New trains on track

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By SIMON ED­WARDS

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.

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