Urban rail transport: the tram-train and train-tram systems

We all know the advantages of public transport. This is undoubtedly a more environmentally efficient alternative that improves the quality of urban life. Today we are talking about tram-train and train-tram systems, which in many cases can be an interesting solution to mobility problems in cities.

The most common rail transport systems used in cities are suburban networks, distributed on the outskirts of urban centers and where we find variable track widths depending on the country in which they are located. On the other hand, there are the metropolitan railway networks, which can be underground or on the surface. In these, they usually run on a track width of between 1,000 and 1,435 mm and with lighter vehicles than in the conventional network.

Tram-train and train-tram systems are railway transport solutions that allow rolling stock to use conventional railways and the light metro platform indistinctly, which means an improvement in the use of railway infrastructures and other advantages for users. Let us take a closer look at what they consist of.

The tram-train

The tram-train is a light rail system that runs through the city on urban tracks and can, from a section onward, be coupled to existing conventional railways, thus being able to continue running towards the periphery, without the need to create new light rail tracks.

Light rail services are direct, without transfers, from the periphery to the city center, and vice versa, which can be a real attraction for private vehicle users.

Thanks to its high quality, the conventional railway platform can reach speeds of between 80 and 100 kilometers per hour. In addition, with this system more stops can be implemented than in the case of conventional rail in the peripheral area and without excessively affecting the journey time, as the vehicles used are lighter and have better performance in terms of acceleration and braking.

This avoids the need to create new specific infrastructures for light rail, and is therefore very useful in areas where space is scarce. In addition, conventional rail services are not interrupted, as both systems use the same tracks, which means better use of them.

This system could also use existing railway stations, provided that some necessary adaptations are made for this purpose: double-height platforms or the use of vehicles with retractable steps.

The tram-train

It could be said that the train-tram system is the “inverse” to the tram, with access to tram and railway infrastructures. In this case, the rolling stock consists of a slightly lighter conventional rail vehicle, which enters the city by taking advantage of some existing urban roads or building new ones.

Trams do not require intensive use of the light rail network, since new sections are created or small parts adapted for this purpose are used.

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