The first of the trains is in the country and undergoing testing with the good news being that the testing is going well with the train performing well. This was the update to the AT board yesterday:
Completion by KiwiRail of the first phase of electrification and permanent energisation of the overhead 25kV traction system was achieved in September between Westfield and Wiri
including the Wiri Train Depot.
The first EMU operated successfully under its own traction power within the depot on 30 September following the first weeks of static testing and commissioning in preparation for dynamic testing from the weekend of 5 October.
Progress to date has been good, with the control system stability checks going well. Testing progressing according to the programme.
The EMU testing and commissioning programme has been finalised and issued to KiwiRail.
The second train is in transit to New Zealand, due to dock around 4 November, with the following trains due to be shipped at 2 weekly intervals.
CAF are now well established in production mode after the summer shutdown. Vehicles for the first 10 trains are now in production, with trains 3, 4 and 5 in test. The supply of materials to the production line is working well.
Our new electric trains are going to be wonderful. They will be bigger, more frequent, quieter and faster than the trains we have today. However there has been one benefit that hasn’t been talked about much and that is how much it is going to cost to run them. We all suspect that because the trains will be running on electricity that they will be cheaper but the question is just how much cheaper. The good news is that thanks to Auckland Transport I now have some information that can help to answer that question. The information that has been provided compares the fuel/electricity costs and the maintenance costs which are admittedly just one part of the total cost equation. The cost per kilometre for running our new electric trains compared to what we have now is below.
So all up the electric trains are 54% cheaper to run on a per kilometre basis than our existing trains which is a massive difference. Some quick calculations suggest that on the current rail network the trains run about 3 million kilometres per year and so based on that figure it suggests fuel and maintenance costs are currently about $24 million per year. By comparison running the same frequencies with electric trains would save about $13 million per year. That’s not too bad however the real benefit comes in the future when we want to run more services. We could easily see the number of service kilometres double from what they are now and so the good news is that if that were to happen, the train operating costs would still be less than what they are now.
As mentioned the costs above only represent one part of the cost of running the rail network and many of those costs will not change with the introduction of the EMU’s. Some of the other costs include:
- The Transdev contract which includes Staffing costs e.g. drivers, on-board staff, ticketing staff as well as the people behind the scenes that keeps the network going.
- Track access charges that we pay to Kiwirail to run and maintain the rail network.
- The running and maintenance of the various stations on the network.
The big thing that would impact on the operational costs from running more trains is the need for additional staff. We would obviously need more drivers to drive the trains as well as more on-board staff (something I understand the unions have demanded be retained despite the trains being designed for driver only operation). At this stage I’m not sure just how many extra staff would be needed or how much that would cost but I suspect that with the savings that will come from the electric trains we should be able to make a vast improvement to the number of services that a run each day for no additional cost above what we’re already paying. That should mean we can improve both peak and off peak services for little or no additional overall cost and boosting frequencies can have a really positive effect on patronage.
Being able to run more services for the same amount of money is the kind of story that Auckland Transport need to be shouting from the roof tops. This is especially important with so many people concerned about rates and council finances. So good for passengers, good for the city, good for the environment and good for the accountants. What’s not to love about these trains?