Finally, It’s Here! Just in Time for the New Year and the Massive Timetable Shakeup! HCMT getting ready for service!
Well actually, nearly. Getting closer each day towards the full revenue service.
A joint post by r/MelbourneTrains, thanks to the Melbourne Trains Discord crew for assisting for this post!
This is the final hurdle before the February timetable change which is totally dependant on the HCMT trainsets being ready and able to allow the other fleets (Comeng and Siemens) to be cascaded to other groups to allow better service frequencies for those lines getting an upgrade in the coming weeks.
December 27, 2020. That was the date which was hinted out to everyone that the first HCMT ‘Evolution’ trainsets were introduced into ‘limited revenue service’ as they would be attempting the first revenue service. This service would be an additional service for the cricket at the MCG and serve as a taster for the HCMT train project to those close to the project, whilst allowing photographers and media to get up close with this train for the very first time (other than a mockup).
E0011 or Set 11 would attempt to complete a trial extra non-passenger service required service, forming the 0831 Flinders Street from Pakenham via the Loop and 0955 Pakenham.
As one of the passengers on this service who boarded on at Noble Park — Richmond, Flinders Street — Pakenham. I wanted to see and experience this train as a customer and simulate some environment that would be ideal for a commuter. So these are my thoughts on the trainsets.
Seating on the HCMT trainsets are amazing, with the Department of Transport focusing on both on long-distance metro services (within <50km) and the short distance trips (<20KM). The choice chosen by the DOTV has been a mix of 2+2 or longitudinal seating and man. These seats are surprising compared to the mockup.
The mockup was based off the Siemens train seating which felt hard and firms which lowered my expectations but when entering this train for the first time… wow. This was actually opposite of what I’ve been told… which had been suggested to be ‘concrete seats’ seen on the V/Line VLocity units (VL77–106). The padding on the HCMT trains was beyond what was expected, these were around 70mm worth of padding which allows a comfortable trip into or out of Melbourne during peak hour.
The seating allocation is open, wide and spacious. This is amazing when compared to the current generation of metro trains which tends to feel cramped and claustrophobic. This meets modern Disability Discrimination Act compliance that allows customers to be able to use the train without any problems.
Lots of spaces for prams, wheelchairs fold-up seats is a big win since they can be folded up as required allowing for ease of access even during a peak hour train.
The seating also has passed the ‘Geoff Marshall’ elbow test which gives sufficient space to allow to use the window shield as an armrest, well done lol.
With seating being a mix, I would just suggest a few minor things which include more handholds and hand poles where the longitudinal seating is situated to allow customers to get a better grip during braking and acceleration.
Modern advancements in rail technology
The HCMT has been future-proofed with the latest technology not seen on the metro network before.
Passenger Information Displays — Has to be shorter than Japanese Trains because Australians the taller and would likely hit a 19" 16:9 screens mounted on the roof of the time improvement to the current Xtraps and Comeng PID by being very informative. There are certain design inconsistencies which can be ironed out easily
The middle PID can be optimised with a better layout, as for a short-sighted person (like me), I felt it was hard to see against the blue and black text what station this was. Something that would’ve been nice if they reverted to the mockup design which felt perfect, even in a dark mode.
Touch Sensitive Door Sensor — This was a confusing feature to be added to the HCMT… and yes, I said touch-sensitive door sensor as the HCMT doesn't contain a physical button to press to open the doors.
Throughout the day, the customers who aren’t used to the train, they might’ve needed to bang against the door buttons to make them work and do its job of getting the doors open… right? but strangely, this doesn’t work this way. According to an MTM employee who told us that ‘the train has a 1.5-second delay’ before the doors can release and lightly tapped on the touch-sensitive door sensors.
The touch-sensitive sensor won’t work unless the train carriage wasn’t aligned (which will show red) and will only open if the door is aligned with a platform (lights up green). It’s clear with the feedback given to MTM during the test trip, there are a few places for improvement like the stickers informing the customer how this works.
One thing to note, ASDO and the Touch Sensitive Door Sensor were having a few teething problems at a few stations (Pakenham Platform 1) as the train thought otherwise lol. This can be overridden by the driver and that hopefully can be resolved.
ASDO (Automatic Selective Door Operation) — The addition of ASDO is a good addition to assist drivers with ease and assurances that the HCMT won’t see any passengers accidentally getting out at a station that isn’t covered by the 7 car long platforms.
Running — Much better than Xtraps, around the same as Siemens very quiet to the point where conversations can be had on the train without yelling Traction motor is very quiet from inside, louder outside and a tad bit bumpy between Dandy and Pakenham at speed. The HCMT also rides really well over Skyrail sections where track conditions are pristine with the new modern designs are much more consistent to the current design standards.
The train simply accelerates like a rocket during the Dandenong to Pakenham sections due to the 115kph limit. Hopefully, the line is upgraded to better make use of the 130kph speed that the HCMT can achieve.
A much-needed evolution in Melbourne's rail rollingstock to put us on par with trains built internationally over 10 years. There are several minor teething and design issues but overall it is a much better offering than Xtrapolis/Siemens and Comengs.
These train had a quiet launch into service but we can be assured, that we are gonna be in safe hands. To the drivers, crews at Metro Trains Melbourne and Evolution Rail, well done and this train has absolutely blown my mind away.
We should be proud that these trains are the future. Just order more lol… even to the point of saying this on Twitter.
“You know what’s sad. These trains are so perfect… can they just make this standard on all lines… I just cannot go back to the inferior Xtrapolis train sets on the Ringwood group.” -Max Thum 2020
My Review: 9.5/10, The HCMT trainsets are amazing to ride on, passengers will love them as they are extremely fun to ride on. Modern tech makes this train, something taken out of a futuristic book as Melbourne’s rail network is a good 40 years behind to where we are supposed to be. The HCMT feels similar to the Class 345 that Bombardier offering of the Aventra series and proves to be absolutely better. The HCMT has more to offer but scrapes the surface of what has been demonstrated on this test run. I cannot wait to see it in full passenger service in February 2021.
Pictures: Max Thum, taken in 2020.