SEPTEMBER 8 saw the start of of a five-week programme of commissioning trials with the first of nine new diesel railcars for the Public Transport Authority of Western Australia. The cars are being built by United Goninan’s Broadmeadow plant in New South Wales to re-equip the state’s Prospector and AvonLink regional passenger services.

Introduction of the new trains will complete the transformation of the former Western Australia Government Railway Country Passenger Division. Long-distance rail and bus passenger operations across the state are being merged into a single regional division within the PTA, which will use the new Transwa branding unveiled in May. This is intended to complement the existing Transperth brand used for urban rail and bus services (MR03 p45).

Designed for 200 km/h operation, the stainless-steel bodied cars are built to the largest possible loading gauge, and are carried on Siemens high speed bogies. Each vehicle is powered by two Cummins N14E-R3 diesel engines rated at 386 kW, driving through Voith T212bre transmissions. In an emergency, a train will be able to run with one engine per car shut down.

Meeting the latest Australian rail safety requirements, the units are equipped with automatic train protection equipment, and microprocessor-based traction controls, with information display screens in each driving cab. All vehicles are equipped with electro-pneumatic service brakes, together with hydrodynamic braking on the transmissions and electronic wheelslide control.

The seven Prospector vehicles will be formed into two 2-car sets carrying 98 passengers plus two in wheelchairs, and one 3-car unit with an extra 60 seats. Each air-conditioned vehicle will have one toilet compartment, with one disabled-accessible toilet per unit. There will also be a small buffet in each set.

The interior layout is designed to match the latest ’world class’ standards for long-distance passenger trains, and has been designed to comply as far as possible with the requirements of Australia’s Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport. The rotating and reclining seats are arranged in a 2+2 format, with a central armrest between each pair of seats. Footrests and headrests are provided, and folding meal trays are mounted on the back of each seat. Aircraft-style overhead lockers are provided in the saloons for hand luggage, augmented by a separate compartment for stowing heavy baggage.

The passenger information displays and entertainment systems include a ’driver-cam’ option giving passengers a view of the line ahead, and access to on-board video entertainment. Headphone sockets for the on-board music channels are provided at each seat, and passengers will also have access to an on-board telephone and fax machine. Power points for laptop computers have been provided at four seats in each car.

According to WA Planning & Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan, the new railcars will complete the 653 km Perth - Kalgoorlie trip in less than 6h, shaving almost 2h from the current journey time and making rail competitive with road ’for the first time’.

The remaining two-car unit is intended to operate the AvonLink regional service over the 106 km route from Midland to Northam, and is expected to enter service early next year. Mechanically identical to the Prospector sets, this unit has higher-density seating, and can carry 138 passengers plus two in wheelchairs. The fixed fabric covered seats have footrests, and are arranged in a 2+3 layout with half the seats facing in each direction. There is a standard toilet in one car, and a disabled-accessible version in the other.

The AvonLink cars also have open luggage racks in the passenger compartment, rather than enclosed bins, but stowage space for heavier items is still provided. Passenger information and entertainment is limited to a simple public address system with recorded music facility. Laptop power points are provided at 10 seats per vehicle.