Flexibility: Susceptible of modification or adaptation; adaptable.

Dresden’s successful freight tram, carried car parts from one factory to another in the city.

Modern light rail is very flexible; it can operate as a tram, operating on-street; it can operate as a light-railway, operating on a dedicated rights-of-way; it can operate as a light-metro, on viaduct or in a subway; it can operate as a commuter train, operating on mainline railways; and it can operate as all four on one transit route!

Now, the next logical step is to carry freight.

From Rail for the Valley

The key is flexibility and no one at TransLink, the regional mayors and the province has considered when planning for rail transit. That would be thinking “twenty minutes into the future”, something seemingly impossible today.

SkyTrain light-metro, built to strict kinematic envelope (The outline of the space occupied by a rail vehicle when in motion, including the effects of tilt, sway, track cant, etc.) and with automatic (driverless)  operation, light metro lacks the all important flexibility that has made light rail a success.

Flexibility has been changed to “density” for metro Vancouver, as a reason for building rail transit, yet flexibility would allow LRT to more better service a densely populated area than a light metro.

I think it would better serve those wanting the return of the interurban, from Vancouver to Chilliwack; the return of passenger service to the entire E&N railway and those wishing to stop the Broadway subway, demand adding flexibility into the debate, something SkyTrain/subway/bus/rail to trail competitors cannot do.

From the Railway Gazette:


GERMANY: Trials with a prototype freight tram or tram-train are to start in Karlsruhe and the surrounding area in 2022. The concept is being drawn up with a view to improving urban life by reducing road traffic and the emissions it generates.

Known as ‘regioKArgo’, a pilot operation is proposed to demonstrate the concept, possibly on the 50 km Karlsruhe – Rastatt – Achern route, which has been studied in detail by the project’s promoters.

regioKArgo brings together operators Verkehrsbetriebe Karlsruhe and Albtal-Verkehrsgesellschaft with freight shippers, logistics companies and research institutes to develop alternative forms of local goods transport to replace lorries and vans.

Increasing use of the internet in recent months to order goods has led to an increase in package delivery traffic, in turn leading to congestion and other problems such as a shortage of staff and delivery vehicles.

Freight trams or tram-trains would operate between consolidation centres, set up at locations outside Karlsruhe and surrounding towns, and ‘city-hubs’ in the central area of each town. From there goods would be distributed to the end customer using emission-free methods such as cargo bikes. Studies are in hand to determine where city-hubs could be located.

One option would be to use modified trams that would be dedicated for passenger duties during peak times but would carry both passengers and cargo during less-busy periods. A team of researchers and industry experts is working on the design of a demonstrator tram under the LogIKTram project, the results of which will be fed into the regioKArgo scheme.

Organisations involved in the project other than operators include DB Engineering & Consulting, the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology, the FZI IT Research Centre, Marlo Consultants and Automotive Engineering Network.

The project team is in the process of estimating the likely cost, the aim being to apply for funding under the ‘Regio-Win’ project which promotes Karlsruhe as a technology development centre. Research by Offenburg University suggests that users would be willing to pay for the service if it fits sustainability and environmental goals.

Freight trams would form the centrepiece of a holistic concept which will entail rethinking the existing freight transport delivery model, according to Ascan Egerer, Technical Director at AVG. Explaining that the whole process was being examined to ensure that it would function economically, this entailed looking at what happens before and after the rail leg of a consignment’s journey. ‘That’s why we have partners from all sectors round the table’, he said. ‘It’s not something that can be solved by a transport operator alone. And we are talking about going beyond the city limits into the region’.

Egerer suggested that the idea was to replicate for goods the tram-train concept for passengers that was pioneered in Karlsruhe in the 1990s. ‘The Karlsruhe model offers the best conditions for bringing about a switch for goods transport too’, he said.

The ‘father’ of the Karlsruhe tram-train concept was Dr Dieter Ludwig, who believed that it was necessary to ‘take the train to the people’. Dr Ludwig, who died on July 16, was CEO of AVG and VBK for 30 years, during which the Karlsruhe model became famous – the first route between Karlsruhe and Bretten opened in 1992, leading to spectacular growth in the use of public transport in the area.


3 Responses to “Flexibility”
  1. Haveacow says:

    I suggest you follow this because like most people, I am fascinated on how cargo will be actually transfered at stations to other modes. Setting up freight transfer docks either at stations or seperate areas wouldn’t be practical unless the transfer of cargo is very fast.As it would have to be completely unloaded within the time an LRV train is stopped at a station. Here in Ottawa that would mean, a maximum unload time of 40 seconds.

    Some early streetcar systems that had a freight/mail arm (both Ottawa and Cornwall Ontario) but either operator had a seperate freight only line or allowed freight and mail to be carried at only certain times (no freight on heavily travelled passenger lines at or near peak hours).

  2. Haveacow says:

    One other possible way is to have freight transfered between two railway yards. Cornwall did a booming business transferring freight between the Local Grand Trunk and Canadian Northern Railway yards. Later, when both Railways became part of Canadian National (between 1918 and 1923), Canadian Pacific bought the old CNOR yard and both freight cars and cargo continued traveling between the yards until the early 1970′s. This freight transfer traffic was using a seperate freight only streetcar line, which also had other customers along its length when yard transfers weren’t neededl. Cornwall only allowed freight on the main streetcar network between roughly 10 pm and 6 am.

  3. Nathan Davidowicz says:

    MOTI just announced another Transportation Study for the Fraser Valley.

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