can see the impacts of our new trains won’t just be that they are faster, quieter, cheaper to run and more reliable but they will add substantial capacity to the overall network. That capacity will be put to good use by the new bus network as well as the rail system in general being more attractive. By my calculations overall seat capacity on the network during the height of the peak should increase by about 150%. It is also this extra capacity that means we should easily be able to reach 20 million trips a year with our new fleet.