The first of seven new Metro trains for Melbourne was delivered to the Victorian government today, five months ahead of schedule.
The new six-carriage train, which was put together at manufacturer Alstom's Ballarat factory, will make its first suburban run in late October. Alstom expects to hand over a new train a month for the next six months, significantly boosting capacity on Melbourne's often overcrowded rail network.
The new train will run in the eastern suburbs and free up other trains to eventually run on the Sunbury line, which will become a Metro line on November 18, having been electrified this year at a cost of $270 million.
Once Sunbury joins Melbourne's rail network, rail operator Metro will again update its train timetable, adding new peak-hour services on the Upfield and Craigieburn lines. The Craigieburn line is one of Melbourne's most overcrowded, while the Upfield line currently has no better than one train every 20 minutes in the peak.
Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder said he was pleased to receive the first new train to hit the rails since the Baillieu government was elected.
"We're looking at increased demand both on the regional rail network and the metropolitan network going forward, and it's up to the government of the day to meet that demand," Mr Mulder said.
The government has promised seven new trains in its first term, and a further 33 afterwards.
Public Transport Victoria's chief Ian Dobbs said the new trains were desperately needed.
"We're actually expanding capacity on the system, and we desperately need these trains in service as quickly as possible to provide more room for the people of Melbourne," Mr Dobbs said.
"Public Transport Victoria's medium and long-term patronage forecasts show continued strong growth over the next 10 to 20 years on the rail network and these new trains are the first stage of expanding capacity over the next two decades."
Mr Dobbs said bus timetables would also be overhauled along the Sunbury line, to better connect with trains. He also confirmed there would be no 11th-hour reprieve for bus route 509, a two-kilometre service on Hope Street in Brunswick, which is due to be cancelled at the end of the month. Mr Dobbs said the money would be better spent boosting bus services in the outer suburbs, where transport is scarce.
The new trains are being manufactured in Italy and Victoria, with more than 30 per cent of the manufacturing work being done at Alstom's Ballarat factory.
Alstom chief executive Chris Raine said the company, which employs 110 people in Ballarat, was proud to have delivered the new trains ahead of schedule, and would bid for the contract to build the government's promised additional 33 trains when the time comes.
"It was only last June that the new Victorian government awarded the contract to manufacture seven new six-car trains to Alstom, and the intention was that they were to be completed and delivered in 2013," Mr Raine said.
Alstom recently spent $8 million modernising its Ballarat factory, which is more than 100 years old. Mr Raine said 65 jobs had been created to build the new trains, and a further 70 jobs with its suppliers.