The High Capacity Metro Trains (HCMT) project involves the manufacturing of 65 new high-capacity trains as part of Victoria Government’s rolling stock strategy in Australia.
The project also includes the establishment of a new train depot in Pakenham East (including a train maintenance facility and stabling yard) and a light service facility in Calder Park, Australia.
Estimated to cost A$2.3bn (approximately $1.8bn), the project is expected to create 1,100 full-time local jobs.
The Victorian Government entered a public-private partnership (PPP) agreement with the Evolution Rail consortium for the HCMT project on 21 November 2016. The consortium comprises Plenary Group, Downer Group, and CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles.
Components for the trains are procured from China and the assembly process is conducted in Newport, Australia. Manufacturing of the new seven-car trains began in June 2018. The first HCMT was available for testing in November 2018 and it began testing on metropolitan network in October 2019. The final HCMT is expected to be delivered in 2023.
High Capacity Metro Trains project details
The HCMT project is expected to reduce congestion and travel times for the people living in Melbourne’s south-eastern corridor. The trains are set to be rolled out as a dedicated fleet before the opening of the Metro Tunnel in 2025.
The project will follow the Victorian Government’s Major Projects Skills Guarantee programme, which aims at providing better opportunities for the local apprentices, trainees and engineering cadets to work on the region’s biggest projects.
Platforms at 13 existing stations on the Cranbourne-Pakenham line will be extended to cater for the HCMTs, while longer platforms will be built at five new stations. The extension works will be conducted under the A$1.6bn ($1.28bn) Caulfield to Dandenong Level Crossing Removal Project.
The first trains were expected to run on the Cranbourne-Pakenham Line from 2019. However, the revenue service was delayed and is now expected to start by the end of 2020 following intensive testing. The testing programme comprising a series of safety and performance tests began in June 2020. The new trains will complete trial runs on the network and complete thousands of kilometres before they enter service. The trains are expected to run through the new Metro Tunnel to Sunbury from 2025.
Associated works include removal of nine level crossings, rebuilding of approximately 70km of overhead power lines, rebuilding or upgrading 20 substations, and duplication of a section of track in South Dandenong.
The addition of new trains and infrastructure upgrades are expected to increase the capacity of the Cranbourne-Pakenham line by 42%, creating extra space for 11,000 passengers during peak times. Signalling updates and platform extensions to accommodate the new HCMTs were completed in January 2019. The work in the Cranbourne and Pakenham lines also included the installation of 46km of overhead wire and commissioning of a signalling train protection warning system.
Downer is manufacturing the fleet for the project at its Newport railyard facility by using more than 60% local content (ANZ). It invested A$16m ($12.8m) to revitalise the Newport manufacturing facility into the Newport Centre of Excellence for Rolling Stock.
Trains will be based on the A-Type platform currently operating on the Hong Kong’s MTR rail network. Comprising seven cars each, the new trains will be configured as a single long vehicle to optimise space for passengers.
The purpose-built trains will have maximum passenger capacity of 1,380 passengers, including 28 wheelchair spaces. Priority seating facility will be provided close to doorways and windows throughout the train.
The new trains will be longer than the existing trains and offer 20% more space to reduce overcrowding.
Pakenham East depot details
Specially constructed to provide maintenance facilities for the Melbourne’s new high-capacity metro trains, the Pakenham East depot features a stabling yard, which can accommodate 30 trains and a high-tech driver training simulator.
The depot construction site is an 118ha parcel of land in Pakenham East at the end of the Cranbourne Pakenham train line. The depot will be constructed using approximately 87% local content. It is expected to create 400 construction and 100 long-term rail maintenance jobs.
The depot construction received the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC) approval in November 2016. Early works commenced on the site in February 2017, while the construction was completed in December 2018.
Construction works to establish a test site at the Pakenham East Depot for high capacity signalling began in January 2020. The installation of trackside equipment and technology required to perform signaling testing commenced in March 2020.
Partners Group is providing 49.9% equity finance for the project, while the remaining is being provided by the members of the Evolution Rail consortium, including Plenary (30.1%), Downer (10%), and CRRC (10%).
Debt finance for the HCMT project is being arranged jointly by Westpac, Bank of China, Bank of Communications, HSBC, ICBC, Intesa Sanpaolo, Mizuho Bank, and the United Overseas Bank.
Key players involved
Downer Group is responsible for the delivery followed by maintenance of the trains for a period of 35 years. CRRC Corporation subsidiary CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles is the design and technology lead and the fleet manufacturing partner.
The Plenary Group will provide financial management services for the project. Downer Infrastructure Services will undertake the design and construction of the depot and LSF, while Downer Victoria PPP Maintenance will be responsible for the functioning of various assets.
CRRC has sub-contracted Hofmann Engineering to manufacture and supply more than 900 bogie frames for the project.
Downer Infrastructure Services has engaged Civilex for bulk-earthworks, internal roads, and drainage works for the Pakenham East depot and train maintenance facility. Andrew Engineering was contracted for the supply, installation and commissioning of the wheel lathe equipment for the depot.
Metro Trains Melbourne, the franchisee for the Melbourne metropolitan rail network, will co-ordinate with the consortium companies in various activities of the project.
Mott McDonald Australia was engaged to monitor the design and construction of the project in accordance with the guidelines mentioned under the Independent Reviewer Deed of Appointment.