For a long time I have been fascinated with Tilt trains, I have now decided to write a post about them. For those that don’t know a tilting train is a train that is designed to tilt with the curve as banking around it. Think of it this way, when you are riding a bike as you move into a corner you tilt inwards which allows you to take the corner better at a higher speed. By tilting the train combats the centripetal force which causes inertia e.g. when standing you losing balance as you come around a curve. So when the curve goes to the right, the train tilts right, making a more comfortable ride as well as allowing faster speeds.
In Queensland there are two regional lines that run tilt trains, an Electric tilt train entering service 1998 built by Walkers, who are now owned by Downer (Tilt Train) service between Brisbane to Rockhampton covering 638km in in 7h45min, & a Diesel tilt train entering service 2003 built by Downer (Spirit of Queensland) between Brisbane and Cairns covering 1680km in 12h20min. They both have revenue top speed of 160km/h, however the Electric Tilt train holds the Australian record in a speed run hitting nearly 210 km/h just north of Bundaberg. The yellow boxes in the first attached timetable are the tilt train times, while the blue is the standard diesel, notice the 1h5m-1h50m difference in times.
You are asking why does this matter, Australia has completely different infrastructure to New Zealand, we could never make those speeds. What if I told you these run on Queensland’s rail network, which is 1067mm Cape Gauge (Narrow Gauge) the exact same as us, as well as for the Electric Tilt Train using 25 kV AC Overhead lines the same used on Auckland Electrification, and the NIMT Te Rapa-Palmerston North Electrification.
So could tilt trains be used here, Britomart to Hamilton is over 138.7km, at current there is a 87.1 km electrification gap from Papakura to Te Rapa & 60km gap if electrification to Puke goes ahead. An estimate of the cost of electrifying the former was $433m, however this was 2008 and the actual report is hard to track down. There is also a single track section between Te Kauwhata & Amokura that should also realistically be duplicated.
Interestingly I looked into CAF, who built our Class AM EMU’s, they offer tilt train technology which they call SIBI, recently they have provided 8 Diesel tilt trains to Sardinia for $88m NZD, so they have experience in designing and building using this technology.
So we have a few options depending on the level of works you want to do, however I will simplify to two as examples
- Go all out, finish the electrification, upgrade a few stations Huntly, Te Rapa, Hamilton (There is a underground station that exists however is closed at current, double track Te Kauwhata & Amokura, complete the 3rd main (At the very least to Westfield), plus complete any other signal/track upgrades needed. These upgrades minus the stations would benefit freight speed/capacity as well, and many would argue are needed eventually regardless of intercity passenger services being introduced. This would be a quick, clean, modern comfortable service, if built with good windows (Because everyone loves a view), in train wifi, USB charging in the seats, as well as passenger trays for a laptop to watch a movie/catch up on emails, this service could be very competitive with driving.
- Start Small, procure from CAF, or another company some DMU tilt trains, upgrade a few Waikato stations, double track Te Kauwhata & Amokura while completing any track/signal upgrades necessary. Over time add upgrades depending on success.
So what do you think, have something like the below running to/from Hamilton, could technology like this give the Expressway a run for its money?