Wellington Scoop

“Number one priority” to fix squealing Johnsonville trains, says Fran Wilde

Press Release – Greater Wellington Regional Council
A trial of wheel dampers, which reduce noise radiation, on two trains next month is the next step towards trying to reduce the wheel squeal noise on parts of the Johnsonville Line, says Fran Wilde, Chair of Greater Wellington Regional Council.

The noise emerged after the new Matangi trains began running regularly on the Johnsonville Line just on a year ago.

The squealing noise is created when the wheels of the train manoeuvre through some tight corners. “The old English Electrics that used to run on the line generated more noise but it is the high-pitched tone of this particular noise that is literally getting on some people’s nerves.

“Wheel squeal issues are not uncommon on rail lines around the world, so we were able to engage some rail experts experienced with these issues. They investigated the exact cause of the problem and developed a range of possible solutions for us. We’re now trialling the two top solutions.”

Fran Wilde says over the last few months a friction modifier material has begun to be applied to the track on some parts of the line to modify the steering performance of the wheel sets on tight curves. The material is then distributed, via the wheels of the train, further along the line. “This is having varying levels of success – some trains are less noisy but others aren’t. Staff are currently investigating ways to increase coverage of the friction modifier to reduce the noise all along the line.”

From next month wheel dampers – devices that reduce the radiation of noise – will be trialled on the wheels of two trains.

“Hopefully the greater spread of friction modifier on the track and the effect of the wheel dampers should significantly reduce noise levels.

“I appreciate the distress the wheel squeal noise is causing to some residents who have to put up with the noise day in and day out, but I can assure them that this is the number one priority for our rail operations staff and they are determined to find a lasting and effective resolution to this issue.”

Regional Council and KiwiRail staff will give a full update to residents at a public meeting at Ngaio Town Hall on Wednesday evening at 7.30pm.

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  1. Brent Efford, 19. March 2013, 17:57

    The wrong rail vehicles are being used on the Johnsonville line.
    Throughout the 1980s and 90s, the Regional Council and the rail corporation envisaged replacing the old English Electric trains on the line with light rail vehicles – i.e. trams – and running them through the Golden Mile.
    One such proposal in 1993 nearly came to pass. The Evening Post said on 23/11/93: “The light rail proposal is a sensible option and needs now to be propelled to the front of the transport agenda.”
    However, by 2005 the GWRC had turned its back on its earlier light rail vision. It specified the ‘heavy rail’ Matangis, which have stiffer bogies unsuited to Johnsonville’s sharp curves.
    Modern trams are designed to climb grades as steep as 1 in 12 and go round curves of 25m radius, on rubber-cushioned wheels. To a modern tram, the Johnsonville Line is ‘almost straight and almost level’. Trams would operate on it reliably in near silence, with the potential bonus of an unbroken ride downtown.

  2. Tony Randle, 20. March 2013, 9:45

    I agree with your first statement that “The wrong rail vehicles are being used on the Johnsonville line.” but the line should have been converted to use buses not trams as considered in the 2006 North Wellington Public Transport Study. This study found a guided busway clearly superior to light rail as did the vast majority of public submissions.
    A busway would benefit ALL North Wellington PT users from Churton Park to Newlands, not just the minority who live within walking distance of a station. It would also be faster (10 minutes Jville to Wellington), cheaper (no special rail vehicles, electrics power systems) and travel through the CBD to the Airport if necessary with minimal investment.
    But Fran and the Greater Wellington Regional (or is it Railway) Council is fully committed to the Matangi trains and so it is up to the GWRC to make them work as promised.