New Zealand EM class electric multiple unit

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New Zealand EM/ET class
EM 1367 leading a southbound 4 car set as the morning sun breaks through the clouds, near Epuni - 17 May 2003.jpg
EM 1367 leading a southbound four-car train on the Hutt Valley Line, 17 May 2003.
In serviceMay 1982 – 27 May 2016
ManufacturerGanz-Mavag, Budapest, Hungary (electrical components from GEC traction, United Kingdom)
ReplacedDM/D class
EW class
56ft carriage
Constructed1979 – 1982
Entered serviceMay 1982 – 1983
RefurbishmentTranz Rail 1996 – 2002 (entire fleet) and
Metlink/Tranz Metro 2010 (one unit)
Number built44
Number in service0
Number scrapped5
Formation1 EM + 1 ET per unit
Fleet numbersEM 1004 – 1528
ET 3004 – 3528
Capacity148 seats
Operator(s)Tranz Metro
Line(s) servedKapiti, Hutt Valley, Melling
Car body construction20.73 m (68 ft 18 in)
Train length43.06 m (141 ft 3 14 in) per Unit.
Car length21.53 m (70 ft 7 58 in) over Couplers.
Width2.72 m (8 ft 11 18 in)
Height3.73 m (12 ft 2 78 in) without pantograph
Platform height0.73 m (2 ft 5 in)
Doors8 electrically operated sliding twin doors (centrally controlled)
Maximum speed95 km/h (59 mph)[* 1]
WeightEM: 37.6 t (37.0 long tons; 41.4 short tons)
ET: 34.5 t (34.0 long tons; 38.0 short tons)
Power output400 kW (540 hp)
TransmissionCamshaft-controlled resistance
Power supplyMotor-alternator producing 230/400 V 50 Hz AC
Train heatingElectric heating
Electric system(s)1500 V DC overhead
Current collection methodpantograph
UIC classificationBo-Bo+2'2'
Braking system(s)Westinghouse "Westcode" electropneumatic brakes (six-step) with automatic air brake backup[1]
Multiple workingWithin class only
Track gauge3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)
  1. ^ The maximum design speed is 110 km/h (68 mph)

The New Zealand EM/ET class (also known as Ganz-Mavag) electric multiple units were used on suburban services in Wellington, New Zealand from 1982 to 2016. They were owned initially by the New Zealand Railways Corporation and finally by the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) and operated by Tranz Metro, part of national railway operator KiwiRail.[2]

The 44 two-car units of an EM motor car and an ET trailer car were introduced between 1982 and 1983 on the 1500 V DC electrified Kapiti, Hutt Valley and Melling lines. After the introduction of the "Matangi" FP/FT class EMUs in 2011–12, they were largely relegated to peak services only. In 2012, the GWRC decided to order a second batch of Matangi units to replace the Ganz-Mavag units, and the last units were withdrawn from revenue service on 27 May 2016 after 34 years in service.

The name "Ganz-Mavag" comes from the units' manufacturer, Ganz-Mavag of Hungary. It was widely used by the GWRC and in the media to distinguish them from other electric multiple units used on the Wellington suburban lines; they were also referred to as Hungarian units.


The cost was NZ$33 million, then the single largest order of rolling stock in the then New Zealand Railways Department's history. This cost was partially offset by a trade agreement involving the Hungarian Government buying New Zealand farm products, chiefly lamb and butter.

However, the Chief Engineer of New Zealand Railway Corporation insisted on proven, reliable traction and braking systems being fitted to the new trains. The contract with Ganz Mavag specified GEC Traction of Manchester, England, as traction equipment supplier and Westinghouse Brake & Signals of Chippenham, England as brake equipment supplier. These suppliers were chosen for the reliability of very similar equipment on Hong Kong MTRC cars from these suppliers, which NZRC engineers had assessed as best of their type for reliability.[3]

Their introduction spelt the end of the carriage trains hauled by the EW class electric locomotives, though electric-hauled carriage trains were temporarily reintroduced behind the EO locomotives between 2008 and 2011, and Wairarapa Line services are diesel-hauled. A number of the older English Electric DM/D units were retained, mainly for use on the Melling and Johnsonville Lines.

The introduction of the units also coincided with the project to extend the electrification on the Kapiti Coast from Paekakariki to Paraparaumu.


The EM class have served as the primary rail commuter vehicle since their introduction in 1982, running in anything from a single unit (2-cars) to an 8-car unit depending on the service being operated. They have also seen service beyond the electrification, being used behind diesel locomotives as carriages to carry people to the annual Toast Martinborough wine festival in the Wairarapa.

The introduction of the new Matangi units from 2010 saw a reduction in the number of services operated by the EM class, with most off-peak services handed over to the Matangi units in June 2012. Initially, only the EMs were able to run in an 8-car formation, something the Matangis were limited in doing owing to the amount of current that they drew from the overhead system; hence the EM class were used on heavily patronised peak services, particularly on the Kapiti Line.

Johnsonville Line[edit]

The class were not operated on the Johnsonville Line as they were out-of-gauge and had insufficient braking capacity. While tunnel and platform clearances were improved in 2009, it was not envisaged that the units would be used on the line;[4] due to their limited braking power on the steep grades.[5]

Two units have visited Johnsonville on test trains; on Sunday 14 June 1992 EM 1004 and its trailer ET 3004 was towed behind shunter DSC 2285 to measure clearances at platforms and tunnels.[6] On Sunday 18 April 2010 EM 1056 plus trailer ET 3056 ran under its own power on a trial to check clearances for the Matangi units.[7]

Incidents and accidents[edit]

Three units were involved in a collision north of Plimmerton on 30 September 2010. The northbound train (consisting of EM 1010, ET 3010, EM 1154 and ET 3154) derailed after hitting a slip caused by heavy rain and fouled the southbound line. Less than a minute later it was struck by southbound unit EM 1223 and ET 3223, which did not derail, but the collision caused extensive damage to both cabs. Sixty passengers and crew were on the two trains. Two people were hospitalised. The drivers of the trains were father and son.[8]

The damaged units were initially towed back to the EMU depot north of Wellington station, where later the two undamaged halves - EM 1010 and ET 3223 (renumbered to ET 3010) were marshalled together as a unit. The damaged cars, EM 1223 and the original ET 3010, were towed to storage at the Hutt Workshops and used as parts sources.

On 20 May 2013, ET 3309 derailed crossing Wellington Distant Junction, puncturing a hole in the floor. It was the rear car in a two-unit consist operating the 07:43 Porirua to Wellington service, subsequently stranding thousands of morning peak commuters across the network as it blocked both the Kapiti and Hutt Valley lines. All units were temporarily withdrawn after the derailment for urgent safety inspections, but most were back in service for morning peak the next day.[9] Preliminary investigations suggest when one of the unit's spring park brake assemblies was replaced in March 2013, two split pins were not inserted into the bolts securing the assembly to the undercarriage, allowing the assembly to come loose over time and ultimately caused the derailment. Two air reservoir tanks came loose in the accident and pushed the air compressor behind them upwards through the floor, creating the hole.[10]

Other incidents involving EM units include:

  • 22 March 1997 – EM 1079 and ET 3079 travelling northbound hit a car on the Sutherland Avenue level crossing, between Heretaunga and Trentham stations. The train had passed the signal immediately before the crossing while at danger, and therefore failed to trigger the crossing alarms.[11]
  • 25 August 2011 – EM 1315 and ET 3315 travelling southbound came within metres of hitting two track gangers working on the line south of Paekakariki. The person in change of the work site let the unit through the work area on the advice that the line was clear; he was subsequently found to be under the influence of cannabis.[12]
  • 28 March 2013 – EM units 1246/3246, 1102/3102 and 1315/3315, operating a Wellington to Taita service, started from Wingate station with the doors open and no passenger staff on board. A trainee driver and their minder thought they heard the "right-away" buzzer and proceeded without double-checking the door open light had gone out. Unlike the later Matangi units, there is no interlock on the EM units preventing the train moving with the doors open.[13]


In 1995 a major refurbishment program of the class began, with the EMUs repainted in the then standard Tranz Rail Cato light blue and yellow livery with new seats and brighter interiors. This refurbishment program was completed by 2002.

Other minor upgrades were made in the mid-2000s, replacing the original diamond pantographs with single-arm ones and adding ditch lights.

In 2008 a proposed refurbishment was deferred until the new Matangi units were available. The projected expenditure was $23.3 million in 2008 - 2009.[14] The prototype refurbished unit was completed at the end of 2010.[15]

EM 1373 and ET 3373 were fully refurbished to ascertain unit costs and gauge public opinion, including repainting into the new Metlink livery. A decision to refurbish others in the fleet was made on 10 March 2011 as part of an $88 million rail upgrade package, instead of purchasing more Matangi.[16] However, in August 2012 GWRC announced its preference for ordering 35 more Matangi units instead of refurbishing the remaining units.[17] [18]


The introduction of the Matangi units allowed for the withdrawal of several EM units, with those in the best mechanical condition retained for running peak services only. Those units that were withdrawn were stored initially at Thorndon before most were relocated to the Hutt Workshops. GWRC called for expressions of interest in the disposal of these units.[19]

The EM fleet operated their last revenue services on 27 May 2016, operating the 14:17 Wellington to Melling service and the return 14:39 Melling to Wellington service. This paralleled the last revenue service by the DM/D "English Electric" units four years earlier.[20]

In June 2013 GWRC announced that it had come to terms for both the purchase of an additional 35 Matangi units and the sale of 42 of the Ganz units to a South African buyer, with one unit to be retained in New Zealand for preservation.[21]

Seventeen units were shipped to South Africa in February 2014 aboard the MV Pangani where they will be converted into (unpowered) carriages for operation in Tanzania and Zimbabwe.[22] The remaining units will be shipped once replaced by the second tranche of Matangi units from mid-2015 [23][24] In November 2015, and in January and February 2016 several more units were withdrawn from service. In March 2017, many were still held in the Wellington rail yards.[25]

The agreement to sell the remaining EM class units fell through later in 2017 and in May 2018 the remaining 26 units started being transported to Wellington's Southern Landfill where they will be scrapped. The carriages will be crushed and buried due to the use of asbestos in the train wall's anti-drum coatings.[26]

EM 1373/ET 3373 was donated to the Canterbury Railway Society in Christchurch in 2016, while EM 1505/ET 3505 was purchased for $1 by the Wellington Heritage Multiple Unit Preservation Trust.[27][28]


  1. ^ Sinclair, Roy (1992). Rail, the Great New Zealand Adventure. Grantham House Publishing. ISBN 978-1-86934-013-1.
  2. ^ "$168m Wellington Rail Package Signed". The Dominion Post. 5 July 2011.
  3. ^ Direct citation by Garry Brookes as GEC Traction's design engineer for these trains
  4. ^ Peter Glensor of the Greater Wellington Regional Council in the Northern Courier of 17 February 2010 page 5
  5. ^ ONTRACK staff comment on Johnsonville Line Open Day 4 February 2009
  6. ^ Hermann, Bruce J; North Island Branch Lines p 66 (2007, New Zealand Railway & Locomotive Society, Wellington) ISBN 978-0-908573-83-7
  7. ^ "Express, KiwiRail staff newsletter - Issue 39". KiwiRail. 22 April 2010.
  8. ^ "Two with spinal injuries after train crash". New Zealand Herald. 30 September 2010.
  9. ^ "Wellington trains stopped after derailment". Fairfax NZ News. 20 May 2013. Archived from the original on 3 July 2013. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  10. ^ Chapman, Katie (25 October 2013). "Train fault undetected for 63 days". The Dominion Post. Retrieved 26 October 2013.
  11. ^ "Investigation 97-103 -- Electic [sic] Multiple Unit 3656, collision with motor vehicle, Trentham, 22 March 1997". Transport Accident Investigation Commission. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
  12. ^ "Investigation 11-103 -- Track workers nearly struck by passenger train near Paekakariki, North Island Main Trunk, 25 August 2011". Transport Accident Investigation Commission. Retrieved 6 October 2013.
  13. ^ "Investigation 13-102 -- Passenger train travelled with doors open, Wingate - Taita, 28 March 2013". Transport Accident Investigation Commission. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  14. ^ GWRC 2008/09 Annual Plan, approved 30 June 2008
  15. ^ "Agency Progress Report on implementing the Regional Land Transport Strategy" (PDF). Greater Wellington Regional Council. 14 April 2010.
  16. ^ "Capital gets $88 million rail upgrade". The Dominion Post. 10 March 2011. Retrieved 26 April 2011.
  17. ^ "Wellington's trains: replace or refurbish?". Greater Wellington Regional Council. 23 August 2012.
  18. ^ "Hutt railway workshops won't get $80 million contract". Stuff/Fairfax. 23 August 2012. Retrieved 24 June 2013.
  19. ^ Michael Forbes (12 March 2013). "Council puts stripped down trains up for sale". The Dominion Post.
  20. ^ "Ganz Mavag train makes last trip on Friday". The Dominion Post. 23 May 2016. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  21. ^ Forbes, Michael (17 June 2013). "Train deal a 'win-win' for commuters, ratepayers". The Dominion Post (via Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  22. ^ 34 Ganz Coaches Shipped from New Zealand 2014 Locomotives for Africa
  23. ^ "Ganz Mavags bound for new African lease of life".
  24. ^ "Next stop Africa for Capital's well-used trains".
  25. ^ Hunt, Tom (1 March 2017). "Going, going ... still here: Wellington rail workhorses gathering graffiti with no departure date set". The Dominion Post (via Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  26. ^ "Wellington's asbestos-laden trains being scrapped and buried at dump". Stuff. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  27. ^ "Diesel Locomotives Register". New Zealand Rolling Stock Register. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
  28. ^ Long, Jessica (8 June 2018). "Scrapped Wellington commuter train ripped apart at landfill". Fairfax NZ. Retrieved 30 July 2018. Upper Hutt's Maymorn Railway Society snapped up a bargain – buying one of the scrapped commuter trains for just $1.

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