The International Light Rail Magazine
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Empowering operations teams with real-time information

Empowering operations teams with real-time information

Today’s passenger is spoilt for choice, with a wealth of information at their fingertips through an array of apps on their devices. Yet while passengers can find out fare information or when their next tram is arriving at the touch of a button, the operations team delivering the service is often left behind – both in terms of the systems they are using and the information they can access. So why has this happened, and what can we do to improve it? Often the issue is not a lack of technology, but instead too much technology. Operators implement large IT systems on the understanding that they are a panacea, only to realise that they have too many features, are difficult to use and don’t interact smoothly with other systems in the organisation. On the other side of the coin we see many teams drowning in a sea of spreadsheets and paper-based processes. While these definitely have a part to play in some roles, they can also be problematic as they require a lot of manual intervention and a serious Excel obsession! Ultimately both options can lead to frustration for the end user, impacting their ability to do their job effectively. One such user is the incident manager, a critical role which requires liaison with multiple stakeholders to quickly log, resolve and report on incidents. Vital to efficient service delivery, the information they need to be most efficient is often not readily available. Having an integrated, user-friendly system that enables the right information to be delivered in real-time can quickly deliver benefits for the incident manager, the operator, and ultimately...
A vision of the urban tram’s future

A vision of the urban tram’s future

Imagine a modular autonomous tram with the ability to transport passengers during the day, easily converted into a freight carrier in the evening. Such a vision for the future was recently confirmed as the winner of the prestigious DESING+ (Industrial DESign + EngineerING Design) competition organised by the University of West Bohemia (UWB), Czech Republic. Now in its 18th year, the DESING+ challenge is designed to facilitate inter-faculty collaboration in the fields of construction, industrial design, healthcare and marketing to solve design tasks assigned by national and international companies. In 2022, six interdisciplinary teams consisting of 56 students from the UWB’s Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, the Ladislav Sutnar Faculty of Design and Art, th Faculty of Health Care Studies and the Faculty of Economics participated in the contest; almost 1400 UWB students have taken part since 2004. ‘No design limits’ Giving the student teams the freedom to work from a blank sheet of paper under the guidance of university lecturers and professional industrial mentors, the DESING+ project encourages a methodological approach to design, while at the same time allowing students to step out of their comfort zone. Škoda Group’s tram research and development department was involved as a consultant for students throughout the project. The presented technical proposals are therefore the result of the EDSM approach supported by collaboration with the client. In the mobility section assigned, supported and co-evaluated by Škoda Group, this year the theme was the ‘Dual Autonomous Tram’. This set the task of designing a light rail vehicle which could be employed for passenger transport, but also easily configurable for the delivery of pre-ordered packages. The...
Always ahead of the game

Always ahead of the game

Patrick Lamb, Managing Director of Severn Lamb, describes the process of creating bespoke vehicles for some of the more unusual light rail projects. Regardless of the business you are in, it is important to keep up with the times. For our projects and our clients, this means providing the most efficient, affordable, environmentally-conscious and passenger-friendly vehicles – often to tight constraints. Under the skin, even our most heritage or ‘retro’-styled vehicles are cutting-edge in terms of drive systems and digital technology. Initially this involved a transition from steam power to diesel-hydraulic variants, and then to more eco-friendly and efficient Euro 5 and 6-certified powerplants. But time waits for no man, and as new technologies became available we were at the forefront of incorporating non-fossil fuel alternatives to meet clients’ requirements. The past ten years have therefore seen a lot of research and development into perfecting our battery-electric drive system, with almost all our current projects now utilising a ‘clean engine’ power solution. Most recently this is reflected in the two new battery-electric Ultra-Light Rail trains we were commissioned to design and build for the Southend Pier Railway in the UK. This project is one which is near and dear to our hearts, because we delivered the pier’s previous trains back in 1986. The two recently de-commissioned diesel cars have stood the test of time, providing excellent service since their inauguration by HRH Princess Anne on 2 May 1986. But when the time came for their replacement, Southend Pier initiated a public tender for the design and manufacture of two new eco-friendly pier trains in line with its efforts to...
Coming of the Tempe Streetcar

Coming of the Tempe Streetcar

Vic Simons explores the exciting and innovative light rail developments in Phoenix and its neighbouring communities.   When TAUT first visited Phoenix in December 2008, it was to report on the opening of Arizona’s first modern LRT line – 32km (20 miles) running through the central core and into the neighbouring cities of Tempe and Mesa. Jump forward 13 years and extensions have been completed at both ends of this first line, taking the system to 42.3km (26.3 miles). The most recent expansion is the 3km (1.9-mile) eastern route to Gilbert Road in Mesa. Opening in May 2019, this USD186m (predominantly federally-funded) extension is notable as, unusually for North America, the alignment takes light rail straight across a roundabout. The project also includes significant urban realm improvements. Future extensions Three further extensions are being built, with a fourth in the advanced planning stage. The southern expansion is in reality two projects. The first section will head southwards on an 8.8km (5.5-mile) route from the existing downtown LRT station to Baseline Road. Adding eight new stops and two park-and-ride sites, this is due to open in 2024. The second project is a western spur running outwards via Jefferson and inwards via Washington for a total of 2.3km (1.4 miles). Preliminary engineering is underway to develop early construction plans and technical specifications for this project, known as the Capitol Extension. The 2.6km (1.6-mile) Northwest Extension Phase II will take light rail west from the present Dunlap Avenue terminus across the I-17 highway, using the system’s first transit-only bridge, to the redevelopment area on the site of the former Metrocenter Mall. Including three...
A life without wires

A life without wires

  Mott MacDonald Technical Principal Chris Tindall assesses the positives and negatives of a range of technologies promoted as an alternative to traditional LRT electrification. While conventional overhead (OLE) or third-rail electrification are still the go-to solutions for most of the tram and light rail industry, recent years have seen progress in a number of alternative traction power technologies for rolling stock. Significant drivers for such developments have been the desire to reduce infrastructure costs, to provide more aesthetically-pleasing tramway installations within our urban environments with the use of overhead-free alignment, and the ability to economically re-introduce passenger services to existing sections of non-electrified alignment.   Getting onboard In terms of modern tramways, early alternative solutions involved either onboard traction batteries (typically in the form of Nickel-Metal Hydride cells), or onboard supercapacitors. These technologies established a new form of technology, generally termed ‘Onboard Energy Storage Systems’, or OESS. Other alternative traction sources in the form of ground-level power supply systems have been developed by Alstom and Ansaldo STS (now part of the Hitachi rail group), but this approach has not been adopted more widely within the vehicle supply market. Whilst these early OESS systems provided opportunities for sections of tramway to be non-electrified, they had limitations in terms of ultimate range, power and, in the case of batteries, recharging time. However, since these applications, technological developments have led to the widespread personal, commercial, and industrial use of lithium-based batteries. This has resulted in their use becoming technically and economically feasible for application to commercial passenger transportation. The suitability of lithium batteries within a tramway environment is dependent upon the...
Tram-train learning

Tram-train learning

The launch of the South Yorkshire tram-train service in October 2018 was a significant debut, linking a tramway to the UK’s national rail network for the first time. This groundbreaking pilot programme was only possible through close collaboration between the three principal project partners – Network Rail, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive and Stagecoach Supertram – and its success has been proven by its popularity with passengers, demonstrating how the tram-train concept could work in the UK. When the pilot began there were no off-the-shelf models or templates; solutions were borne from technical innovation and close working relationships. There were many challenges along the way, and originally a key Government objective surrounded the creation of a summary of knowledge, data and learning in the form of a report. It quickly became clear, however, that a combination of the wealth of information collected and the intense interest from the industry meant the partners needed to create something much more comprehensive, sustainable, and longer lasting. This included clear and easily digestible data on the costs, benefits and safety requirements of operating a tram-train on the UK’s national rail network; assessing the potential for lower infrastructure capital and maintenance costs compared to alternative rail or tram services; and understanding the level of demand to be derived from the new technology. The Tram-Train Learning Hub was thus conceived from the beginning as an account of how the pilot was achieved and the result is another UK first – an online repository dedicated to all aspects of tram-train project delivery and operations. It has now become an essential industry resource. The importance of honesty...