Rise of Light Rail Projects worldwide

Introduction: Nowadays with the rising concern over the viability of the cost of metro rail projects, especially in smaller cities, the Central government of India is planning to promote Light Rail Transit System as an alternative mass rapid transport system in urban areas. 

Light rail transit (LRT) is a form of urban rail transit using rolling stock similar to a tramway, but operating at a higher capacity, and often on an exclusive right-of-way. Light rail transit (LRT) is a medium capacity mode of mass rapid transport which straddles between the heavy capacity Metro rail and the low capacity bus services. 

Metro / LRT / BUS Comparison

LRT is a form of rail transit that utilizes equipment and infrastructure that is typically less massive than that used for heavy rail modes i.e. commuter/regional, and metro rail/subway. A few modes such as people movers and personal rapid transit could be considered as even “lighter”. LRT may be at grade, partially grade-separated or completely elevated.

Light rail vehicles generally have a top speed of around 100km/h though mostly operating at much lower speeds,  kind of like the  road vehicles.

Why Govt. plans to adopt LRT:

To boost the public transportation system in cities, the Indian Central Government is planning to bring a new mass transport system called Light Rail Transit. This system , also to be known as , Metrolite could become a dedicated rapid rail corridor in cities and towns with tracks on the surface instead of elevated or underground stretches as is the case with metro rail corridors across the country. The centre’s Housing & Urban affairs ministry had prepared the plan and finalized the standards and specifications for Metrolite and has sent them for review to the Railways . 

The BJP in its poll manifesto of 2019 has promised to introduce metro rail system in 50 cities of the country. The conventional metro rail system, which requires huge capital investment, may not be viable in many smaller cities coming under the tier-II and tier-III category. According to the current population, there would not be enough ridership as well. In these cases the centre can think for Light Rail System – Metrolite, which will be suitable at much less cost and will also act as feeder services from various parts of the city. As per the present status , approx 657kms of metro rail network is operational across the country and another 800kms is under construction in 27 cities.

Few Initiatives in India : 

Delhi Tender of the LRT: The government is planning to introduce the Light rail transit system for the remaining 3 corridors of the phase 4 project of the Delhi Metro This will also  reduce the cost by 25 to 45 per cent compared to the existing metro systems . A high level meeting was held to discuss the adoption of light rail transit system standards for the remaining 3 corridors that are Inderlok to Indraprastha, Lajpat Nagar to Saket G block, Rithala – Bawana – Narela.

The Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry and the Board of the Delhi Metro have approved the Light rail transit system on a 20km stretch from Dwarka sector 25 to Kirtinagar. Besides the cost saving,  it will also act as a feeder system to high capacity metro. The three coach trains will have the capacity of carrying 300 passengers and this system will have a dedicated path separating the road traffic with it.

Nasik Tender of the LRT: Nasik Metro is an innovative Mass Rapid Transit Project which will provide state of the art transportation facility to the people of the Nasik city. This project will be operated by Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MAHA METRO) and owned by the Government of India, Government of Maharashtra and CIDCO. The first phase under development will have  two corridors, the corridor one is Gangapur to Mumbai Naka with the route length of 10km and with the 10 stations, the corridor two is Sirmik Nagar to Nasik Road with the route length of 22km and with the 15 stations.

Global LRT Projects and Their Success: 

Globally , Light Rail Transit systems are quite popular , such as : 

Germany: Germany possesses the most light rail systems of any country in Western Europe that exceeded in the world only by Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union. Germany , also a leader in rail transit system has utilized the LRT systems to good effect and it has used these systems in many cities .·  France: Transit systems are very popular in French cities and urban regions, including metros and, increasingly, various forms of LRT, especially tramways. Paris’s legacy metro system uses both steel-wheel rail rapid transit and the French rubber-tired Gadgetbahn technology; some other cities use the rubber-tired metro or operate light metros using the French VAL (Vehicle Automatique Leger), with small, automated rubber technology.

United Kingdom: Britain has an extensive legacy network of rail transit systems – particularly Redlans Passenger Rail System and rail rapid transit metros in London and Glasgow. In addition, there is the urban legacy LRT tramway system in Blackpool. One of the most important new systems has been London’s Docklands Light Railway, an automated light metro using basically LRT-type rolling stock.

China: China has a dense system of intercity railway services and regional and urban rail transit. Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Tianjin are all served by rapid rail metros. Various cities are moving to install light metro and LRT, including tramways. Dalian, Changchun, and Hong Kong also operate legacy tramway systems and further the legacy tramway in Anshan is reportedly undergoing rehabilitation and modernization.

Japan: Japan is another country interlaced with a dense network of intercity railways and urban and regional rail transit systems. in addition to RPR, a number of Japanese cities and regions have long been operating legacy metros and LRT tramway and interurban systems; Now Japan may be awakening to the “light rail revolution” that has flourished in Europe and North America.

Besides the Development countries , even the developing countries are focused on installing these systems : 

Development of LRT in developing countries:

Mauritius: Mauritius Metro Express Project is a 26-km route, which will connect Curepipe to Immigration Square in Port Louis and will feature 19 stations, 2 of which will be state-of-the-art elevated stations. The alignment will connect three major bus interchanges enabling a multimodal urban transit solution

Indonesia: The Palembang Light Rail Transit (LRT) being developed in Palembang, the provincial capital of South Sumatra, Indonesia, is the first ever light rail system to be developed in the country, the Palembang LRT system has a length of 23.4km and connects the Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II (SMB II) International Airport with Jakabaring Sports Complex   it acts as a direct link between the airport and the sports complex and reduces travelling time between the two locations by between 30 and 45 minutes.

Sri lanka: The Light Rail system will connect 16 stations between Malabe and Fort and is expected to reduce travelling time to about 32 minutes. The tracks will be constructed mainly on the existing roads. The project is expected to assist in reducing traffic jams and also provide a safe transport system for the urban population which has been rapidly increasing in the recent past. The first phase will include the construction of a 15.8km stretch between Colombo Fort area and Malabe, while later phases will expand into the Western Megapolis region. The fully electrified network will be built at an elevation of 6m above ground.

Conclusion: Light rail transit has become a fixture in many cities around the world and is now being recognized as the most promising system for Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. With new initiatives in India for the Metrolite systems , We expect this system to be adopted in multiple cities in the near future .