This is an update of a 2010 post where I quickly compared the different types of trains then in service.
Since then the Hitachi trains have been taken out of service, and I also thought I’d briefly describe where the names come from.
X’Trapolis trains run most services on the lines to the north-east (via Clifton Hill) and east (via Burnley) of Melbourne. In part because their numbers have increased markedly over the years, they are expected to be introduced to the “Cross city” (Frankston, Williamstown, Werribee) lines later this year. There are 87 trains of 6 cars each = 522 carriages.
This model of train, whose full name is the X’trapolis 100, is made by Alstom, whose nameplate you’ll find on the floor in the doorway; while they are largely imported and fitted-out at Alstom’s factory in Ballarat.
They’ve been criticised in the past for poor suspension, leading to a lack of comfort (particularly for drivers) and because they are not stainless steel (and thus may be prone to rust in the future). But they arguably have the most efficient current seat layout, and are the only model of train with sufficient handholds for standees. They also have very clear information displays, though in the newer models these are poorly located.
Siemens trains serve the western (via North Melbourne) and south/south-eastern (via South Yarra lines). For many years they had brake problems, so when the government ordered extra trains to grow the fleet, they were avoided. There are 36 trains x 6 cars = 216 carriages.
They’re made by Siemens (obviously), a company that pretty much invented electric trains, but the actual model was originally known as the “Mo.Mo”, short for “Modular Metro” — because the modular design allowed carriages to be built in a number of different ways, and they’re used in a number of other cities around the world.
Melbourne’s version of the Mo.Mo has been criticised for its lack of doors, and lack of handholds along the carriages, as well as the brake problems. Additionally the seat cover design originally chosen by then-operator M>Train is notorious for attracting/showing dirt and grime, and (presumably due to a lack of cleaning) these trains often have a large amount of interior graffiti visible. On the bright side the new seats are much better, they have pretty good ride quality and a walk-through design (without intermediate doors as on the X’Trapolis).
The Comeng train, used throughout the network. There are 92 of these trains = 552 carriages. Comeng is short for Commonwealth Engineering, the
then once government owned enterprise which built the trains during the 1980s. The Dandenong factory where they were made is now run by Bombardier, who make Melbourne’s E-class trams, and V/Line’s V/Locity trains (and similar trains for other Australian cities).
During the first privatisation of the rail network from 1999 to 2004, the Comeng fleet was split up and refurbished to different, incompatible standards. These differences are still visible today, with the most obvious difference being the Connex/Alstom carriages got a smoother more rounded front, a much smaller front LED destination display, and green handles/poles/seat backs inside — whereas the M>Train/EDI carriages have yellow handles inside. They also have different plates above the end doors (see below), as Alstom put new ones in.
After the rail system was brought back together in 2004, work was done to make the fleet compatible again. In the past they tended to have problems with their air-conditioning failing in the heat (!) but this was resolved via upgrades after well-publicised failures in the summer of 2008-09.
Some trains only run on some lines because it involves a bunch of work to test and certify trains to run on all lines — sometimes this requires modifications to tracks, signals, platforms or even trains.
In the future, Metro intends to sectorise the rail network, dedicating parts of the fleet as well as maintenance facilities to particular lines, to avoid having to move trains from one line to the other — much like the tram network runs today.
As of the 2013 operations plan, the thinking was as follows:
- Cross-city (Frankston, Sandringham, Werribee, Williamstown) — mostly Siemens (with them being used for the Sandringham high-capacity signalling trial)
- Caulfield/Dandenong (Cranbourne, Pakenham) — Comeng, moving to the new high-capacity trains in the future
- Northern (Sunbury, Craigieburn, Upfield) — Comeng
- Clifton Hill (South Morang, Hurstbridge) — X’Trapolis
- Burnley (Glen Waverley, Alamein, Belgrave, Lilydale) — X’Trapolis, though at the time they noted they didn’t have enough for the entire group, so some Comengs would also be used.
Since then, more X’Trapolis trains have been ordered, which may cover the Burnley group, but the (arguably blatantly political) plan to move some of them onto the Cross-City lines has also been initiated, so who knows how it’ll look in the future. Presumably though the plan is still to have mostly the same types of trains on specific lines, to minimise crossover and so timetabling can take into account particular speed/acceleration/deceleration characteristics of the train types used.
Source for train numbers: VicSig: Suburban fleet
Update: Added Hitachi train name info.