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After tough transition, electric takes over in Auckland

CAF AM class train Auckland. Photo: Creative Commons / Dc4444

CAF-built electric trains will be operating on all of Auckland’s lines from next Monday, July 20, with a tough transition from diesel rollingstock now nearly complete, local authority Auckland Transport has said.

Auckland Transport rail services manager Craig Inger said the rollout has been completed a few weeks ahead of schedule. “We started running the first electric trains in April last year and here we are 15 months later going all electric,” he said. “That’s great.”

The new trains are the New Zealand Auckland Metro (AM) class EMU, manufactured in Spain by CAF, under a contract signed in 2011. In total CAF will deliver 57 trains to Auckland, and Auckland Transport said the last trains are currently being shipped from Spain, with the full fleet set to be in service by the end of the year.

CAF AM class train Auckland. - Photo: Auckland Transport
Photo: Auckland Transport

Inger said the trains have so far been very popular with customers. With each 3-car, 72m train able to carry 380 passengers – roughly 230 seated – the new trains mean extra capacity as well as improved comfort for passengers, he said.

At peak times, the trains can be coupled into 6-car sets to provide even more capacity. They also have wider doors than the old trains, are much quieter, and accelerate faster, according to Inger.

By the time the new timetable comes into effect, Aucklanders will have taken more than 14 million trips across the Auckland rail network in the past year, a 21% increase, Auckland Transport estimates.

But the transition to electric trains has not been without issue. Ongoing issues caused by the ageing diesel fleet have for “a tough few months”.

“Running both electric and diesel trains has caused a few problems,” Inger explained. “We are working hard with KiwiRail, CAF and [operator] Transdev to improve performance and reliability.

“We will continue to make improvements when the all-electric fleet is operational.”

CAF AM class train Auckland. Photo: Creative Commons / Auckland Transport Blog
Photo: Creative Commons / Auckland Transport Blog

With the increased number of services now operating on the network, schedules are very tight, and work is continuing to make sure trains meet their spot at the busy Newmarket and Britomart stations.

Customers will see an improvement in punctuality as drivers become more familiar with the new trains, Inger added.

“We hope we can keep any disruption to a minimum but overseas experience shows that we have to be prepared for the possibility.”

From 20 July, buses will shuttle passengers between Swanson and the former Waitakere station. On the Southern Line, the electric trains end at Papakura and there will be a shuttle service using diesel trains to and from Pukekohe.

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