New trains on track
As the second two-car Matangi train arrived in Wellington by ship recently, project managers confirmed they are well-satisfied with testing of the first unit that arrived in July.
At the Hyundai Rotem Mitsui manufacturing plant in Korea, work has now started on more than two-thirds of the 48 two-car trains ordered for Wellington’s commuter network at a cost of $235 million.
After this month an average of three or four a month will roll off ships at Wellington’s wharves and the entire new fleet should be here by the end of next year.
After an extensive programme of four months of testing, the first Matangi unit is expected to begin carrying passengers on the Hutt Valley line before Christmas.
New arrivals will progressively need less testing.
Greater Wellington Regional Council’s deputy chairman Peter Glensor says from January about one a week will be brought into service ‘‘subject to all going well’’.
They are expected to be operating on the Johnsonville line by April, and the Paraparaumu line by July.
Mr Glensor, GWRC’s rail project manager Angus Gabara, and Anthony Oyo, project manager for Halcrow, the consultancy overseeing implementation of the new trains, confirmed nothing had cropped up during the two months of testing to date to suggest that schedule would not stay on track.
Not that they are expecting the testing to be problem-free.
With commissioning of new trains anywhere in the world, ‘‘you absolutely expect problems – they’re a given,’’ Mr Gabara says. ‘‘But the testing process here is going remarkably well.’’
Alleged issues to do with power draw-off, braking and noise from the electric motor on the first Matangi raised by train drivers and other rail enthusiasts have been emphatically dismissed by the project managers.
Mr Oyo said the first Matangi has now been tested at speeds of up to 90kmh on the Hutt Valley line ‘‘and so far we have no concerns’’ with propulsion or regular braking.
The Matangi has yet to be driven on hill sections of the Johnsonville line, but the managers say the units have been designed to be able to cope.
The control electronics on a modern train do make a different noise to the much older GanzMavags, ‘‘but it’s not a concern for us’’, Mr Oyo says. Passengers won’t hear it from inside, GWRC transport division manager Wayne Hastie adds.
The new train, with a different power draw-off, is running on the same track network with the Ganz-Mavags.
When the first multi-million dollar Matangi stopped on the Hutt line on September 17 and had to be towed back to the depot, it had been portrayed in news reports as embarrassing. But GWRC did not see it that way.
Mr Hastie says picking up any faults – in that case it was an onboard software issue – is precisely why the testing process is so long and careful.
Contingency periods have been built into the process, with the aim of picking up any issues and ironing them out.
GWRC is about to start putting out regular newsletters to update people on how testing is going.
‘‘If there’s a problem, we’ll say there’s a problem. These trains are going into service; we can’t change our minds now,’’ Mr Hastie says.
‘‘They have an awful lot of running to do yet. There are safety and reliability tests before we pay, then extensive component and general warranties beyond that.’’
He’s resigned to the fact that one of the new Matangis could break down with passengers on board.
‘‘I hope this testing means that doesn’t happen but that’s the reality of new things when you bring them in, that there will be a problem through some combination of circumstances. We minimise that prospect with all the testing.’’
New ride: The public and press got a chance to look over one of the new electric train units on September 9.