Hybrid Subway System Transitions Seamlessly Between Suburbs and Downtown

Hybrid Subway System Transitions Seamlessly Between Suburbs and Downtown

The city of Sheffield in the UK is installing the first tram-train in the country.

Leah Gonzalez
  • 10 february 2014

The city of Sheffield is installing the first ever tram-train in the UK. A tram-train is a hybrid public transit vehicle that can run both as a street tram servicing commuters in the city center and a commuter train that can use all existing rail network.

Trams and trains run on different kinds of tracks. Tram wheels run inside grooves on tracks — allowing trams to make tight corners. Train wheels, on the other hand, run on top of raised rails. A tram-train has wheels that are designed to work on both types of tracks. This means a tram-train can transition easily from one rail network to the other, eliminating the need for passengers to switch trains during their commute.


Aside from giving people better or more convenient commuting connections, tram-trains can mean lower maintenance costs and more flexibility for the transit authorities. Tram-trains can allow the authorities to add more services or routes and help reduce transportation congestion.

Set to be completed in 2016, the project will have tram-trains running eight miles from Rotherham Parkgate to Sheffield. The design for the tram-train was developed at the Institute of Railway Research at University of Huddersfield.

Tram-trains are new in the UK, but Karlsruhe, Germany has used tram-trains in their public transport system since 1992. In fact, the concept of tram and trains running on the same tracks is referred to as the “Karlsruhe model.”

The Sheffield-Rotherham Tram-Train project is a $98 million trial run to determine whether it would work in the rest of the country.

Source: Wired

Image: Institute of Railway Research, The Rail Engineer


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