Manufacturing on the new fleet of Melbourne trains, dubbed the High-Capacity Metro Train (HCMT) fleet, that will run on the Pakenham/Cranbourne lines and eventually through the metro tunnel to the Sunbury line, has kicked off in earnest at an assembly facility in Newport.
The bodies of the new trains are being manufactured offshore however key components are being locally built including bogies, traction motors and pantographs. All the components are being assembled at the Newport facility where the trains will then roll on to the network.
The rolling construction blitzes the state government has been announcing at regular intervals of late point to the scale of the changes to infrastructure required for the new trains.
The last two vehicle types to enter into the Melbourne train fleet, the Siemens and the X'trapolis, were, for the most part, assembled offshore and then delivered to the network and their introduction did not yield the infrastructure changes that are happening on the Pakenham/Cranbourne lines for the latest entrant to the fleet.
The current shutdown relates to commissioning the latest piece of the level crossing removal project in the Dandenong corridor - where the new trains will run. The next construction blitz, outlined last week, will include upgrading the catenary (overhead wires and stanchions) between Pakenham and Dandenong.
Bogies for the new HCMTs are being manufactured in Bendigo, the traction motors in Morwell and the pantographs in Hallam. Final assembly is carried out in Newport where Downer, as part of the Evolution Rail consortium who won the $2.4 billion contract in 2016, has spent $16 million upgrading facilities in the historic rail yard.
The first delivery of a train for testing is expected later in 2018 and they will undergo a testing regime before the first set is placed in active service, tentatively scheduled for mid-2019.
Pakenham East is the site of the new maintenance (as well as some storage) facility for the HCMT fleet and its construction has attracted the attention of enthusiasts who are providing their own drone footage and commentary on Youtube.
If everything runs to schedule, the 65th and final train will be delivered by 2023, two years before the Melbourne Metro tunnel is set to open.
Likewise, the trial of the high capacity signalling is set to take place on the South Morang-soon-to-be-Mernda line before being installed and actively used between Sunshine and Dandenong when the Metro Tunnel opens.
Having to straddle, for the most part, the 'old way of doing things' under conventional signalling and to operate with an even newer signalling system points to the scalability that is being built into the new train fleet.
A mock-up was on display in Birrarung Marr over the 2017/2018 summer and other consultation rounds have seen many tweaks that have informed the final design that is now set to ramp up in production.
To read more about the new HCMT fleet, see transport.vic.gov.au.