The Expanding World Of TramTrain

TramTrain - what was once old, is new again!

TramTrain, unknown in Canada, mocked by those who have not even researched the mode, is now expanding across the world.

The concept is simple and well understood a century ago, but time has erased the memory of the “interurban” from our present crop of planners.

Until 1992……..

The German City of Karlsruhe opened it’s first true TramTrain Line, which replaced a former commuter line with a modern tram, which had the ability to operate both on the mainline line railways and on city tram tracks. The new service provided a seamless (no transfer journey) from the ‘burbs to the city centre.

The results were extraordinary; not just success but triumphal!

In just six months ridership increased 479% – from 533,600 a week to 2,544,976 a week. Sunday’s ridership on the new TramTrain route increased a massive 3,699%!

Success like this just does not go unnoticed.

Well it has gone unnoticed in Canada and more specifically BC, where the provincial government and the transit authority, still persist in massively expensive light-metro for regional transit.

Affordable transit options like TramTrain are ignored.

And for the naysayers claiming that TramTrain isn’t for long distances,

Karlsruhe’s longest run is 210km (130 miles)

Karlsruhe’s S4 service from Ohringen through central Karlsruhe to Achern, south-west of Baden-Baden. The TramTrain route uses DB mainlines, regional railway lines and on-street running in various cities.

In the 21st century, success is noticed and copied and since 1992, there are now well over 30 new TramTrain services in operation in Europe, the UK, the USA and Asia, with many more on the drawing board.

Compare with our proprietary SkyTrain light-metro system, where since the early 1980’s no one has copied Vancouver’s exclusive use of light-metro for urban transportation, nor the proprietary and now called MALM proprietary mini-metro system. In fact, only seven such proprietary systems have been built since the late 1970’s.

In the expanding world of TramTrain, Metro Vancouver is being left behind at the station.

A Karlsruhe TramTrain in the city centre.


Stadler will supply battery-powered tram-trains to Wales

Swiss rolling stock manufacturer Stadler prepares to start the delivery of the first CityLink tram-trains to Wales. The three-car light rail vehicles will use both electric energy and battery power. 35 tram-trains will serve the cross-city and commuter lines in the capital of Wales, Cardiff, and its surroundings.

“It’s really exciting to know that Cardiff will see the return of a tram operation for the first time in over 70 years,” said Kevin Thomas, CEO of Transport for Wales Rail Services (TfW Rail). The CityLink tram-trains will also serve the commuter routes from Cardiff to Treherbert, Aberdare and Merthyr Tydfil. The bi-mode vehicles will start regular service from 2022 and will be operated by TfW Rail, a Welsh subsidiary of Keolis.

Tri-mode Flirt trains

Besides the battery-powered tram-trains, Stadler will also supply 36 innovative Flirt trains to serve the planning South Wales Metro routes. The batch is divided into two groups. 24 tri-mode units (7 three-car and 17 four-car) will be capable to use overhead electric wires, diesel and battery power. The remaining 11 four-car trains will be diesel-operated. “The tri-modes being built by Stadler will offer an efficient and cost-effective electric drive and battery operation. 2022 can’t come soon enough for us or our passengers,” noted Kevin Thomas.

Stadler in UK

Cardiff will be the third city in the UK to operate the Stadler trams. 12 Variobahn units serve the Croydon Tramlink in London since 2012. The Swiss producer has delivered 7 CityLink vehicles in 2015-2016 to Sheffield. Moreover, Greater Anglia ordered 58 Flirt trains. The rail operator received the first unit on 28 February.

Stadler will supply 52 Class 777 electric multiple units for Merseyrail to be operated on the Liverpool commuter services. The manufacturer has also concluded a contract to deliver 17 trains for Glasgow Subway. The Class 68 and 88 locomotives produced by Stadler are used by the British passenger and freight operators.


One Response to “The Expanding World Of TramTrain”
  1. Haveacow says:

    Having been on the actual S4 line I can tell you it isn’t perfect however, the service is extreme in that it really does go a long way from central Karlsruhe.

    At the outer and least serviced sections of the line, the schedule is only 3 trains/hour, 10-12 hours per day (mostly day time service) because the Tram-Train has to share tracks with many other types of trains. The schedule is unbalanced during many of the hours of service (not equal time between trains over an hour period). There are many portions where there are too many stops (especially considering that the line is 210 km long), they can’t really do a special express run outside of certain hours again because of the track sharing.

    What they do have is fantastic service for a city about the population of Victoria and a line operating mode which not only solves the geographic scale problem (the high building cost per km of line length of rail based rapid transit) faced by most large cities like Vancouver, by using new railway engine technology like, Hydrogen power and super efficient batteries, it eliminates the cost issue, where it is too expensive to put up overhead wires and or install 3rd rails.

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