The International Light Rail Magazine
+44 1733 367610
Geoff@lrtap.com
SmartWindows into the future

SmartWindows into the future

Passengers in Karlsruhe can now access timetabling and disruption information… through their window. The team behind the SmartMMI project explains how it works. One glance is all it takes for passengers to find out about a passing museum, tourist attraction or his or her next connection… all this and more is displayed on the semi-transparent SmartWindow being trialled on a dual-system tram-train operated by Germany’s Albtal-Verkehrs-Gesellschaft (AVG). For those who wish to take the information with them, a complementary app allows users to interact with the onboard screens and transfer data to their own device. So what sounded like science fiction just a few years ago is now a reality through the SmartMMI (Smart Model- and context-based Mobility Information) research project, led by the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences (HKA). Semi-transparent displays onboard public transport vehicles have been presented as prototypes for passenger information before, but this project is a first in that the project partners were able to develop a visualisation and interaction concept in a user-centred approach and at the same time advance the data-centric services that feed them. The use of augmented reality is now commonplace. Via smartphone apps, on television or while behind the wheel of a car, many of us are already familiar with this technology. The background to SmartMMI stems therefore from a desire to enhance the travel experience for the millions of people who use public transport services each day. In order to transform such journeys from a necessity into a more rounded and more useful mobility experience, the project – funded with EUR2.6m from the mFund initiative of the German Federal...
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...