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.

Photos from ten years ago: December 2010

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – this time it is December 2010.

Coming home

We start this month in the air, as I flew home after a trip to Hong Kong.

Looking over the industry of the western suburbs (with annotations)

Flying over the industrial areas of the western suburbs.

Quarries on Bunting Road, Brooklyn

And I was lucky enough to spot a freight train waiting at McIntyre Loop.

G class, S302 and CFCLA liveried S class stabled on a standard gauge grain at McIntyre Loop

Over the EJ Whitten Bridge spanning the Maribyrnong River.

EJ Whitten Bridge over the Maribyrnong River

My welcome to Melbourne – a sign warning passengers that Channel 7 is filming the TV show “Border Security“.

Sign warning passengers at Melbourne Airport that Channel 7 is filming the TV show "Border Security" today

Trains about Victoria

I passed through Southern Cross Station where the Myki rollout to V/Line trains was ramping up, where signs informed passengers that ticket checking would now occur at the station – in addition to existing checks onboard trains.

Sign informing passengers that ticket checking will soon start on the country platforms

And I gave my Octopus card from Hong Kong a try on a Myki reader, with little success.

MY MYKI STILL ISN'T WORKING!

Out in the western suburbs I captured The Overland headed into Melbourne.

A locust splattered NR91 leads nine carriages and the motorail wagon on the up at Brooklyn

And I made a trip north to the banks of the Murray River at Tocumwal.

Containers roll over the Murray River bridge into Tocumwal

Hot on the tail of a freight train.

G525 on arrival at Tocumwal

Which was being loaded with containers for the return journey to the Port of Melbourne.

G525 stabled at the up end of the yard, as unloading continues

A level crossing tour

I paid a visit to the Kororoit Creek Road level crossing on the Werribee line.

Alstom Comeng on the up at Kororoit Creek Road

Where work was well underway on the removal of the level crossing.

No visibility of approaching trains here: a Siemens passes through the Kororoit Creek Road level crossing, soon to be replaced by a second bridge

The first half of the road bridge was almost complete.

All spans of the westbound bridge complete, approach mound still to be completed

The level crossing being closed soon after, permitting the second carriageway to be built on the alignment.

I also headed down the line to Aircraft station.

17:28:51 - the Siemens finally gets on the move. It should have passed here minutes ages ago if government didn't cut corners on the Laverton rebuild budget...

And another level crossing – Aviation Road in Laverton.

17:25:31 - the gates finally come up at Aviation Road

It was replaced by a road overpass in 2019.

On the Sunbury line Anderson Road in Albion was still a level crossing.

VLocity 3VL24 on the down at Albion

It was removed in 2014 as part of Regional Rail Link.

And around the corner at Deer Park, V/Line trains crossed Mt Derrimut Road on the level.

P14 leading P12 depart Deer Park on an up push-pull ex-Bacchus Marsh

The number of trains passing through Deer Park exploded following the completion of Regional Rail Link, but the level crossings were ignored, until the 2018 announcement that they would be included in an expanded Level Crossing Removal Project.

Regional Rail Link

At Southern Cross Station platform 15 and 16 were looking complete except for track.

Looking up the almost finished platform 16

Except for the northern end, which was still bare steel.

North end of platform 15/16 still being built

While outside Werribee, work had stared on the future junction of Regional Rail Link and the existing Geelong line tracks.

Looking back to the down end of Manor Loop

And a Happy New Year!

I saw out 2010 onboard a special train operated by the Seymour Railway Heritage Centre.

S303 and B74 on arrival at Southern Cross

Arriving into Southern Cross just in time for the 9pm fireworks at Docklands.

Looking across the platform at Southern Cross at the 9pm fireworks at Docklands

Followed by far too many beers. 😛

Footnote

Here you can find the rest of my ‘photos from ten years ago‘ series.

Dunny drama at Diggers Rest station

This is a tale of big dollars being spent on an upgrade Diggers Rest railway station, and the public toilet that has never been used.

EDI Comeng 427M departs Diggers Rest on a down Sunbury service

The ‘upgrade’

Once upon a time Diggers Rest station was just a wayside stop on the outskirts of Melbourne.

N463 speeds express through Diggers Rest

Locals were served by V/Line trains headed for Bendigo.

3VL28 at Diggers Rest, on a train bound for Bendigo

Until 2011 when the Victorian Transport Plan announced the Sunbury electrification project, which would extend suburban train services from Watergardens to Sunbury.

'Victorian Transport Plan' sign at Diggers Rest spruiking the Sunbury electrification project

The Department of Transport promised the world.

Upgrading both Diggers Rest and Sunbury stations.


Department of Transport flyer, August 2011

With a fact sheet from the time promising.

• Additional 500 commuter parking spaces
• Refurbished waiting rooms
• CCTV security cameras
• Improved lighting
• Passenger Information Display
• Updated toilet facilities
• Installation of platform shelters, extra seats and clocks

Work started on the massive platform verandas soon after.

Work on the massive platform verandas at the down end of Diggers Rest

As well as upgrades to the station building on platform 1, including a new toilet block.

Station building and toilet block at Diggers Rest platform 1

But nothing

But the upgraded facilities were never opened – ‘staff shortage’ the excuse given in November 2012.

Sign at the waiting room entrance - 'Diggers Rest station closed due to staff shortage'

The station office was still gathering dust in 2015.

Disused booking office and waiting room at Diggers Rest platform 1

The story still the same in 2020.

Station office and waiting room at Diggers Rest still locked up

The only change – a sign reading ‘These toilets are no longer in use’ on the toilet door.

'These toilets are no longer in use. Please use the toilets in Stan Payne Reserve during daylight hours' sign at Diggers Rest station

A ‘Public toilets (daylight hours)’ sign on the station building.

'Public toilets (daylight hours)' sign at Diggers Rest station

And a sign pointing out towards the nearby park.

'Public toilets (Toilets open during daylight hours)' sign at Diggers Rest station

Where a small public toilet block can be found.


Google Street View

So what gives?

Locked toilets is a common situation at Melbourne railway stations.

Trashed toilet bowl in the locked up public toilets at Kensington station

But Diggers Rest residents aren’t happy about the same thing happening at their local station.

Despite all promises by the former Brumby Labor Government to provide additional services to Diggers Rest as part of the $270 million upgrade to the Sunbury line, the toilets and waiting rooms will stay locked.

In response to a recent letter from Melton City Council, the Minister for Transport, Jacinta Allen MP, said “I appreciate your continued concerns that the facilities at Diggers Rest Station remain closed. As you are aware, PTV (Public Transport Victoria) advised that the decision to staff a station is based on passenger numbers. PTV confirmed that there are no plans to open the waiting room and toilets at Diggers Rest station or to staff the station, until passenger numbers increase”.

The Minister seems reluctant to provide any further indication to Council with respect to when the waiting room and public toilet facilities will be made available to commuters.

The situation got a mention in the Melton & Moorabool Star Weekly back in 2018.

The existing toilets and passenger waiting area were upgraded as part of the Sunbury electrification project in 2012 and the toilets have remained locked ever since.

Diggers Rest resident David O’Connor has long campaigned for the toilets to be reopened for public use, with no success.

In a letter to Mr O’Connor in 2015, Metro Trains said that its policy was to only provide public amenities when stations are staffed. Diggers Rest Station is unstaffed.

“Public amenities are unavailable at unstaffed stations such as Diggers Rest due to vandalism, anti-social behavior and criminal activity,” the letter stated.

But it took until 2019 for the Victorian Government to give locals an answer – effectively a ‘sod off’.

Dear Mr Tori

DIGGERS REST STATION TOILET FACILITIES

Thank you for your letter of 2 April 2019 on behalf of Melton City Council regarding toilet access at Diggers Rest station.

I acknowledge Council’s concerns about amenities at Diggers Rest station.

As you are aware, this station was upgraded as part of the Sunbury Electrification Project. The decision was made not to staff the station at this time, which means the toilet facilities are not currently available for public use.

The decision to staff stations is based on several factors, primarily driven by expected patronage, whether the station is an interchange point, and whether the station provides services for special events.

Based on current passenger levels at Diggers Rest station, there are no plans to provide staffing at the station. This position will be reviewed should passenger numbers significantly increase.

The Victorian Government is expanding and upgrading toilet facilities across Melbourne’s train network, with new facilities already installed at several stations. Toilets are provided at all premium staffed stations, at host stations when staff are on duty, and at some unstaffed stations by self-cleaning, automated toilet blocks. Traditional toilet facilities are unavailable at unstaffed stations because of the misuse of facilities, security problems, cleanliness and public liability concerns.

The nearest station toilet facilities on the Sunbury line are at Sunbury and Watergardens, during staffed hours. For information about other station toilets, passengers are encouraged to visit the PTV website at ptv.vic.gov.au or call PTV on 1800 800 007 between 6 am and midnight.

I understand public toilets are also available at Stan Payne Reserve, approximately 170 metres from the station.

I trust this information is of use to Council. Thank you again for sharing these concerns with me.

Yours sincerely
Jeroen Weimar
Chief Executive Officer
Public Transport Victoria

I suspect the ‘These toilets are no longer in use’ signage was added by PTV following the above letter, formalising the closure.

'These toilets are no longer in use. Please use the toilets in Stan Payne Reserve during daylight hours' sign at Diggers Rest station

Footnote: automated toilets

Hawkstowe station opened on the Mernda line in 2018 – unstaffed, but with automated Exeloo public toilets provided at concourse level.

Exeloo automated public toilet at Hawkstowe station

The same applies at Altona – an existing station provided with automated toilets in 2018.

Exeloo automated public toilet on the platform

The Victorian Government found it fit to spend millions on jail cells at each Melbourne railway stations – so why not public toilets?

Railway station kiosks of Melbourne

Kiosks and news stands have been part of the fabric of Melbourne railway stations for decades. But how many still exist today?


PROV image VPRS 12903 P0001/34

The obvious

The tacky ‘Red Engine’ kiosks on each platform at Flinders Street Station first come to mind.

Red Engine kiosk on platform 4/5 at Flinders Street still cluttering up the place

But they were demolished in 2018.

Red Engine kiosk at platform 6 and 7 about to be demolished

As part of the Flinders Street Station upgrade project.

Red Engine kiosk at platform 4 and 5 has been demolished

To make room for more seats and waiting area on the narrow platforms.

Red Engine kiosk at platform 2 and 3 has been demolished

The exception is the kiosk at platform 1, built into what looks to be an original timber kiosk.

Red Engine kiosk still in place at Flinders Street platform 1

Interchange stations

Busy interchange stations are a popular location for kiosks, like this one hiding down in the Caulfield station subway.

'Red Engine' kiosk in the Caulfield station subway

And this one on the main concourse at Richmond station.

Red Engine kiosk on the concourse at Richmond station

Others are located inside the paid area of the station, like this one at Box Hill platform 2 and 3.

Red Engine Cafe at Box Hill platform 2 and 3

This Red Engine kiosk at Ringwood platform 1 and 2.

Red Engine kiosk at Ringwood platform 1 and 2

Or on the overhead concourse, like at Sunshine.

Kiosk inside the paid area at Sunshine station

While Dandenong has an interesting arrangement, with one window facing platform 3 and the the other facing the bus interchange.

Kiosk at Dandenong station

In the City Loop

The City Loop might be surrounded by cafes, but the underground stations still have cafes down on the concourse, like this one at the Collins Street end of Parliament .

'Spontaneous Express Cafe' at the Collins Street end of Parliament station

While Flagstaff station has two.

Eastern wall of the Flagstaff Station concourse

A newsstand when I photographed it, but now a doughnut stall.

News stand on the western wall of the Flagstaff station concourse

Melbourne Central also used to have a WHSmith newsagent kiosk way down on platforms 3 and 4.

WHSmith newsagent kiosk opened on platforms 3 and 4 at Melbourne Central

But business must have been poor – it was soon turned over to a row of vending machines.

Kiosk at Melbourne Central platform 3 and 4 has now been converted to a row of vending machines

Converted trains

There is a Red Engine kiosk in the subway at Werribee station.

'Red Engine' kiosk in the subway at Werribee station

Built from the remains of scrapped Comeng train 388M.

Remains of Comeng 388M used as a kiosk in the station subway at Werribee

In the way of passengers

There was once a kiosk on the concourse at South Yarra station.

South Yarra station kiosk sticking out into the concourse opposite the ticket gates

The kitchen area hung out over the tracks.

Kitchen for the South Yarra station kiosk hanging out over the tracks

But it still blocked the ever increasing number of passengers using the station, so it was removed to make room for more ticket gates.

Glass booth at South Yarra station to shelter Metro Trains barrier staff from the bitterly cold winds

New build stations

Recent years have seen railway stations rebuilt across Melbourne, and kiosks seem to be popular inclusion to new buildings. Here we see a new kiosk facing the Epping station forecourt.

Kiosk in the forecourt of the new Epping station

This one at Ginifer.

Red Engine Cafe at Ginifer station

And St Albans.

'Red Engine' kiosk on the concourse at St Albans station

New kiosks are also built on a speculative basis, like this empty one at Rosanna station.

Future kiosk at concourse level at Rosanna station

And on the small side

At suburban stations kiosks are much smaller and only open part time, located at the entrance to the citybound platform to catch morning commuters, like this one at Clifton Hill platform 1.

Coffee stall at Clifton Hill platform 1

Or outside the old Murrumbeena station.

Coffee kiosk still in place on the southern side of Murrumbeena station

And a similar one at neighbouring Carnegie station.

Kiosk outside the entrance to Carnegie station

But they are outnumbered by their abandoned mates, like this pebblecrete clad box outside St Albans platform 2.

Pebblecrete clad kiosk outside platform 2 at St Albans

At Burwood station platform 1.

Disused kiosk at Burwood station platform 1

And Yarraman station.

Unused kiosk at the entrance to Yarraman station

And the way of the future?

Why rent a kiosk, when you can just park a coffee cart on the platform, like this one at Hoppers Crossing?

Coffee stall at Hoppers Crossing in morning peak

Or this one in the underpass at Auburn station.

Coffee cart in the subway at Auburn station

But even easier – park your coffee van in the station car park, like this vendor at Albion.

Coffee van in the railway station car park at Albion

Or skip Public Transport Victoria altogether and park on public land near the station, such as this vendor at Tottenham.

Take away coffee vendor setup in the Tottenham station car park

Footnote

Not quite a kiosk is the classic Olympic Doughnut caravan of Footscray.

Olympic Doughnut caravan still open

Established back in 1979, the van outlasted the rebuilding of the station footbridge in 2010, but relocated to a new home in 2014 following the rebuilding of the station itself.

Convenience store occupying the shop next door to Olympic Doughnuts at Footscray station

But sadly it closed in 2017 due to the advancing age of owner Nick Tsiligiris.

Drinking water at Melbourne railway stations

Summer has started, so Metro Trains have started to remind passengers to keep hydrated.

But one problem – nowhere to get a drink.

If you’re happy to drop a fiver for a plastic bottle of water, you’re in luck.

Vending machines are everywhere.

Coca Cola branded drink and snack vending machines

Even at stations without staff.

Coke vending machine at Ascot Vale station

And for a period – tram stops in the CBD!

Coke vending machine installed at the Bourke and Spencer Street tram stop

With vending machine operators raking in the cash.

Red Engine Group electric buggy refilling the vending machines at Southern Cross Station

But it wasn’t always this way – drinking fountains could once be found on station platforms, like this one still at Caulfield.

Drinking fountain at Caulfield platform 1

If you’re a dog, then Metro Trains has you covered on the hydration front.

Rubbish bin, dog poo bags and a dog drinking fountain at Footscray station

Drinking fountains having been provided at Footscray, Parliament, Caulfield, Showgrounds and Flemington Racecourse as part of new ‘Assistance Animal Relief Areas‘.

'Assistance animal relief area' at Footscray station

But the recent Mernda rail extension is a hopeful sign – each new station on the line has a drinking fountain on the platform.

Drinking fountain on the platform at Mernda station

As have some recently rebuilt stations, like Frankston.

One of two drinking fountains on the platform at Frankston station

And Reservoir.

Meanwhile with V/Line

Country trains have had water fountains onboard for decades, and V/Line continues the tradition today.

Drink fountain and emergency telephone / intercom

Originally VLocity trains were delivered without them (dead link) but after some bad publicity, they were retrofitted.

Meanwhile on the Gold Coast

The Gold Coast light rail system is flashy and new.

Flexity #15 arrives at the Broadbeach South terminus

And it has drinking fountains at each light rail stop.

Drinking fountain at a light rail stop

Just the thing for a trip back from the beach.

And in the ‘Old Country’

Australian railway operators are stacked with managers imported from the United Kingdom – pity they didn’t bring Network Rail’s enthusiasm for water bottle refilling points over with them.

Further reading

City of Melbourne drinking fountain map – south-east corner of Spencer and Collins Street is the closet one to Southern Cross Station.

In 2016 VicHealth published Provision of drinking water fountains in public areas – a local government action guide.