Last year Auckland Council agreed to fund the procurement of more electric trains in order to meet the massive growth of patronage on the rail network since Project DART and Electrification of the network.

Whilst the trains should look the same as the ones we have now, as I understand it, AT will be going though a process to review the design. Here are a few improvements they should consider.

USB Chargers

One of the great things about the new buses, like the double deckers, is that they have USB chargers to charge your phone. Personally I never have a charger on me so have never used one, but I see people using them all the time. I wonder if it would be possible to add USB chargers as part of the new trains and even to upgrade the current units to have them.

Metro Style Seating

One of the suggestions Matt has had in the past is if capacity constraints were being reached which I think it highly likely pre-CRL is to have more metro style seating arrangements by using sideways seating. While seated capacity would be reduced the capacity of the train would increase, at the end of the day not having a seat is preferable to being left at the platform, and there would still plenty of seating for those with accessibility issues.

Changing it could be easy as Matt wrote back in 2016, and if changing is easy then doing it for new sets surely is easier:

Initially converting just the centre sections of two end cars in each train would lose just 16 seats from a train but gain a huge amount of additional space for people to stand. I also understand the seats are designed to be easily changed. If you catch a train you may notice the current directional seating is cantilevered off the walls. This means there’s are no poles to move or marks to be left on the floor and changing the seats is simply a case of changing a bracket to turn the seats around. It would probably also have the added advantage of stopping vandals from scratching the backs of seats. If needed, we could do the same with the rest of the seats on the trains.

Faster doors

The dwell times on our trains are horrendously slow, especially compared to cities overseas. Some of this is related to the process the train managers use, but some it also relates to the trains. If you watch the door opening/closing process closely you’ll see a couple of things that suck up time and when added together and across all stations, quickly adds up. These are

  • There’s a few second delay from the time the train arrives till when the doors can be opened. This occurs even is situations where the driver automatically opens all doors.
  • To improve accessibility to the trailer car, there is a walkway that extends out to the platform. This is quite slow, delaying the opening of the doors compared to the other doors on the train and delaying departure while waiting for the platform to retract. This would ideally be a much faster process. The other doors have a small fixed platform and so even having the walkway only reset to the same distance a the other doors would make an improvement.
  • After the doors close and the train manager has signalled the driver to depart there is a multi-second delay until the power is activated to the train again (you can hear it click back on)

All of this process needs to be much faster and rolled out to the existing trains too.

Decent Intercom

The intercom system within the train is completely useless, I am not sure why train managers even bother using it. The intercom from the drivers cabs is better though, as are the automated announcements. I know AT plan is to phase out the TM role but wonder if having another look at the intercom is worth it.

I also don’t know if this is possible but would be cool if communications could come from the control centre direct in a clear manner. It might lead to information getting out to passengers quicker and clearer which makes them happy, all while giving AT the confidence that correct information is being issued.

So there are some of my ideas, what are yours?

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  1. I think fast dwell times is probably my most important feature, using the train just seems too slow.

    It would also be nice to remove the split level and steps accessing the train, i think this is impossible (very expensive) to fix. I’m sure i nearly trip up few times exiting and entering the train with those steps

    1. Yes Richard C, absolutely faster dwell times. My usual experience is dwell times of 55 seconds on the Manukau Line although I have had faster times on the weekend. Compare this with my recent experience in Sydney 30 – 32 seconds with far busier stations and double decker trains. Get it right AT!

    2. I can’t see how fixing dwell times on the new trains would help though. How can you run a timetable if the trains all have different speeds depending when they were ordered? You’d need one of the lines to be serviced exclusively from the new order.

      You need to fix the dwell times on the existing trains.

  2. When there is standing room only, it is very difficult to keep your balance in the area in front of the doors. I notice that many of the light rail and metro rail systems in other cities have a central pole (sometimes with three rails) to give people in this area something to hold on to. Would be a great addition.

  3. 1) Dwell times (although I think this should be an easy upgrade for our existing trains too.
    2) Permanent 6-car sets – remove the unused driver cabs in the centre of a 6-car EMU (2×3-Car EMUs). This should reduce the costs of purchase quite a lot but will also add around 10% or more capacity to each 6-car set and allow passengers to access the entire length of the train. We are at the point now where we don’t need to break trains down into 3 car sets. If there is an issue at the maintenance yard (we firstly they need to upgrade it for the future where we might end up with 9-car EMUs) but even though we call them “permanent EMU” doesn’t actually mean they can’t be split for maintenance etc – they are still the same they just don’t have the quick decouple in the middle like 2x 3-car EMUs have. It is more like how they currently remove a car out of a set if needed.
    3) Yes USB would be a nice touch.
    4) I don’t think we need metro style seating just yet – especially given the capacity increases extra trains will bring and the 10%+ extra space permanent 6-car EMU would offer.
    5) I would even be inclined to see if it is possible to have 7-car EMU (and if they are slightly too long for some platforms do as they do overseas and warn passengers that the rearmost carriage doors won’t open at the next stop – provides a further 16% capacity increase giving a total increase of about 26%) – we are still years away from CRL opening and will hit peak capacity constraints before then. Post-CRL if needed those 7th car’s can be removed and be used towards additional sets.

    1. I generally agree with you comment including in principle the idea of 6-car sets. However, it is worth remembering these new units will be the only ones that go to Pukekohe and it would tie use to running six car sets on every service to Pukekohe no matter whether it is a weekday or the weekend.

      I’m not sure we need seven car sets for the same reason we don’t need metro style seating. There is still a significant amount of capacity left in our existing 6-car sets that I think will get us through to CRL. The capacity issues at the moment are with 3-car sets running during peak.

      1. I was under the impression that Pukekohe will now be electrified earlier?
        I guess if they are going to be BEMU then that would make “a” difference. In that case half the new units should be permanent with the other half being 3-cars to allow for off-peak services as you mention.
        Depending on the BEMU packs installed it might be better to install them into existing EMU in which case all the new trains can be permanent. Remember they will not only increase capacity but will be cheaper.

        If the capacity issues are just because of 3-car running during peak then fine however if this isn’t the only case then 7-cars are a very cost effective way of increasing capacity.

        1. I wonder if the logistics reality of running different set sizes will make it all too hard (ie read: cost/consistent service) even if it is possible. Stabling, coupling & uncoupling, staff procedures/training etc etc, dealing with breakdowns, service disruptions etc etc etc. Maybe all harder than we think….not that I know much about this, but in general these things are not as easy as they first appear.

        2. Sydney’s newest fleet is made up of 8-car units rather than 2×4 which was the norm so it must be doable. I imagine the 57 3-car units we have now is more than enough for weekend services, some extra peak services post CRL and having some 6-car units that can be broken in two if necessary if there is a train down on a particular day.

      2. Yes capacity issue from what I see is the 3-car sets running during peak or following a hiccup in the service. I think going to permanent 6 if they could do it would be great no so much from the 10% gain in capacity but in the ability to move right through the whole 6-car set train both for passengers and transit officers & other staff.

  4. What about getting rid of the front/rear noses for where the two three car units join together to make the train a true six car unit. This would increase capacity again and would make sense as most trains are run as six car units anyway.

  5. I did a trip from Onehunga to Britomart before Christmas and timed the Dwell at each station and it worked out 1 minute for each stop [7seconds to open 7seconds to close and the rest was for passengers to get on and off] the slowest time was Newmarket after the doors closed as the train had to wait another 2 minutes for the signals to change. You also have to remember if the train arrives at a station early it can not leave before the schedule time as there would then be complaints from passengers if it left to early and they missed it .
    As for usb ports why need them if only going a short distance all they have to do switch the device off and go cold turkey , Cause by the time the plug it in and unplug it they may have missed their stop .
    As for making the units longer just buy say 20 more low floor carriages and extend a number of the existing units into either 4,5 or 6 car trains which then can be used at peak times . But the question will the motors be able to handle the extra weight ?

    1. Reducing dwell times allows us to speed up the timetables.

      USB ports aren’t much use for short trips, but Pukekohe to Britomart (for example) is over an hour!

      The EMUs are custom designed for the CRL, removing motorized cars in the middle will mean they can’t run in the CRL. We could have motorized carriages without driver rooms though.

      1. The centre unit is the traction unit the rear unit is just a trailer and the other unit is the power electronic unit , so with new low floor units they also could have motors installed

        1. Ah, that wasn’t my understanding. Even if that were the case, would you not need the power electronic units?

        2. Not correct. In a 3-car unit, the first is the power unit, which has a motor, the second is a trailer unit (the low floor carriage) and the third is another motor unit.

          When hooked together to make a 6-car set car 1,3,4 and 6 have motors, while 2 and 5 are low-floor trailers.

        3. “1 AMA (driving motor) + 1 AMT (trailer) + 1 AMP (driving motor/pantograph), per set[1]”

          That link shows that the middle car is an unpowered trailer. Thanks for searching and getting back to us 🙂

    2. It’s only the timed stops like Newmarket that the trains have to wait to keep to the timetable, all others are an ‘estimated’ time.

      I have seen trains leave Panmure a couple of minutes early on a number of occasions due to the amount of fat in the timetable at the moment.

    3. Yes they can handle the extra weight as they are an over-powered design (that is currently software limited to not accelerate too quickly) that was built for the CRL. Until such time as the CRL opens (which is years away) there is no reason why would couldn’t have longer trains in the interim as a cost effective capacity measure. Once the CRL opens then these can then be used to build new sets (with additional power units which will be needed by then anyway).

    4. I’ve observed about 35 sec dwell times when on a service trying to make up time as it was behind schedule a little. This was during peak IIRC, also seen similar during inter-peak.

    1. How about we don’t waste hundreds of thousands of dollars implementing that and use the money to improving public transport instead?
      Maori understand English since it is the most widely spoken language in this country (by an almost totally overwhelming majority, not too mention being the most widely spoken international language). Meanwhile only 20% of Maori who in turn only make up 15% of the population speak it (with less urban Maori speaking it than their rural counterparts).

      1. AKLdude, Māori is an official language of this country, if it costs “hundreds of thousand dollars” so be it. In the total context of government spending that is small change.
        Given that I know many Chinese metros, the Taipei and Hong Kong metros have announcements in 3 languages, and Singapore has 4, then 2 for NZ should be a cinch.

        1. The difference is that English is the lingua franca of Singapore, but there are a large number of ethnic minorities with a different first languages.

          There’d be few Maori and even fewer Aucklanders with Maori as a first language. And about zero who can only understand Maori but not English.

          In short, it’s ideological bollocks that you should crowdfund if you want to happen.

        2. “In short, it’s ideological bollocks that you should crowdfund if you want to happen.”

          Maybe with the crowd being New Zealand and the funding being taxation.

        3. In Singapore, by law, all public communications must be in four languages – Bahasa Malay, Tamil, Mandarin and English, hence all PT service announcements there are in four languages. In Seoul, local laws stipulate that where possible, all public written communications must be Korean, English, Mandarin and Japanese. In Hong Kong, the law states that all public communications must be in Cantonese, Mandarin and English. In Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, it is not written into law but many transport operators there, display / communicate key services messages in Japanese, Mandarin, Korean and English, due to the large numbers of Mandarin, Korean, English and Japanese speaking people using those respective networks. Auckland ought to follow the Japan model and display / communicate key service messages in Te Reo, English, Mandarin and Korean. As per the 2013 census, 23% of Auckland’s population is of Asian origin with Mandarin and Korean speakers, a large combined chunk of that 23%.

    2. NZ Sign Language would have to be on a screen. Agree with Maori on intercom. Too many historical and equity reasons why to list here, but from a practical point of view it makes sense: learning a language is made far easier when it surrounds you… gentle reminders to engage that part of the brain frequently are what makes all the difference. This sort of change normalises the practices of speaking and learning it, just as announcers finally getting pronunciation within cooey did.

      One of the reasons we have a definition like Official Language is so that we don’t have to debate this.

      1. There are too many automated announcements already. I think they should just switch to Maori only, it would probably sound a bit nicer and would be about as useful as the current announcements.

        1. If Canada can be bilingual and the second language not even be an indigenous one, and if Japanese trains can include English announcements and that language is not even an official language of their country, then there is no excuse whatsoever for us not having Te Reo announcements. Infact even as a Pakeha NZer I think it’s pretty damn embarrassing we don’t.

          And as an ex languages teacher (Japanese) I can tell you that the more a language is visible in everyday life, the more it starts to get picked up and used. The more Te Reo is visible the more it will become a part of many people’s furniture and without the cringe. afterall there was a lot of hot air about the anthem in Te Reo when if first came out, and now it’s just normal. And to people who say it has no usefullness internationally. Who cares? It’s something unique to our country and that’s all that matters, something we should celebrate and foster, not cringe about.

          So yes, bring on Te Reo announcements!

        2. Canada has over 20% of it’s population who speak French as their first language vs NZ where Te Reo is spoken by around 3% of the population and is the first language of even less than that. French is also a widely spoken international language…Te Reo is not (at all).

          Likewise for Japan – Japanese is obviously spoken by their entire population. They have English because English is the international language and is the easiest language to have to cover the most amount of people visiting Japan so they can use the Japanese train system (same reason why a lot of countries have English as a second announcement on their systems).

          Another point is that the more announcements you have the more people ignore them as they get overwhelmed by them. Too many and the noise of the whole journey starts to put people off public transport also – 2x negative responses coupled with the extra cost of doing this – all so that 3% of the population (who don’t need it since they speak English already) can feel good just isn’t worth it.

          As for it being a drop in the bucket of government spending, that may be true except that public transport has to fight for every dollar so wasting precious dollars on this really is ridiculous. If Maori want to pay AT to have it added might be a different story.

        3. Singapore does announcements in five languages, Cantonese, Hakka, Malay, Hindi and English.

          We can handle two I’m sure, maybe even more? Having announcements in Tongan at Fruitvale Road would probably help!

        4. Yes too many loud announcements. Do we have to be told at EVERY stop how to open the door, to mind the gap, to tag off, upcoming station (twice) etc etc. I just want some peace and quiet

    3. Yes if we had unlimited funds, but this would cost AT a lot and there are better uses for money. You may as well be asking for more RONS in terms of value for money. It will be gibberish to 99% of people on the train so why bother other than for stupid PR, feel good reasons?

      English is not even an official language in law so you could argue we should only have NZSL and Te Reo announcements.

      1. I doubt Don Brash would ever use a train. They’re an “outmoded mode of transport”, according to him.

  6. I like keeping the current design, except maybe adding some fins to lower wind resistance. And a racing stripe would be pretty sharp.

  7. Permanent six car sets is another really obvious one. If we are ordering 17 new EMUs, then we can actually create 17 permanent six car sets (order 34 driverless end cars and 17 trailer cars. We can then use them anywhere on the network. This is probably enough to do all of the Western and Eastern lines if we can speed up the dwell time.

  8. Pet friendliness – a HOP DOG policy that says if your doggy (or cat, or support hamster) can sit on your lap, it’s allowed on the train, and the bus. Why just ferries?

    And how about an SPCA co-branded tag that throws a dollar at the SPCA every time your doggy tags on?

      1. Enlightened souls over there – obviously not run by people from a grim mill town in the Midlands. More than their job’s worth to let a canine into a carriage… Meanwhile, I’ll be taking the car (horror!) ALL THE WAY TO TOWN.

        1. The Waiheke Bus Company is own by a Scotsman who also runs Fullers ferries and the Howick & Eastern Bus Company

    1. How about we smear peanut oil over everything too while we are at it? Some people have severe pet allergies that can kill them.

  9. Replace the awful flat Spanish seats with the comfortable contoured NZ seats fitted in the SA carriages – the current seats may be OK for short journeys, but they are a pain in the back for longer journeys (especially for older passengers). It’s the most common complaint I hear from Ranui & Swanson commuters.

    1. How do you get a contoured seat that works for everyone, though? Seem to me they’re always moulded to a standard sized man’s body.

  10. There needs to be more comfortable seating fitted with the longer journeys that are to be expected with the eventual extension of electric services to Pukekohe. Perhaps the same seating as previously fitted in the diesel fleet which were much more comfortable than the hard flat seating in the current EMU fleet. A lot of people complain about how uncomfortable the seating in the EMUs are compared to the SA trains and DMUs, particularly on long journeys from Swanson / Henderson / Papakura into the city.

    Ditto a more comfortable seat for the Driver needs to be fitted as well, as the ones fitted in the current EMU cabs are hard and uncomfortable and don’t have inbuilt shock resistance built into the seat like the more comfortable standard Driver seats in the DMUs and locomotives. The Driver has to sit for much longer on these trains every day than passengers.

    Better headlights are needed so that the Drivers can actually see the track etc ahead at night. The poor performance of the headlights are the number 1 complaint about the EMUs that nearly all Drivers have. The present highbeam light output on the current EMUs is the same as the low beam light output on a DMU or locomotive.

    Install cruise control to enable the Driver to maintain a more constant steady safe speed to provide less jerking with the very sensitive acceleration and braking of the EMUs, to provide a smoother ride.

    Fix the shocking and scary wheel slip problem with the braking system in wet and frosty weather. Hair raising at times at present.

    Install a car stereo in the drivers cab, the same as all locomotives and SD cabs have, to help the Driver remain alert particularly in the early morning and late at night with the repetitive monotonous nature of the task of driving.

    Dwell times need to be reduced with better, more up to date computer software which allows the Driver to open the doors as soon as the train stops and likewise move off as soon as the Train Manager gives right of way. Having the ability for the Driver to just press the ‘all doors open’ button without having to also first press the ‘release button’ would also speed things up.

    Improvements need to be made to the ETCS – this alone is the single biggest hindrance to the speed of the EMUs and the Auckland rail system. It has so many flaws and issues. Perhaps time to look into installing a the GPS based ETCS level 2 system?

    Installing a better PA system which enables people to actually hear manual announcements made by the train crew. Set the volume lower for the auto announcements and keep the auto announcements very brief – too many all the time and people soon switch off and don’t listen to anything that comes through the PA system. Better to have a Train Manager making manual announcements as this will capture people’s attention.

    Keep the Train Managers role with operating the trains closing the doors and giving right of way to the Driver once it is all clear and safe to go – this is the safest, most reliable and fastest system for the Auckland rail network.

    Change / remove the slow plug doors.

    Install quieter air conditioning.

    Make the interior lighting less harsh and bright with having a softer ‘warm white’, to make the atmosphere more inviting and relaxing, rather than the cold bright ice white colour at present, which is not nice and is hard on the eyes early in the morning and late at night when it is dark.

    Design the trains to be run as 9 car sets for future growth and possible new 9 car express trains running from Pukekohe to Papakura and Otahuhu with 9 car platforms built at these stations, and possibly into Britomart if a 9 car platform is built either here or at one of the other CRL stations.

    Have ‘AT Metro’ branding, which should also be retro fitted and applied to all the other existing EMUs, on all stations, depots, public transport signage and on new staff uniforms so that there is one consistent brand and image for all modes and operators across the city.

    1. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the intercom, I think it might be more to do with the users. On my train this morning the driver came on to tell us why there was a small delay, he was clear and concise, about 20 seconds later the TM came on presumably to attempt to say the same thing, made no sense at all and just muddied the waters.

      The TM must of been woken from his slumber and realised he should be doing something.

    2. All interesting stuff from a driver’s perspective and quite a list.
      The only thing I disagree with is
      “Keep the Train Managers role with operating the trains closing the doors and giving right of way to the Driver once it is all clear and safe to go – this is the safest, most reliable and fastest system for the Auckland rail network.”
      The Auckland rail network is not special compared to all the other rail networks that operate very safely without train managers, this role is unfortunately no longer relevant and leads to a much longer dwell time.
      I know it’s sad to see this long time role go, but like hat makers in the 1920’s through to supplier’s of typewriters in the 1990’s – our world is changing and old jobs disappear and new job appear.
      Claiming ‘safety’ and causing disruptions with strikes on a Friday which cause chaos for traveller’s and very importantly give a bad perception to the general populous for when a real strike for a real cause such as wages may come along in the future.

  11. If the metro style seats happen it’s irrelevant but square the walls. Due to the curvature of the current walls, valuable foot space is lost. It’s one of several moronic design features in the interior of the trains that makes me wonder if the designers have never sat in a train before. Actually, wait, the curvature means there is also less room under seats for bags etc. Definitely do this.

    The seats themselves should be more like those on the old diesel trains. Those were much better. The pattern is fine but everything else is worse.

    No more of those dumb head space removing television screens. They’re completely useless and make it harder to use the train rather than easier.

    Rethink the design of the button press system. Frankly, I think the button has proven itself a disaster but if they want to keep it around they need to find a way of doing so without losing arm space. This will be all the more critical if metro seating is used. (Also, maybe find an alternative to the plastic they use to protect the glass bit because on several of the trains it has started to peel off.)

    I am favourably disposed to the designed six carriage approach. I do not think this is a problem re: Pukekohe. Back in the diesel days the Pukekohe trains were always noticeably faster. The current transfer system also is timed so badly you end up with everyone from the shuttle sitting in one carriage rather than spreading through as we’re meant to.

    My friends and I have often wondered (a) if internet enabled trains would ever be an actual thing and (b) whether or not this would actually improve matters (would the train become the break from work or would the break from work just be extended into the train journey too?).

    Just a general difference without looking out of place (ah, the “miracle” of consistent livery). Commuting is more fun with variety. Imagine the “thrill” of wondering whether or not today’s train would have the current door arrangement or a different faster one (again, like the old diesels… the not popping out thing and then retracting issue talked about here in relation to the dwell problem before).

    Possibly set the poles in the central section away from the seats a bit more. There always seems to be a sense of being trapped by these at the moment. It would also allow people to stand a bit further away (convenient due to feet).

    Oh, and the intercom. One of several things (see above) that the diesel fleet did better. It’s ridiculous. Less smelly and quieter trains shouldn’t come at the cost of every other modern convenience! It’s possible to do both.

    1. The current transfer system between Pukekohe and Papakura trains at Papakura could very easily be fixed right now by simply having all Pukekohe DMU trains berth on Platform 2 whenever possible with the connecting EMU service berth on Platform 1, enabling faster direct transfers from one side of the platform to the other (and under cover) with the loading spread out more evenly along the train.

      The current Platform 4 could then be used by the proposed new Hamilton-Papakura SA service and later have the dock road removed and filled in to make Platform 3 into a 9 car EMU platform.

      1. Platform 1 may be a problem as often I see both northbound and southbound freight trains pass through the station without stopping or slowing. Is there another road beyond platform 1 available for freighters?

  12. Fix the info displays in the trains. They run through too slowly and spell out every single word unnecessarily. If you weren’t paying attention to the announcements, just notice the train is arriving at a station and quickly want to see which station it is, you end up waiting a while for all the useless words to scroll through. Instead of scrolling through from the right with “The next stop is Papatoetoe” (or whatever it currently says), just start with “Next stop: Papato” already on the screen, then scroll in the rest, stopping once the last letters are on the screen. Most stations may even fit without scrolling. Then switch to whatever else needs to be displayed, again not scrolling in everything, but start with a full screen of letters and scroll in additional content if required.
    Or if that’s too hard, at least shorten some of the wording and speed it up.
    Not really specific to new trains, but something I’d like to see on the existing ones too.

  13. The seats need to have the same ribbed plastic backing on them as those fitted in the SA carriages and DMUs to help discourage the graffiti etching into the current flat plastic seat backs in the current EMUs.

    The same ledge (heating / HVAC) along the bottom of the carriage walls where they meet the carriage floor would be better than the current flat rounded wall section meeting the floor, as the ledge in the SAs made it great for resting a foot on, making journeys more comfortable (with the more comfortable seats).

  14. Some good ideas but what do you mean by this/ can you correct this sentence please? “The other doors have a small fixed platform and so even having the walkway only reset to the same distance a the other doors would make an improvement.”

    1. I think he means when the extendable footstep retracts, allow it to stop when it reaches the same amount of protrusion as the fixed footsteps on the other vehicles, rather than requiring it to retract all the way in before the train-start sequence can begin. This would save time. It would also save time when deploying if starting from a partially-extended position.

  15. WIFI and quiet aircon units. Feels eerily silent when the Aircon stops but that’s only because they make so much noise. I spend a lot of time waiting for a Wellington train control to let us into Britomart. Makes the dwell times insignificant.

    1. “Here we go what is going to be the extra cost of things we dont need”.
      Well you obviously need apsotrophes and full stops.

        1. Apstotrophes was a contemporary of Aristophanes. Together they wrote satirical plays about transport cost-benefit analysis in the Athenian empire. True story.

        2. They usually ended with a tie between busways and light rail options, a situation called ‘deuce ex machina’.

  16. Disc brakes that do not squeal when stopping.

    However why do they use traditional brakes at all, thought the benefit of electric trains is that they can use regenerative braking ?

    1. I doubt you can throw all that energy straight back into the grid can you? So they would need batteries to store it like a Hybrid does? Probably doesn’t make commercial sense.

        1. Are you sure about this? That is often true for DC systems, but I believe here that with AC traction the excess is able to be exported back to the grid (just like home solar). The EMUs in Auckland will use mainly regen braking in normal operation but then blend in the friction brakes at very low speed to come to a complete stop. I believe many electric cars do the same (I guess regen doesn’t work well at low motor revolutions).

  17. The retractable door platforms for wheelchairs need to be close to the platform edge, and if they were already extended as the train arrives they would hit the platform as the train rocks from side to side. This would need to be offset by a slower approach speed, which is why they instead made them retractable.

    More comfortable seats, like those in the SA carriages, would be nice.

    1. But there’s no reason why they couldn’t be partially extended, so retracted they’re the same distance the fixed platforms on the motor cars. That’s something which could save a little bit of time as only half as far to travel

      1. Completely agree Matt. These trains are STILL the slowest opening ones (particularly the middle carriage) I have encountered anywhere in the world when it comes to metro or commuter trains.

      2. Indeed. The simple question is why do the retractable platforms retract over twice as far as the fixed platforms? Have them start and finish at the same extent as the fixed platforms, and the time it takes to extend them will be halved, or thereabouts.

      3. These retracting steps will probably be a 3rd party product. They may well not have an intermediate stowage setting. Also the fixed steps have sheer bolts on them, so that if the track position does change slightly (i.e. with extreme heat) and they hit the platform, the will just snap off. The retractable steps aren’t designed to snap off and might take a bit of the side of the train with them. I’d imagine it wouldn’t be cheap to fix. Although I agree with the idea here and it should probably be implemented, a lot of people on this blog (including the authors) do seem to over simplify how much effort is required to change things.

  18. First thing is to get rid of the ‘Train Managers’ and go to driver operated doors. All the train managers should be re-trained as Transport Officers. This will enable the existing trains to be setup as designed.

    Then for the new trains;

    1) Faster Door Times
    2) On-Board Wifi
    3) USB Chargers
    4) Information Screen (with approximate arrival to stations, e.g. Britomart – 15min)

    Keep similar design (alter seating as needed however if train departing Papatoetoe for example, seating is more important (long way to stand), maybe have a play with configurations to get optimum result).

  19. USB chargers are on their way out. New iphones and Samsungs have those near-field-contact charging pad things with no plugging in necessary, so by the time these trains are in service, that will be the norm, and less likely to break down / less people leaving plugs and wires stuck in the wall. We need conducting ledges instead – one per window seat.

    As a infrequent visitor to Auckland, and therefore only an infrequent user of your trains, ie I am a tourist, they need more / better signage / communication about the route. I would wish for maps / plans / rolling illuminated display signage about upcoming and future stations, easier to read and understand for a tourist than those garbled verbal messages. Perhaps even wifi messaging to all the people on the train, as a better means of communication than a voice over.

    And in related matters, today in Wellington, there was discussion of ordering some new dual / diesel / electric traction trains for the Wairarapa line, so that the train could use the electrical lines of the Wellington region and then switch to diesel for the Wairarapa branch line. You know, like the ones Kiwirail should have ordered for the main trunk line. The advantage of which is that, if Auckland did the same thing, we could actually have nationwide train coverage and an actual national mainly-electric rail network….

    1. Will still be some time before even the majority of phones have wireless charging and even then they can all still charge via cable. USB chargers would have to be replaced at some point anyway so when that happens then they can change to wireless if needed.

      Agree there should be more maps on the walls etc and the scrolling sign should be updated so that it doesn’t take so long – the whole message shouldn’t scroll – should start with the first part displayed and then scroll for the rest of the message.

      Good call by Wellington for their network. Auckland could possibly do these however with Pukekohe due to be electrified it isn’t necessary. Auckland could look into something like these for the RRR though for stage 1.

      We definitely shouldn’t be going to diesel only for the NIMT. How it should work is keep the electric loco’s (with an upgrade or get new ones). Add a diesel to the front to cover between Auckland OLE and NIMT OLE (since it is flat terrain one reasonably powerful diesel can do the job). It can then quickly disconnect in Frankton (or stay on whatever works best) and then another one quickly hooks up in Palmy through to the Wellington OLE (if new loco’s bought which can run AC or DC) where the electrics can take it through to Wellington. Should be a lot faster removing/adding a single diesel loco than the existing switching loco’s out completely and of course the electrics are faster between Hamilton and Palmy than diesels.

    2. The main problem with this is, most people want to use their phones / devices while charging on Public Transport. With wireless charging at the moment you ironically render the device useless, as it has to be touching the charging pad. With USB and bring your own cable setup at least you can still use your device in hand while its charging. Also it can charge at a reasonable speed. All wireless charging pads would require updating to get increased charging speed in the near future, however USB will still be around for the foreseeable future. (Until devices can fast charge wirelessly, and apple ditch all ports on their device followed quickly by google, samsung etc).

  20. Faster opening and closing for doors, and better intercoms, are the obvious improvements to make. I’d like to see USB but I’m loath to suggest introducing a new feature when it’s such a struggle to even make the doors and intercoms fit for purpose.

  21. How would I improve the Auckland trains? Copy as many features as possible from the Matangi design, with the exception of the two-car consists and the 1500V DC traction supply. In particular, employ sliding doors instead of plug-doors and insist on much quicker stop-start sequences. Aim for 30s standard dwells, which even the hugely-busy London Underground achieves.

    However any changes made to the second tranche of Auckland units must not preclude their ability to operate in multiple with the Mk 1’s. And improvements may need to be retro-fitted to the Mk 1’s so that they don’t end up becoming the limiting factor in the combined fleet.

    Oh, and encourage drivers to use the full design-acceleration and braking rates of 1.0m/s² instead of instructing them to drive to only 75% of available power and then slackening the timetables to allow for this. While punctuality is important, it has been over-prioritised at the expense of faster journey times. This needs redressing.

  22. Good list.

    Something nice to have would be a network map that indicates upcoming stop, direction etc. mounted on the sides near the ceiling. Similar to (a more modern LCD one might be more practical for us, since our network is changing rapidly – if they can resist the urge to cycle ads through it). Ditch the tiny info screens that are being trialled.

    Get rid of the carpet! Makes it feel altogether too homely. Don’t touch the colour temperature of the lights, for exactly the same reason. It’s a public space, not someone’s lounge.

    There is something about the trains that causes them retain body odour that seems to linger a lot of the time. Possibly this is the fabric used on the seats?

    The accordion sections joining the units often seem to end up making a loud banging noise. Not sure if this is an issue with the trains or because someone regularly forgets to duct tape something together properly. Fix it if it’s an issue with the vehicles themselves.

    1. Great point about the body odour Shan. You get on a train at the moment, particularly in the evenings and almost without fail they smell terrible.

      Personally I wouldn’t change too much.
      USB Charges – Given the time on the train fairly limited. If it costs decent dollars scrap this idea
      Metro Seating – God No. The last thing we need is more people forced to stand
      Faster Doors – Pointless unless you can make the same change with the current trains
      Decent Intercom – Bigger problem is the person speaking into the intercom and their inability to clearly communicate

      1. Fully agree about removing the carpets and doing something about the smells and odours inside the carriages, the smell of stale sweat first thing in the morning can be quite overwhelming and sickening.

        This is due to the minimal cleaning the trains get with only being vacuumed and ‘spot cleaned’ at night. All that sweat, food grease, snot, vomit, fecal matter, urine, sexual fluids, fleas, carpet mites which is embedded in the seat fabrics and carpets..

        All carriages need to have all their seats and carpets fully shampoo cleaned ie Rug Doctor, and all surfaces wiped down and disinfected at least once a month. God only knows if this ever happens at present, the smells present speaks for itself.

        1. Half the issue is there seems to be NO enforcement of the no hot / smelly food rule so school kids bring on BK, McD’s, even whole pizzas and stink out the carriages.

        2. Sounds like when they return to the depot or are waiting somewhere they need to open all the doors to change out the air in the trains. Constantly running with AC only pretty much traps the air inside with the smells etc.

        3. Back in 1997 I was traveling daily on a Cal Train commuter service between San Fransico and San Jose and each time the train arrived in San Fransico around 12 cleaners got on to the carriages with all their cleaning supplies and they then gave all the carriages a good scrub . The carriages themselve were all double deckers and I asked how often did they clean them and was told after every return trip they were cleaned .
          So why can’t AT do the same with all the extras parked up during the slow periods ?

      2. “Metro Seating – God No. The last thing we need is more people forced to stand”

        metro seating doesn’t mean more people standing, it means people standing on trains instead of at stations.

        1. I think metro style seating should be the final step once we have the maximum frequency allowable with the CRL and the maximum length of trains (hopefully 9-car). Metro style seating will be a challenge with our trains as they only have two doors per carriage so they are limited in the rate people can get on and off.

  23. Get that announcer to say “Ellerslie” and not “Errisry”.
    Oh and could we get announcers to make an attempt to pronounce place names correctly?
    At least an attempt? Oh-tah-hu is the name of nowhere. There’s lots of others and not all Maori place names either.

    1. Why is having Fiona Bruce Bruce RP announcing the arrival at Ellerslie aany more correct than a Kiwi person who actually lives here announcing it in our accent?

    2. Most networks have a pre-recorded announcement by a professional announcer who can actually speak clearly in proper English (doesn’t need to sound posh or whatever but does need to be clear and preferably without a thick accent).

  24. – Doors can open without waiting for the ramp to fully extend. The ramp should extend faster.
    – Faster doors
    – Less system delay for the dwell time
    – less noise when turning or breaking
    – low powered AC plugs to charge laptops. As well as USB sockets
    – Bike mounting racks
    – Luggage racks
    – priority seats for disabled, eldery and mums.
    – folding tables for laptops
    – onboard free wifi
    – anti vandalism cctv cams
    – all door open during peak time
    – Soft warning sound 15sec before door closing. Louder faster warning 3 seconds before closing

  25. I think USB chargers are good. just because some people are on short trips, doesn’t mean others aren’t. as Harriet herself said, I’ve seen these used quite a bit on new buses, and even used them a couple of times on a NEX myself.

    Otherwise the door operation is a MUST! Like others I’ve timed dwell times at various stations and there is no excuse for 45sec-1min dwell times!

  26. A solution needs to be found for the emergency door release on the outside of the carriages to stop the present ease for misuse by graffiti vandals and problem youths. Perhaps an alternative location concealed underneath the carriage like on the DMUs and/or having an override for this in the drivers cab, rather than the current system which stops the train from moving until the Train Manager goes out on the outside of the train to reset it with a key. Train crews can’t reset it until the danger (taggers) have gone, or trains get delayed by youths repeatedly pulling the emergency release flap after the Train Manager has reset it and has just got back inside the train.

    1. Not necessarily. They could do that tomorrow by adding 20 minutes fat to the timetable and having a bunch of timing points where the train stops for up to five minutes.

  27. ETCS, that is set up to ensure trains crawl in and out of platforms. It does NOT have to be that bad, honestly. It’s just AT won’t pay to rectify this issue.

    And on the last point, position platforms on the far side of the level crossing, Glen Eden, Ranui, Baldwin Ave, etc, etc. This eliminates red lights, that have to clear and all of that slow trains down, hugely.

    And in keeping with that also, start getting rid of level crossings.

    As per everyone else, sort the effing dwell times out AT. It’s not like you turkeys can pretend you are unaware of the problem. The DMU’s are still quicker to and from Onehunga. (That and the ETCS).

    And personally the repetitive announcements about using the bloody green button and be aware of the gap between the train and the platform, make it stop, please, make it stop!

  28. With the auto announcements, AT should get Winston Peters to do the recordings – he is Maori and is very well spoken and articulate with a very distinct recognisable voice.

  29. Thomas the tank engine faces on the front of the EMU’s, let’s get that gang that tagged the whole train a few months ago to so one for each train front.

  30. Dwell time and acceleration/deceleration the big issues by a long way, but I also wonder if it’s really necessary for the the noise when the compressed air is dumped at the end of a run to be quite so loud. Minor but surely couldn’t be hard to muffle.

    1. This. it’s a regular occasion for me to jump out of my skin due to the compressed air being released. Actually hurts my ears sometimes.

  31. Re faster doors

    I presume the doors open when off power ? ie in the event of a derailment, the worst case scenario I can think of being a derailment into Hobson Bay.

    Sure it’s remote however

  32. How about proper screens, with maps, news, weather, among other things. Something along the lines of the New Tube For London trains.

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