High Capacity Metro Trains finally taking passengers

With the first High Capacity Metro Train having just carried passengers, it is hard to believe that work started on the High Capacity Metro Trains project way back in 2016. Here is a look back at how they got here.

HCMT set 3 passes through East Richmond after a test run to the Burnley sidings

Construction

Design work kicked off in 2017, with a mockup train built for stakeholder consultation, and put on public display in February 2018.

Cab of the HCMT mockup

By July 2018 body shells manufactured in China had arrived in Melbourne for final fitout.

Backing a HCMT carriage body into the gantry crane shed

With the first completed HCMT train rolled out in October 2018 ready for a political photo op.

Complete HCMT set now assembled, and waiting for a political photo op

In November 2018 this train was transferred from the Downer factory at Newport to the HCMT depot at Pakenham East.

After a through inspection, the HCMT set can now depart Newport

The transfer was made in the dead of night, the untested train towed by diesel locomotives and treated as an unbraked vehicle, with extra wagons added to provide braking effort, and no trains allowed to pass on the parallel tracks.

Looking back towards the front of the transfer

By October 2019 initial testing at Pakenham East has proven the braking performance, with set 7 allowed to be transferred as a braked vehicle while other trains were still running.

P16 leads T386 on the up HCMT transfer at Footscray

The depot soon started to fill with new trains.

HCMT sets 4 and 6 stabled in the Integrated Test Facility shed

Testing

November 2019 saw the first HCMT run on the Pakenham line under it’s own power.


Video by Railways Of Doom – I didn’t make the trip out east to see the tests

With the government deciding to cancel normal services to enable the testing program to be sped up.

Evening services on parts of the busy Pakenham line have been cancelled for much of this week, as officials race to get Melbourne’s new high capacity trains on the track.

The $2.3 billion program is running months behind schedule, with the first of the new trains only recently allowed to leave the Pakenham East depot under its own power.

The train is required to complete 10,000 kilometres of testing on the suburban network, before being accepted into the Metro fleet.

But the government’s contract with builder Evolution Rail requires the first 2,500 kilometres of tests be undertaken between the last service of the day, and the first service the following day.

That’s prompted PTV to cancel services between Dandenong and Pakenham from just after 8pm each evening this week to maximise the test window.

In January 2020 the test program expanded to the Werribee line, where high speed brake testing was carried out.

HCMT arrives back at Laverton, this time on platform 1

And in March 2020 a HCMT set was transferred to Upper Ferntree Gully, so that the brakes could be tested on the steep grades of the Belgrave line.

HCMT set rolls through the platform at Upper Ferntree Gully

COVID-19 delays

COVID-19 hit Melbourne during 2020, everyone needing to keep their distance.

HCMT set 3 arrives into Elsternwick on the up

And wearing face masks.

HCMT set 3 passes through Windsor on the down, with another trip to Elsternwick
HCMT set 3 passes through Windsor on the down, with another trip to Elsternwick

Staff working on the HCMT test program were not exempt – a maximum of two people allowed in the cab.

'Max 2 people in cab' signage on the HCMT cab doors

More testing

June 2020 was another milestone, as the HCMT fleet was cleared to run alongside normal passenger services.

HCMT set 17 passes Galvin on the up, returning from a test run to Werribee

Transfers between Newport and Pakenham East also being carried out by day.

T385 leads P18, power van BVDY51 and HCMT set 4 towards Footscray on the down

But disruptions to normal services were still needed to enable additional testing – night time on the Pakenham line.

Buses replaced trains on the Pakenham line between Pakenham and Dandenong from Friday 3 July until Sunday 5 July to allow for the checks to take place.

The new trains are tested in real-world conditions, including stopping at stations, responding to signals and undergoing speed tests.

They had been running in-between passenger services where possible, but the weekend’s tests required repeated stopping and braking which is not possible during passenger services.

And from mid-afternoon on the Werribee line.

Buses will replace trains between Newport and Werribee stations from 2.45pm to the last service each day from Monday 24 August to Sunday 13 September to enable important safety and performance testing for Melbourne’s new High Capacity Metro Trains.

In September 2020 the first HCMT was tested on the Sunbury line – initially under the cover of darkness, but then between normal passenger services.

HCMT set 10 heads through Albion on the return from Sunbury

While the rest of the Melbourne was tucked away in bed, High Capacity Metro Trains were also sent to unexpected places like Kensington, to prove that the new trains were compatible with legacy infrastructure on the rest of the network.

Now clear of signal KEN592, HCMT ready to head back towards the city from Kensington

These tests were expanded in December 2020 to daylight runs between normal services, showing that a passenger carrying HCMT misrouted from the usual Pakenham and Cranbourne lines could safley unload passengers.

Flemington Racecourse to the north.

HCMT set 3 on arrival at Flemington Racecourse

Burnley in the east.

HCMT set 3 arrives at the Burnley stabling sidings

And Elsternwick on the Sandringham line.

HCMT set 3 pauses at Elsternwick station, the rear end overhanging the platform by ~10 metres

And into service

Back in February 2019 the Evolution Rail consortium was promoting a “mid-2019” date for the first HCMT operational on the Cranbourne and Pakenham lines.

'Melbourne, meet your new train' display

By February 2020 the date had been changed to “mid-2020” but after they failed to meet that target, the dates were dropped altogether – entry to service “following completion of comprehensive testing program”.

September 2020 saw a new entry to service date appear – the upcoming December 2020 timetable change, but thanks to delays to the Ballarat Line Upgrade project, the timetable change was bumped to January 2021.

But 2020 is full of surprises, and this was no different – on December 27 HCMT set 11 emerged from Pakenham East to beat the end of 2020 and run an inaugural passenger service, making a single trip to Flinders Street Station and return.

HCMT set 11 arrives into Murrumbeena on the up with the first public service

The day was low key, with no special ceremonies to mark the occasion – and little media attention.

A gaggle of railfans who found out that the train was running forming the bulk of the passengers.

HCMT 11 headed over the Flinders Street Viaduct curve on the up

My main take away – useless doors!

The new timetable starts on Sunday 31 January 2021. Will we have to wait until then to ride a HCMT train, or will more one-off services run – I don’t know.

A technology related footnote

Goodbye to old fashioned keys – an electronic lock gives access to the cab.

Electronic lock gives access to the cab of a HCMT train

The rollout of the HCMT fleet has also seen something new added between the rails on the approach to each station – these yellow bars.

TrackLink III beacon fitted between the rails on the approach to Flinders Street platform 5

Part of the Correct Side Door Enable (CSDE) and Selective Door Operation (SDO) systems fitted to the HCMT fleet, these ‘TrackLink III’ beacons tell the onboard computer which side the platform is on, and how many doors to open.

And onboard is a new feature for Melbourne trains – fire doors.

'WARNING In an emergency fire doors will close in this area' sticker onboard a HCMT set

Which will automatically close in an emergency, dividing up the seven car walkthrough train into smoke proof compartments a maximum of two carriages long.

Fire doors in the normally open position at the end of a dMP carriage of a HCMT set

Further reading

Max Thum also rode the first public HCMT service – here is his review of the passenger experience.

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10 Responses to “High Capacity Metro Trains finally taking passengers”

  1. Tramologist says:

    The “dai” in the Chinese translation for “stay” is such an informal expression for such a purpose!
    What actually happened with the doors and how was it resolved?

    • Marcus Wong says:

      The door open button has red and green lights, the red is illuminated if you push it while the train is moving – no problem there.

      But once the train stops and you push the button, it lights up green even if the doors are yet to be released by the driver – so passengers keep on pushing the button, wondering why nothing is happening.

      • Tramologist says:

        Is there a lengthy delay between the train coming to a complete halt and the driver being allowed to release the doors, which is common with Chinese metro trains?

  2. […] Marcus Wong on the long saga of the HCMT rollout […]

  3. Gavin Seipelt says:

    Why can’t the doors work like the ones on Queensland Rail? If you want to get off you press the door button at anytime to “request” and then when the platform becomes available the door opens automatically.

  4. […] 2020 saw the first High Capacity Metro Train complete extensive testing and carry passengers for the first time, but today has seen something different – ‘Extended’ and ‘Shortened’ […]

  5. Tim Hoffmann says:

    So Marcus has the government revealed what the roll out will be and when? I imagine it will start with the pakenham line but with so many sets delivered they must have chosen some other lines.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      There doesn’t appear to have been any official announcements. HCMTs have been running in public service on the Pakenham line for a few months now, but on their own extra runs that aren’t on the published timetable – I believe they’re now up to four sets.

  6. […] of these trains ended a few years ago, future orders being High Capacity Metro Trains for the Pakenham, Cranbourne and Sunbury lines, and the upcoming X’Trapolis 2.0 for the rest of […]

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