The Age broke the story last week that the new High Capacity Metro Trains (HCMTs) are being designed to cope with up to 2000 people, at a density of up to 6 people per square metre, and seats for 30-40% of the total load.
Cue the outrage (from some quarters) — but it’s important to look at the numbers, because when you break it down, it’s not actually much different to what we already have.
The important thing is that the load standard is different to the gross/maximum/crush load capacity.
Let me summarise it in a table, then you can read the long boring explanation if you wish.
|Cars||Load standard||Per car||Gross capacity
/ crush load
|Comeng*||6||900||150||1526 crush load||254|
|Siemens*||6||900||150||1584 crush load||264|
|X’Trapolis*||6||900||150||1394 crush load||232|
|HCMT||7||1100||157||1380 gross capacity||197|
|HCMT||10||1570||157||1970 gross capacity||197|
*Crush load figures for the existing fleet are from before seat modifications were made.
The current train “load standard” is 900 people per 6 carriages, with about half of those seated, and half standing. (The magic number used to be 798, or 133 per carriage. Recent changes made it 900, or 150 per carriage, with more changes to come).
But 900 is NOT the capacity. It’s meant to be the upper limit for a comfortable load; the trigger point at which they should be planning for more services.
In a crush load, such as was seen on many lines on the morning of the Age story, you might get 1500 people onto a 6-car train — in fact the Comeng fleet “crush” capacity is said to be 1526.
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) May 28, 2017
Channel 7’s Brendan Donohoe enterprisingly got a metre square and took it on a train to show how 6 people per square metre looks. Not much different to the above.
— PTUA (@ptua) May 29, 2017
So if the current crush load is about 1500, that’s 250 per carriage.
The 1,970 quoted for the new fleet is not a “load standard”, but a “gross capacity”, aka a maximum for planning purposes.
(At first I thought this was similar to a “crush load”, perhaps in more politically-correct terms. But perhaps not; at 197 per carriage, it’s quite a bit lower than the current figures of around 250 per carriage.)
The 1,970 figure is also for a much longer train.
From the documents I’ve seen, the load standard for the initial 7-car configuration will be 1100, or 157 per carriage. Not much different from the current 6-car load standard of 900, or 150 per carriage.
Extending the trains from 7 to 10 cars later (on the Sunbury and Dandenong/Cranbourne/Pakenham lines via the metro tunnel) will therefore extend the load standard to 1570.
Planning for a crush load of up to 1970 on a 10-car train is not unreasonable.
It means that the carriages will safely carry that many people (factors such as weight and braking come into play), and if they get the interior design right, there’ll be places for everyone to hold on.
This is a big issue with many of the current fleet: the Siemens and Comeng trains have very few handholds apart from around the doorways.
Most of the X’Trapolis fleet is better, but those handholds are mostly too far towards the side of the carriage, meaning you have to reach over seated passengers to grab them.
Having participated in stakeholder consultation for the new train design, I can tell you: the carriages have a mix of seating: longitudinal (along the carriage) at the ends, providing more standing space, and areas for wheelchairs and bicycles, and transverse (across the carriage) seating in the middle areas.
The semi-permanent marshalling into 7 or 10 car sets, with no intermediate driver cabs, will save space, and the walk-through design will make it easier to move to the next carriage if it’s less crowded.
And they intend on having more vertical poles than the current fleet, meaning far more places to hold on, as well as handholds from the ceiling.
So rather than get outraged at the prospect of 2000 people crush-loaded into a train, the real questions are:
Will the new train fleet be designed to better cope with that many people?
Will there be enough seats for people travelling long distances, and/or those who can’t stand?
And will there be enough trains running that trains that crowded are the exception rather than the rule?
- New train designs are only one part of the overall capacity increase coming to the Dandenong line