Rob van der Bijl & Axel Kuehn
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This webpage is based on our paper presented for the Association for European Transport during their European Transport Conference (ETC 2004) in Strasbourg, 4-6 October 2004.
Since then we are adding news items and updates on our practices.

State of the Art
Checklist's Criteria
Our Fifty Issues
The Authors
Consulting & New Cases
News & Recent Events

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SUMMARY [top] [menu]

Second generation project Nordhausen

TramTrain, that is, basically trams using heavy railway infrastructure, or the "Karlsruhe model", has been seen for some time as the miraculous solution for railbound regional public transport.
Fact is however that the number of implemented cases is very limited and those projects which came further then the initial feasibility study often have developed in another direction. Fact is also that even in Germany with very supportive regulatory and political structures progress has been much slower then one would have expected.
There is not "the one" explanation, but a deeper look behind the Karlsruhe myth explains already a good deal. The reasons for the "non-progress" of other projects is also helping further. To say it rude: TramTrain is neither cheap nor easy.
It needs an early "master planning" to imagine a final system layout, to allocate the roles of different modes in the overall scheme and to identify the consequences for urban planning. It also needs a serious acting with the compromises it can involve, especially if integrating an existing urban tramway. Being more complicated in it's project structure it is even more dependent on supportive political and regulatory structures.
There is also no automatism that using two existing infrastructures result in a cheap combination of the two. Main cost factors are possibly regional electrification, safety and detection installations, physical links of railway and tramway infrastructure, or even creating the tramway infrastructure from scratch and the necessary adaptations of the existing networks (which can turn out to become a city centre tunnel as in Karlsruhe).
The TramTrain idea of offering seamless transport to passengers into city centres is still very favourable but interchanging should not be handled too dogmatic. An integrated regional scheme with defined activity areas for different modes will always involve interchanges and can still be attractive.
Second generation projects as Kassel, Nordhausen, Chemnitz or Zwickau have brought serious innovation to TramTrain by adapting and widening of the original Karlsruhe idea. This will give scope for further studies or a review of older approaches. To find an ideal TramTrain city has at least become easier.

Note (February 2009)
Since our presentation at the AET-congress in Strasbourg (October 2004) the definition of TramTrain has been widened (or blurred) in practice. According to the more recent French definition TramTrain comprises tram projects within a (former) heavy rail environment. In such a perspective TramTrain varies from conversion projects (e.g. Aulnay-Bondy) to full track sharing projects like in Karlsruhe.

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1. INTRODUCTION [top] [summary] [menu]

Tram-Train systems link urban tramway infrastructure with the regional heavy rail network around cities. After the first generation of those systems in Germany (Karlsruhe and Saarbruecken) new systems evolve now.

The mid-nineties have been a real boom period regarding TramTrain feasibility studies. Many cities and regions with a regional railway network, with or without an urban tramway and of similar size as Karlsruhe have been asking if the concept is transferable to their situation. Most of these projects have not proceeded or at least been heavily delayed and not given high priority. The reasons differ, but we question whether asking the right basic questions early enough would have avoided big studies which went straight into the archives.

Despite the flexible and context sensitive nature of TramTrain our aim is to identify at least some generic TramTrain characteristics, since we feel that a clear view of these will enable promoters to recognise a new set of (potential) applications or to revise earlier schemes which may have been reviewed before under narrower conditions.

The EC-project CROSSRAIL was an attempt to deliver a standardised or at least harmonised approach to TramTrain, but concentrated heavily on rolling stock issues and specifications. The current LIBERTIN thematic network goes into a similar direction, but is covering light rail in general.

We lack an approach which is more focussing both on urban context and the economic viability of projects. Technical issues do not need to become obsolete for decision making (especially as technical issues influence costs!). However, technical feasibility is not enough.

Karlsruhe: certainly first generation.


2. DEFINITIONS [top] [summary] [menu]

While in the early days of TramTrain one spoke of the "Karlsruhe model", "track sharing" or "joint running" it is necessary today to distinct between different groups.

Classic light-rail/tramway operation
Single-Mode Track-sharing
Dual-Mode Electric/Electric
Dual-Mode Diesel/Electric
Existing tramway network
No existing tramway network

Conversion projects are schemes, which make use of former railway infrastructure converted for light rail for a considerable part of the network. There is no mix between tramway and railway operation. Infrastructure is taken over usually, so no track access charges apply. Single mode (electrification 600/750V) track sharing schemes also involve the use of railway infrastructure, but in track-sharing mode with freight trains or other non-electric trains (thus the railway is still used by other railway traffic). This is how Karlsruhe started with the Albtalbahn. In most cases infrastructure is also owned by the light rail operator and track access charges do not apply.

TramTrain-operation involves both track-sharing light rail/heavy rail and dual- or multi-mode operation (Heavy rail voltage / Light rail voltage). The track-sharing sections may also include main line heavy rail infrastructure. Usually infrastructure (tracks and stations) is owned by the railway infrastructure owners (DB Netz, RFF, Prorail, Network Rail etc.) and track access and station use charges apply for the light rail operator.

TrainTram-operation is reversing the tram-train idea; direct access from the region to city centres is not achieved by bringing the tramway out onto the railway, but by bringing heavy rail vehicles onto the urban tramway or onto a tramway-like alignment. The heavy rail vehicles being used under urban conditions follow tramway regulations. Usually TrainTram will not involve a through-running of railway vehicles from one end of a city to the other, but access the city centre from one side only.

Zwickau: reversing the tram-train idea.


3. STATE OF THE ART [top] [summary] [menu]

3.1 Karlsruhe: Success, Failure and Weaknesses

The name "Karlsruhe" all around the world is used as a synonym for success. However, the scheme demonstrates a number of features which are difficult to sell elsewhere!

The Karlsruhe compromise of running high- and medium floor light rail vehicles through an urban "low-floor" network has to be seen as a killer argument for TramTrain in France and likely in all other countries, where the full accessibility of public transport is an absolute requirement. Therefore level access for TramTrain in all sections of a planned network is of high importance.

Karlsruhe is certainly a good example of a railway (main) station at a distance to the city centre where through-running TramTrains result in a considerable gain in attractiveness. With a regional scheme however, involving several TramTrain-lines operating through the city centre, often in coupled units and with relatively heavy rolling stock, Karlsruhe is virtually witnessing the "return of the railway station" into the city centre after having moved it before WWI to the southern edge. At the moment it is planned to solve this new problem by an underground section of the network which would also mean taking out the "normal" surface trams from the pedestrian zone.

Nevertheless Karlsruhe's passenger number increases have proven the usefulness of through running in the case of medium-sized cities owning a remote railway (main) station or the benefits of a centrally located railway station.

3.2 Saarbruecken - First Low-floor TramTrain

Saarbruecken decided in 1991 -only 26 years after the closure of the old tramway- to re-introduce rail-based public transport in the city-centre. In view to the vast amount of rail infrastructure still existing from the height of the coal and steel industry it was decided not to go for a classic tramway, but for a TramTrain-scheme.

Unlike Karlsruhe one went for a fully accessible low-floor system from the beginning (350/380mm platforms throughout). The lack of an urban tramway did ease some of the technical issues which Karlsruhe has needed to compromise (existing rail infrastructure and tramway rolling stock).

Only six years later the southern section of the first line from Saarbruecken main station through the city centre towards Brebach and further on towards Sarreguemines in France was opened in 1997. The very fast planning and implementation time certainly was possible only in the very supportive political framework of the Saarland, where in the capital state and municipal politics are very close to one another.

However, the first line is still not completed today, as the northern section has been heavily delayed at the public inquiry stage. Construction has now started this year, which means that the northern part has involved planning and implementation time of about 14 years!

Saarbruecken shows how crucial it is to be able to implement a project in steps. Such step by step progress is however difficult in competition conditions, where probably the whole project would have been delayed and endangered.

Moreover, despite the fact that Saarbruecken got a tramway-like alignment, still the degree of urban penetration is relatively limited, as the TramTrain remains at the edge of the historic centre.

3.3 Other 'First Wave' Cities

The boom years of feasibility studies and/or cost-benefit analysis's have been the years 1993-97 with 33 cities/regions known to the authors (see table).

Some of these cities only have been progressed further as TramTrain schemes or are currently near to realisation, others developed into another direction:
Heilbronn: implemented, but question is whether it would have appeared as a single, independent system if it not had been possible to link to the Karlsruhe system (shared depot etc.).
Kassel: shows specific features on the Baunatal and Helsa single mode track sharing lines to deal with the interface problem of light rail vehicles only 2.3m wide. The real TramTrain (RegioTram) scheme involves both electric/electric and diesel/electric (dieseltram) features. However TramTrain is currently not planned to penetrate the pedestrian zone where nearly all other tramway lines pass.
Luxembourg: did not succeed as originally planned; today's scheme does not link into/through the city centre.
Ile-de-France: first project using TramTrain for tangential transport tasks, did contain Aulnay-Bondy, which will be implemented next year, but will in fact be a conversion project with no real TramTrain operation.
Mulhouse: under construction; very first example of the "original" Karlsruhe-model in France. Although the mixing of heavy rail passenger trains and TramTrains is limited (peak hours), the whole railway route to Kruth is electrified with 25kV (dual mode operation) and freight operation will also stay.
RijnGouwelijn: test operation on a section of heavy rail only (Gouda-Alphen); through running in the city of Leiden is planned.
RandstadRail: under construction, but this new system has been disconnected from the national railways. Dual mode vehicles are the last TramTrain trace.
Chemnitz: has built one line, but has more gone forward with light rail conversion and improved DMU operation than classic TramTrain. The future of real TramTrain operation on other lines is still under discussion, but full accessibility is a big issue.
Nottingham: opened this year, but without sharing tracks on the railway alignments.
Geneva: uses light rail rolling stock in a purely segregated heavy-rail or metro like operation (RER).
Aachen: original scheme became a TrainTram scheme and has been developed successfully.
Rostock: took up the TramTrain case again 10 years after the first study could not come to a recommendation (see 2nd generation).

Chemnitz: has gone forward with light rail conversion and improved DMU operation than classic TramTrain.

All others have been given up more or less at early planning stages or are just "sleeping projects". The reasons are different and vary from un-supportive political and regulatory conditions via difficult technical conditions to negative economical results.

Some examples:
Dresden: study did mainly deal with the very specific technical issue of the exotic gauge of the Dresden tramway scheme (1450mm). The conclusion was that the technical issue is solvable, but that the travel times when leaving the railway onto the urban tramway would considerably increase.
Glasgow: missed the "window of opportunity" associated with ScotRail rolling stock replacement. Less ambitious options for single routes are likely to be reviewed again.
Graz: same gauge of tramway and railway, technically easy linking of railway and tramway infrastructure and a private railway operator available who could co-operate more easily with the urban tramway then (former) state railways normally do. However, the limitation in vehicle width in the urban tramway (only 2.2m!!) causes serious problems to achieve accessibility in the railway network and gave a low passenger capacity. The limitation in length of vehicles/platforms in the existing urban network added to the problem and created high operation costs due to the needing to operate coupled units all day in order to cope with demand. With regard to non-electrified railway lines one did aim for a dieseltram, but it was too early for this. Regulatory conditions are also difficult in Austria.
Oslo: very specific conditions with three rail-bound systems heavy rail, metro and tramway, but also some tradition in mixed running of tramways and metros in some network portions. All three modes pass the city centre and in principle there is a centrally located main railway station. Still the initial study showed potential in certain corridors, but the slow speed and missing priority in the tram network was/is a major problem. The project was sleeping for a while as the political framework had set other priorities, but will be reviewed again in 2004/2005.

3.4 '2nd Generation' Cities

After these "first wave" studies/projects there has been a "second generation" in recent years which includes at least 40 cities all over Europe (see table).

Some of these projects have been abandoned already. For instance several French projects turned out to be city tramway projects or merely immature ideas. Some serious TramTrain schemes have been killed as well, like the Grenoble one. Same happened to Bremen or the much smaller project of the German city of Hanau.
It may be too early to finally conclude which of the other projects will go forward or not, but it is remarkable that at least some of the projects again show variations to pure Karlsruhe-like TramTrain features:
Bremen: victim of a thorough comparison between an improved railway operation (S-Bahn-style) and a TramTrain-scheme, which finally came out to be negative for Tramtrain.
Frankfurt am Main/Munich: followed the Ile-de-France principle using TramTrain as a tool for tangential transport tasks, but the Munich scheme will now become merely a suburban light rail feeder system, as using existing heavy rail infrastructure both combines heavy capacity problems and a limited additional catchment compared to the existing S-Bahn services.
Nordhausen: narrow-gauge TramTrain using dieseltrams; remarkable is the size of Nordhausen with 46.000 inhabitants.
Zwickau: first city developing a TrainTram-scheme instead of the classic TramTrain; DMU's operate to the city centre on a three rail track jointly with the tramway.
Palermo: use of an existing harbour railway with dual mode vehicles, but without real track-sharing (more US-style time sharing).
Helsinki: combined metro/light-rail system (as Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Oslo did earlier).
Liberec: converts its tramway from narrow to standard gauge in order to allow a regional TramTrain scheme connecting Zittau in Germany and Jelenia Góra in Poland.
Cracow: reversed the Karlsruhe idea - trams would use railway infrastructure nearing the city/main station in order to travel faster than on tramway infrastructure.
Alicante: hosts the first Spanish TramTrain project. A partly new tramway in the city along the harbour is connected already to the narrow gauge railway Alicante-Denia. The city's waterfront section is transformed into a real tramway, but track sharing is implemented on part of the railway (on a provisional basis).
Sassari: new 3km city tramway will be connected as TramTrain to the existing 950 mm gauge regional railway.
Strasbourg: was developing a TramTrain-scheme to the Entzheim airport and further to Molsheim/Barr. Due to the restrictions/limitations of the existing urban tramway (vehicle width, platform length) urban operation was limited to one single corridor. Due to financial restrictions the project has now been phased and phase 1 (2008/2009), will consist of an urban tramway terminating at the main station square in front of the planned tunnel entrance and a 15min frequency DMU service to the airport, both linked by improved interchange facilities. The only remainings of TramTrain within phase 1 are the larger parameters used for the construction of a new urban tramway section.
Rostock: has been one of the few non-recommendations in the first wave studies. Main reasons at that time were the overlap with existing heavy rail services and capacity issues of smaller light rail vehicles compared with double-deck heavy rail trains. Rostock saw in the last years a considerable expansion of the tramway network and also a movement of population into the neighbouring country side, which allowed to re-think the issue. A recent standardised cost benefit analysis has been positive and there is strong political support and a "window of opportunity" with the public tender of the Warnow network (2007).

3.5 Our Question

Why are there only a few implemented "classic" TramTrain projects today - 12 years after Karlsruhe started with Karlsruhe-Bretten? Was the original Karlsruhe approach a bit to narrow to be successful everywhere? Is there a reason to talk about "TramTrain - the 2nd generation" and what are the features of these projects which have been developed further from the Karlsruhe origins? Is there an easy way to identify at the very beginning whether a city may be suited for TramTrain or one of its derivates? What could be criteria to evaluate this?

The authors have looked into a number of the above described cases which have been investigated over the years in order to refine such criteria and to use them for some form of checklist.

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4.1 Generic Features

Generally TramTrain projects serve as improvement of already established public transport networks. This presupposes some luxury, in other words, a certain size of economy and a sufficient degree of social stability.
State of society and economy
TramTrain represents an expensive and complicated form of public transport, and therefore an advanced public transport culture is a pre-condition for success.
Existing public transport culture

4.2 Institutional Context

TramTrain projects are complicated and therefore they need a strong and high quality regulation. Almost all of these projects cover regional corridors, so some regional government or body, or at least a sustainable form of regional co-operation and tough political support is an absolute necessity for success.
Powerful regional and local government
Existing regional and local support
Planning processes associated with creating transport infrastructure are complicated without exception, for TramTrain even more. For this reason success is almost synonymous with a streamlined planning process. Moreover, justification of many TramTrain proposals is strongly interconnected with considerations of urban planning and land use. Therefore integration of urban planning generally and land-use particularly is highly recommendable.
Approach to planning process
Degree of integration of land use and urban planning
Step by step implementation
Complementary to existing/adapted public transport network
Quality and capability of public transport authority, both formally and functionally, to integrate responsibility for the entire network
Distribution of responsibilities
Generally construction and operation of public transport infrastructure are financed from various sources. The money needed to build and operate TramTrain infrastructure should be balanced as much as possible on the local and regional level, as this type of public transport is important locally and regionally. In this respect local and regional funding sources are of great importance and state government contributions should not be decisive.
Methods to cover construction and operating costs
Local/regional financial balance and sources
TramTrain utilisation presupposes the use of heavy rail infrastructure. The responsibilities for railways are usually under national authority as legal powers are. In many countries the National Railways are very powerful. Therefore success of a TramTrain project is highly dependent on the degree in which national legal and functional competences are used efficiently for local and regional purposes or delegated to local/regional agencies.
TramTrain projects become more transparent and easy-going when heavy railway infrastructure is used which is under the control or even better owned by the local/regional authority. Another option is a private control and ownership of the railway. Germany for instance has an ongoing private railway tradition.
Necessary legal powers
Control/ownership of heavy rail infrastructure
Local and regional possibilities
TramTrain use implies more than average safety problems, as trams mix -to some degree- with heavy trains. Addressing this problem requires technical solutions as well as an adequate safety approach of regulatory bodies. Too formal/heavy approaches tend to jeopardise TramTrain projects. Current safety standards are grounded on bases of general rules, pragmatic and qualitative like in Germany, or on the contrary, on cases, containing severe quantitative risk assessments, as in the UK, France and The Netherlands.
Safety approach of regulatory bodies

4.3 Urban and Regional Characteristics

Historically the selection of sites for the new railway main station was quite problematic in many cases in the late 19th century. Due to this historical fact (or later re-locations) many main stations are in a remote position from the actual city centre. The distance varies from city to city. Basic argumentation for introducing TramTrain is bridging the gap between main station and city centre. To make this worthwhile the distance involved should be at least around 1000 metres, or a walking distance of circa 10-15 minutes.
Distance main station to city centre (km.; walking min.)
Other relevant distances (km.; walking min.)
Within the urban area a TramTrain-corridor is needed, between main station and actual centre (and possibly in other areas). Is such a corridor available? Other questions are related to several qualities of the available corridor(s), regarding size, use, aesthetics, etc. The dimensions of the corridor should allow fitting in a tramway, with regard to all technical parameters. Conflicting use, tramway versus other functions, could mean a real threat. A trade off between existing use or renewed/new use should be possible, some way or another. All kinds of uses are at stake, like the use of the corridor by other traffic, including pedestrians. But also use related to generic urban functions like living and working. The use of amenities within the corridor is particularly relevant. TramTrain could jeopardise, or on the contrary, boost the use of shops and other urban facilities.
Availability, profile and aesthetics of centre corridor
(New) uses of corridor
Possible (positive and negative) impacts
Many city centres are of historic nature. They serve as a source of true cultural heritage. TramTrain within such a historic context meets both limitations and opportunities. For example, the existence of a historic townscape could restrict the use of overhead power supply. However the tracks of a tramway offer opportunities to keep historic street surfaces intact (unlike buses, trams don't need an overall flat surface).
Conditions historic townscape
The city centre layout of economic activity nodes (offices, centres of retail, educational establishments, etc.) determines the usefulness of TramTrain. If these nodes are located near, or even on top of the main station, a TramTrain through service could be difficult to justify. However, a common characteristic of many cities is the remote situation of many important economic activity nodes in relation to the site of the main station. If the nodes at a distance from the station have a strong regional social-economic relevance TramTrain is more justified. Nodes outside the city centre, in the urban conurbation or in the region itself can add value.
Centre locations of economic activity nodes and their regional meaning
Economic activity nodes inside or outside TramTrain's catchment area
The importance of the city as a regional centre is of great importance for TramTrain. A regional through service is justified at best in case of a classic region-centred city, that is, a strong city among a hinterland which is connected to this city both economically and socially. If regional centres and nodes are spread over the region as a whole, TramTrain becomes less favourable or may be reduced to tangential function.
Regional meaning of central city
Degree of regional centre's spread

4.4 Urban and Regional Figures

Generally TramTrain use requires a minimum population size of city and region. But the maximum is also relevant, since TramTrain is generally not suitable for heavy metropolitan uses. Minimum and maximum figures should also be taken into account while considering the potential transport corridor or the proposed catchment area.
Minimum and maximum sizes of city and region
Size of corridor's catchment area
The demands of many TramTrain services are highly dependent on potential passenger flows due to various types of destinations, including the spatial spread of these types generally and their centre-locations particularly. Relevant types of destinations are work (offices mainly), school/university, shopping, and leisure. TramTrain success heavily depends on strong flows into the city centre - additional sub-urban poles of activity passed on the way increase success.
Identification of the share of city/city-centre oriented flows for all user groups

4.5 Public Transport Characteristics

TramTrain/TrainTram in principle is a tool to avoid interchanges on a passenger's way towards the city. This means that there is no or very little place for such a scheme in a city which already has a high quality rail scheme linking into the city centre, e.g. by a S-Bahn/RER type system coming from the region and running underground in the city.
Competing rail modes into the city-centre
Other targets then the city-centre
Share of the total rail-bound operation in a region for TramTrain
Complete take over of operation versus remaining heavy rail passenger services
Under favourable conditions the linking of an urban and regional infrastructure is very easy (and cheap!) and opens access to a large regional network which allows a transfer of operation to TramTrain. The opposite scenario would be to face high investments to create such infrastructure but gaining little access.
Ratio of new-built infrastructure compared to accessible regional network
Some agglomerations may have a need for TramTrain but not with regard to city centre access. Here a tangential link of regional or sub-urban centres may help reducing flows on radial commuter routes into the centre and also take interchange pressure from certain central hub stations.
Tangential transport demand
Street-running extensions in sub-urban centres useful/feasible
Additional catchment by using existing tangential infrastructure
Existing interchange quality between urban and regional rail services is another issue. The more difficult interchanging is at a main station the more passengers would be attracted by direct services or easier interchanges at a tram style stop.
Existing/achievable interchange quality between railway and urban system
In some cases historic tramway routes from the suburbs need a lot of time to the city centre and to introduce priority/segregation is difficult. This may cause long travel times for a TramTrain service from such a sub-urban link to the city centre. If those conditions meet however with a centrally located railway station then it might be an option to introduce "fast trams" who use the faster railway sections to the main station from some point.
Comparison of travel times

4.6 Technical Issues

Experience has shown that nearly all technical issues of a TramTrain scheme can be solved, however there are more favourable (easier) conditions and more complicated (difficult) ones. The non-existence of an urban infrastructure is not automatically a disadvantage as it gives more planning freedom and eases full accessibility solutions.
Existing tramway's technical parameters
Metro operation (tunnel)
Easy versus difficult (cheap versus expensive) linking of tramway and railway
Regarding the railway infrastructure it is important to distinguish between electrified or non-electrified infrastructure being accessed and the ratio between those in order to go for an all electric or diesel-electric vehicle solution or a mix of both (example Kassel). Certain types of urban heavy rail infrastructure may tend towards TrainTram-solutions.
Electrified/non-electrified regional railway infrastructure
Track-sharing versus conversion
Existing (urban) freight railway infrastructure
To achieve full accessibility also for a TramTrain-scheme as well as for any other light rail project is a real pre-requisite to allow success of this type of rail operation in the future. Compromises as in Karlsruhe are already or will be unthinkable in the future.
Platform heights of (regional) railway routes
Full accessibility

4.7 Costs and Cost Comparisons

The assessment of options or the contents of cost-benefit-assessments are handled differently. Comparisons of different options are not enforced in Germany - normally it is enough to show a positive benefit-cost-ratio of the politically preferred option. Such comparisons are however important or even obligatory elsewhere.

A comparison of costs and benefits between TramTrain and other modes, some of which may need to draw upon interchanges to a larger scale, is necessary especially for more regional parts of a TramTrain-network at the borderline to "normal" heavy rail operation. TramTrain costs/km should not only be compared with the more expensive alternatives as new tramways or even metros, but also with alternatives as DMU (EMU) operation. If it can be proven that the latter show a cost-benefit ratio worse then TramTrain, the economical viability of a TT-project is definitely increasing. The ratio alone is not deciding, as 100 divided by 50 is the same as 10 divided by 5, which means that politics have to decide in such a case whether they want more benefit for more costs, or less benefit for less costs. Even more critical this decision will become when a comparison might come out with one option having 80% of the benefits of the other, but only 50% of the costs.
Comparison of modes
Political decision vs evaluation
"Tenderability" of TramTrain-scheme


5. APPLIED CRITERIA - THE FIFTY ISSUES [top] [summary] [menu]

Our checklist and its fifty issues (see previous section & table below) enable us to assess existing, planned and potential TramTrain cities/regions on a 'quick and dirty' way.

As a first finger exercise we developed a rating system (AAA, …, D), and applied this system to the issues of our checklist.

To demonstrate the value of our approach we selected six German 'reference cities', which all realised TramTrain, and six cases, which all represent potential TramTrain candidates: Antwerp (Belgium), Groningen (Netherlands), Aidelaide (Australia), Liège (Belgium), Szeged (Hungary) and Nizhniy Novgorod (Russia). We evaluated how a positive or negative response to the 50 issues is influencing a rating. It would be too complicated to describe this whole background process here, but both tables (see above) show the result by summarising just the seven groups.

Case: Antwerp (Belgium). Rating: A…BBB - The existing tramway, which is expanding in to the region (e.g. Zwijndrecht; see picture), the planned use of already available tram tunnel constructions, and serious proposals to enlarge the tramway on a regional scale favour TramTrain of a next generation type. But, some severe technical and cultural problems regarding the National Railways has to be solved. Firstly gauge, the existing tramway is narrow, while the heavy railway is standard gauge. This gap should be bridged. Probably the best thing to do is introduction of dual gauge on all relevant portions of the local tramway network. A more serious problem is the lack of any experience with TramTrain. Conservatism and political struggle within and around the National Railways of Belgium probably prevented TramTrain so far.

Case: Groningen (Netherlands). Rating: AA…A - This city in the north of The Netherlands in principle is a good example of a TramTrain city. The idea of TramTrain has been subject of discussion - November 2002 light rail vehicles were exhibited at city centre's market square (see picture). Nevertheless the planning process developed into another direction. The current proposal imply independent train and bus services, however interrelated in some transport nodes. Still TramTrain would be a sensible approach.

Case: Aidelaide (Australia). Rating: A…BBB - Technical roots and utilisations of TramTrain have been West European affairs. But maybe Adelaide in Australia could be an example outside Europe. Like American, Australian conurbations exceed the scale of European cities and its regions. Though the number of inhabitants of Adelaide is almost similar to that of larger middle-sized European cities, the distances within, as well as the size of the urban region are bigger. Adelaide city accommodate 970.000 inhabitants (city plus region: 1.2 million). The Glenelg tramway connects the city centre with Adelaide's beach, but the centre terminus (Victoria Square) is located some distance of the main station (see picture). If we apply all of our criteria to Adelaide there is reason to believe that this Australian conurbation could benefit from TramTrain. Maybe, since cultural, institutional and technical conditions differ from West European ones. And more over, such a through service will need high investments due to difference in gauge (tram is standard, train is broad gauge) and the likely necessity of electrification of the heavy rail section used by trams.

Case: Liège (Belgium). Rating: A…+ - This city in Belgium (Wallony) meets many principles regarding urban and regional characteristics, socially and economically. Liège is the very heart of its region; Liège's main station is newly built completely, but the centre still is remote (no tramway, but luckily between station and city centre a busway on reserved alignment is available, also suitable for TramTrain; see picture 'TT'). But unfortunately the size of Liège's regional and local economy don't allow any advanced schemes like TramTrain on the short run. Improving bus infrastructure with the aid of simple means still demands priority. But, on the long run one should not rule out TramTrain.

Case: Szeged (Hungary). Rating: C…C+ - Yet again a true TramTrain city? Szeged in the south east boarder area of Hungary: 170.000 inhabitants, a normal gauge tramway and railway, a main station far away from city centre. Probably though, a completely unknown city for many of us, which surely never has been subject of TramTrain study. So, Szeged is a true TramTrain candidate? No, perhaps not, as like other East European cities the size of city's local and regional economy is insufficient without doubt. Not convinced? Please, do have a glance at the worn out Szeged's city tramway of today. But perhaps, if this tramway eventually has been modernised (in stead of abandoned), TramTrain will be a possible future, that is, on the long run. The alignment of line 1 (see picture; blue on the map) could be used for a TramTrain-service.

Case: Nizhniy Novgorod (Russia). Rating: D…- - This Russian city, 600 kilometres east of Moscow, is a potential TramTrain city indeed. Many urban features justify the installation of TramTrain, like the social economic meaning of this city for its hinterland, the distance of uphill centre to low situated main station at the other site of the river, an existing tramway (see picture), and much more. However, the size of Nizhniy Novgorod's local and regional economy and the degree of social stability in Russia is insufficient by far. Moreover, these Russian cities lack a public transport culture which could back advanced TramTrain schemes.


6. CONCLUSION [top] [summary] [menu]

TramTrain has been seen for some time as the miraculous solution for rail-bound regional public transport.

However, the number of implemented cases is limited and those projects which came further than the initial feasibility study often have developed in another direction. Even in Germany with very supportive regulatory and political structures progress has been much slower then one would have expected.

There is no "single" explanation for this, but a deeper look behind the Karlsruhe myth provides clues. Looking at the reasons for the "non-progress" of other projects is also helping to understand.

In simple terms: TramTrain is neither cheap nor easy.

"Master planning" is needed from the beginning to create a final system layout, to allocate the roles of different modes in the overall scheme and to identify the consequences for urban planning. It also needs a serious acting with the compromises it can involve, especially if integrating an existing urban tramway. There is even more dependence on supportive political and regulatory structures because it is more complicated in it's project structure.

There may also be limits for TramTrain's regional radius - which may sensibly be found in a range of 25-40km radius around a city. Even if the idea of offering seamless transport into city centres is still very favourable, interchange should not be treated too dogmatic in an "avoid any interchange" policy. An integrated regional scheme with defined activity areas for different modes will always involve interchanges and can still be attractive.

Rolling stock design is another feature and one has to find the right ratio between a conservative "reliability" and a progressive "design is everything" policy. Despite all the technical extra requirements of a TramTrain-vehicle - it will not be acceptable to run an "ugly duckling" alongside attractive "normal" trams. This is definitely one of the problems that has arisen in France, where most schemes have been developed from scratch in a very high design quality context, which one did not want to diminish for a later TramTrain-scheme.

The dimensions of TramTrain rolling stock are also a less obvious design feature, as many (old and new) tramway schemes present limited options for platform lengths and/or vehicle width. On the other hand a TramTrain-scheme will depend in most cases with regard to the economic issues on the complete replacement of existing train services which means that a high capacity is needed which requires longer and wider vehicles and also coupled units. This is definitely a contradiction in many cases.

If the share of total rail-bound traffic which TramTrain might achieve in a region is very low such a complex solution may not be worthwhile (however, TrainTram could be an alternative in some cases).

Another lesson is to avoid a "one scheme with one mode and one vehicle" policy. As Kassel is now showing, it is feasible to operate both all-electric TramTrains and dieseltrams together and to use them as the existing network requires it. This takes also a lot of financial pressure away from rural, non-electrified railway routes without reducing attractiveness. A number of early TramTrain studies had already proved the need for such technology. The Chemnitz Citybahn shows an intelligent symbiosis of electric light rail and diesel heavy rail operation within one operating company. Flexibility is recommended!

One cannot assume that using two existing infrastructures result in a cheap combination of the two automatically. Main cost factors are possibly regional electrification, safety and detection installations, physical links of railway and tramway infrastructure, or even creating the tramway infrastructure from scratch and the necessary adaptations of the existing networks (which can turn out to become a city centre tunnel as in Karlsruhe).

Second generation projects as Kassel, Nordhausen, Chemnitz or Zwickau have brought serious innovation to TramTrain by adapting and widening of the original Karlsruhe idea. This will give scope for further studies or a review of older approaches. To find an ideal TramTrain city has at least become easier.

The 50 basic TramTrain issues developed in this paper will hopefully allow to speed up future TramTrain discussions and allow an early steering in the right direction.

Nordhausen: this second generation project has brought serious innovation to TramTrain.

[top] [summary] [menu]

Bijl, R. A. J. van der (1998) Leicht durch Stadt und Landschaft - Light Rail - a convenient means of regional and city transport. Topos, 24, 23-31.

Bijl, R. A. J. van der (1998) Light rail in Nederland: veel praten, weinig doen. Stadtbahn-project in Karlsruhe geniet aandacht, maar nog geen navolging. Blauwe Kamer, 1, 24-35.

Bijl, R. A. J. van der (2003) Light rail & regionale planning. Portland (OR): voorbeeld van 'transport oriented development' Hugo Priemus, Robert Kloosterman & Willem Korthals Altes (ed.), ICES, Stad & Infrastructuur. Koninklijke Van Gorcum, Assen 2003, 67-74.

Griffin, T., Kuehn, A. (1996) Shared track scheme now gaining wide acceptance (1996) Passenger Rail Management, 11

CrossRail - outlining the standard for the future European Tram-Train (2000-2001) Reports, RD.10843, EU DG Tren, Brussels.

Ludwig, D., Kuehn, A. (1995) Das Karlsruher Modell und seine Übertragbarkeit. Der Nahverkehr, 10, 12-22

Numéro Spécial PERIURBAIN (2001) Revue Générale des Chemins de Fer, 12, 3-86.

Phraner, S. David, Roberts, Richard et al (1999) Joint operation of Light Rail Transit or Diesel Multiple Unit Vehicles with Railroads, TCRP Report 52, Transportation Research Board, Washington D.C.


THE AUTHORS [top] [summary] [menu]

Dr. Rob van der Bijl (Amsterdam, Netherlands) is urban planner and founder of Since 1997 he has been involved in TramTrain research and projects in Holland and other European countries. He has documented TramTrain systems, projects and features on his website 'Light Rail Atlas'.

Dipl.-ing. Axel Kuehn (Karlsruhe, Germany) is a civil engineer and has been taking part in the Karlsruhe developments from the early stage. Since 1993 he has been involved in a considerable number of TramTrain projects as a consultant working all over Europe.

This webpage is based on our paper presented for the Association for European Transport during the European Transport Conference (ETC 2004) in Strasbourg, 4-6 October 2004.


CONSULTING & CASES [top] [summary] [menu]

The authors of this paper certainly are also available for consultancy services in this field, be it further advice on best practice, feasibility studies or study-tours to relevant locations. Having a deep experience with TramTrain projects and being able to review those both from their technical conditions and their institutional and urban/regional planning context we are able to guide our clients both in early phases of those projects, when the question is what to do at all and in later phases, when the bigger firms are needed on stage, to assure some “context/content quality control” and to deliver valuable “second opinions”.

The “50 issues”-approach developed by Kuehn & van der Bijl and described on this website allows to identify the TramTrain suitability of cities/regions in early project phases. It is therefore a supporting tool for our studies. The broad approach allows a global review, ensures that all options are envisaged/compared and is a good tool to get into a proper and open-minded discussion. Thus it is not the “I know what the solution is – let me write the report” approach. The method is also useful/usable for classic heavy rail projects in urban/regional transport with slight modifications – see also

Check below for a number of projects in which this method has already been applied successfully.

Don’t underestimate also the importance of well-organised and guided study-tours! It is a great tool to understand your choice of options – and avoid just going to a so-called “Mekka”, try to see several locations and to compare them properly. An independent guide can be very helpful to see behind official “Hallelujahs”! See and especially on second generation TramTrain in Germany, the “Tour of the year” (link) page.

Rob van der Bijl and Axel Kuehn have been assigned by the Province of Groningen (Netherlands) to investigate the possible installation of a 'RegioTram'. The project is strongly interconnected with the city tram project where Van der Bijl is involved too.
Summer 2006 Van der Bijl and Kuehn have delivered their report based on their well-known 50 issues method. The results of our investigations are subject of decision making now. In 2007 Rob van der Bijl became project manager at the new 'RegioTram' office. He is responsible for future regional extensions of the planned city tramway. Axel Kuehn investigated TramTrain-parameters which will be integrated in the design of the city tramway.

Skien, City Centre

Kuehn and van der Bijl have been assigned in August 2005 by Telemark county, Norway to review the Grenland Bybane concept with their 50 issues method. This is now the third use of this approach within less then one year, all are projects from Scandinavia! Grenland Bybane actually is one of those many concepts originating from the mid-nineties, the "boom years" of TramTrain concepts. The idea was to extend the passenger service, which Telemark County has kept alive on the Bratsberg railway (Porsgrunn-Skien-Notodden), onto other existing railway infrastructure in the region and to create new and more stops. Also it was envisaged to introduce modern rolling stock which could also allow to penetrate the town centres of Skien and Porsgrunn. The project has now recently been revived and county and municipality administration and politicians have informed themselves about "2nd generation" solutions on a study-tour lead by Kuehn. The assigned project review is thought to deliver not only a "rating" result, but also to give hints for shaping next project steps. The experience with the two first studies (Oslo, Aarhus) showed impressively that the structured approach is a very useful tool to discuss all relevant issues of complex TramTrain projects, both suited for project ideas in "new born" stage or controversial projects which need new mediation after some years of "sleeping status".

Aarhus, aerial view of city centre and waterfront

Our second assignment using the 50 issues approach involves the Danish city of Aarhus. Work on a review of the Aarhus TramTrain-plans started in June 2005 and the study has been delivered in early September. Results will be made public with or shortly after the HiTrans Conference in Aarhus (22-23.09.2005). Some background: Aarhus Municipality and Aarhus Sporveje at the end of the nineties commissioned a study regarding the (re-)introduction of a tramway system in Aarhus. This project for the starting phase had mostly features of a pure tramway (“French style”) and although connection to existing railways (Odder and Grenaa railway) had been foreseen, this was only for later phases of the project. As an output of the HiTrans-project, where Aarhus Amt, the county of Aarhus, is a partner, and earlier advice of Kuehn and van der Bijl in 2004 (including a study-tour) the orientation had recently been changed and the city and county did present a new, joint vision of light rail in the Aarhus region in mid-May 2005. This vision now makes the project a real TramTrain-project from the very beginning. One of the major changes in the approach is using the waterfront railway as a backbone of the scheme and combining it with the planned re-development of the old harbour. This allows a major reduction of new urban “tramway” infrastructure and increases the viability of the project also by making it a “regional project” instead of an urban tramway. Check for the Aarhus vision on the Aarhus Sporveje website under (in Danish) or this one: (in Danish too). (other page; also in Danish)

Oslo: Oslopakke 2

Our recently finished case is Oslo. We have been successful in proofing the TramTrain suitability with our 50 issues approach and gave further advice how such a project could be designed most promisingly under local conditions. Soon more information. Meanwhile check this link... or download our report here...

TRAMTRAIN WORKSHOP AT HITRANS CONFERENCE - Within the programme of the HiTrans-conference in Aarhus from 22-23 September 2005 a successful workshop (80 participants!) has been delivered by the two authors on ASSESSING TRAMTRAIN SUITABILITY IN EARLY PROJECT PHASES (, which concentrated on the 50 issues approach and using it for some benchmarking between different TramTrain projects. Participants had the opportunity to compare Oslo, Skien-Porsgrunn (both Norway) and Aarhus (Denmark) with the TramTrain/TrainTram-archetypes Karlsruhe and Zwickau on one hand, but to work out their own results on RijnGouweLijn Leiden-Alphen-Gouda (Holland) and RiverLine Camden-Trenton (US). We plan to present the workshop results here in due time.

WORKSHOPS AT ZWICKAU AND LUCERNE - Axel Kuehn and Rob van der Bijl developed their '50 issues' method for evaluating schemes within the TramTrain world and have successfully applied it for a number of cases. Now they widened the scope to cover also state of the art regional heavy rail schemes which today often show similar qualities and features as light rail oriented approaches - be it as an alternative option or as an existing condition.

In 2006 Axel and Rob will organise two challenging 'workshops on location' in Zwickau (Germany) and Lucerne (Switzerland), which will pick up some of the 50 issues in more detail, but also represent the widened scope in respect to the real life situations at hand. The Zwickau workshop originally was fixed for May 11-12th, but had to be postponed to June 15-16th – the Lucerne workshop will take place on September 14-15th 2006.

The 2007 workshop was organised by Axel Kuehn. A tailor-made program was envisaged in respects of the TramTrain project in Aarhus (Denmark). For late 2008 a workshop has been scheduled in Bremen.
The workshop of 2009 will focus on the TramTrain enterprise in the region of Alicante-Benidorm.

Participants will have the opportunity to evaluate and to discuss on location a variety of specific issues more thoroughly and by comparing the chosen local approach with other available or thinkable solutions. The workshops will combine study-tour, presentation and workshop features in a very interesting way.

NEWS & RECENT EVENTS [top] [summary] [menu]

Toyama (Japan) In April 2008 RVDB/ started a case study to the new TramTrain of Japan (in co-operation with the local authorities). The project of Toyama serves a nation-wide show case of light rail. Check our link for the first results:

Zwolle-Kampen (Netherlands) RVDB/ (Rob van der Bijl et al.) in co-operation with ARCADIS engineers won the competition of ProRail, the state-owned company responsible for maintenance, slots and safety of the national railway network (May 2007). RVDB and his team proposed the transformation of several regional lines into full tramways, or to some extend the introduction of track sharing. The regional railway Zwolle-Kampen serves as pilot and will be converted to tramway. The first project has been elaborated in the first half of 2008.

Map of the first phase.

La Réunion
November-december 2007 Rob van der Bijl was member of an international panel of experts that reviewed on site the TramTrain-project of La Réunion. The panel questioned all stake holders of the island and assessed the potentials for sustainable development. Axel Kuehn has been assigned to organise and guide study tours in Germany for some of these stake holders.

The Veendam branch line could become part of a future TramTrain-network in the region of Groningen.


The new TramTrain vehicle 'Dualis' (photo: Alstom)

January-June 2008 - TramTrain seems to progress in France Projects have been announced in Nantes and Lyon, while in several other cities TramTrain proposals were taken seriously (e.g. Toulouse and Le Havre).
Sure is the re-opening of Nantes-Châteaubriant, reaching the latter city by 2012. In the period of 2009-2010 the line will be already in service between Nantes and Nort-sur-Erdre. The line will be operated by SNCF using vehicles of the type Citadis Dualis, designed and built by Alstom in France. SNCF has ordered 31 vehicles, with an option which could bring the total at 200 vehicles. Representatives of Alstom consider the existing RegioCitadis (built by Alstom in Germany for the systems of Kassel and RandstadRail) 'more train than tram', while the Dualis is conceived as 'more tram than train'. Nevertheless a connection between the city-system of Nantes is not taken into account yet. Using the existing alignment of line 1 in Nantes would imply physical and technical adaptations.

May 2008 - TramTrain trials in UK As pilot will serve the 59 km section between Sheffield, Barnsley and Huddersfield of the Penistone Line. Northern Rail will operate the experimental service, using five TramTrain vehicles. The trial will start in 2010, so far no test running has been envisaged on the existing Sheffield system. Operator Northern Rail is owned by Serco and Ned Railways. The latter will use its experience with the trial operation of TramTrain on the line Gouda-Alphen in The Netherlands.
Nevertheless the future of TramTrain in the UK is still unsure. The ministry will spend 9 million pounds only. Not much if one take into account the size of urban and rural areas in the UK which could potentially benefit from TramTrain. Infrastructure provider Network Rail will spend 15 million pounds to adapt the Penistone Line.

November 2007 - Tram-train La Réunion (France) TramTrain seems also to reach the island of Réunion (France). November 21, 2007 the French government announced a 500 million euro loan for the 1.3 billion project. It's the biggest loan ever from the central government to a local/regional authority.
TramTrain has been chosen in order to create a proper public transport system for the North of the island, which also is the most densely populated area and the one which has major problems with the amount of car traffic. This choice is based on the advantages which TramTrain offers regarding speed (100km/h is planned outside the urbanised areas), image and the ability to integrate the system in the urban realm. It is remarkable that here, different to all other TramTrain-projects so far, both the tramway and the railway (like) part will be created anew, while all other projects of this kind have been based on existing railway infrastructure. As long ago as 1976 a last section of the old metre-gauge railway was closed, thus there is little to build on now. Shared track operation in the classical sense is planned, as freight trains should use part of the route near the port of Saint-Paul (Le Port). The total length of the route is 70km and it will connect Saint-Paul via Saint Denis with Saint-Benoît, 25km of the new route will run through urban areas with tramway characteristics, as part of the 45km regional route there is also planned a 10km tunnel! 35 stations are planned in total. Choice of rolling stock has not yet been decided, but main parameters are already fixed. The total costs of the project are estimated to 1.5 billion €. The implementation of the project is in the hands of SR21, a development company established in 2002. The region of Réunion holds 64% of this company and Transdev is supporting SR21 in the planning process. Initial studies have been finished in 2005 and the start of construction work is scheduled for 2008. Operation should start in a first section in 2010, while in 2012 the whole route should be operational. We will keep you updated on the progress of this interesting project, e.g. regarding the choice of rolling stock.


April-November 2006 - Three new TramTrain conversion style projects

Top: Toyama "Portram" at the new street section north of Toyama station.
Left: Alstom Citadis of HTM at Zoetermeer's centre.
Right: Siemens TramTrain-vehicle of SNCF in Paris 'banlieu'.

The year 2006 witnessed the opening of three new, conversion style TT-systems. In Japan "Portram" opened for service in April. This tram-train uses the converted port railway of Toyama and is operated by Japan Railway Group. Soon the line will be connected to the existing city tram network.
In Holland the first stages of "RandstadRail" were opened in October and November. The city tram network of The Hague is extended to Zoetermeer by tram-train using the former railway. This service is operated by HTM. A special feature of this project is a shared track section, used by tram-train of The Hague and the new "RandstadRail" light rail/metro service, operated by RET, on the former railway between Rotterdam-Hofplein and The Hague Central Station.
In France "T4" opened for service in November between Aulnay-sous-Bois and Bondy in the 'banlieus' of Paris. This first full French tram-train is operated by SNCF using a converted railway. All other tramways in Paris (T1 and 2, as well as the brand new T3) are operated by RATP.

September 2006 - Brussels-Aalst – TramTrain progress in Belgium

Brussels based consultants STRATEC have teamed up with Axel Kuehn for a recent tender and have now been assigned with the study. Axel Kuehn, who had also been involved in the CROSSRAIL-project, had some “deja-vu” experience when having a first site visit, as some of the ideas of CROSSRAIL are now going in a new phase of consideration. One of these ideas is to link through the “Tour & Taxis” development area, which is shown in the picture above

There is positive news regarding TramTrain applications in Belgium. When in 2000 first TramTrain ideas have been discussed for Brussels within the CROSSRAIL EC-project, these ideas have been without any real official support at this stage and when the authors of this page wrote their paper on “TramTrain-the second generation” in 2004 the institutional conditions in Belgium have still been qualified as “not very promising”.

However, parallel to the reorganisation of the railway including the separation of network (INFRABEL) and operation (SNCB), some initiatives lead to a new strategy and approach. First internal studies of SNCB dealt with the more general aspects of TramTrain and it was decided to work on several case studies in both the Wallonian and the Flemish part of the country and also in the Brussels region. It has to be said that not all those studies deal with real TramTrain – as one has taken over to some extent the Dutch “LightTrain” approach, which means that some schemes are more regional heavy rail schemes with state-of-the-art rolling stock. LightTrain in principle (from e.g. a German perspective!) is nothing but a modern form of regional railways like presented on our RegioRail-page, but besides Zwickau all those schemes are heavy rail and fulfilling more or less completely UIC-standards.

STIB, the Brussels operator is now in the lead regarding the case study for Brussels region, which involves the railway corridor from Aalst to Brussels (L.50) targeting on CCN (Centre de Communication Nord), through Brussels on existing and new tramway infrastructure and back on the railway in the East (L.26) towards Etterbeek. Thus this is real TramTrain!

A challenging project - we will inform again as soon as any results have been made public by the client and steering group.


June 2006 - Historic Regensburg – a challenging TramTrain case

The German city of Regensburg, located in Bavaria on the Danube River, with a city population of 128.000 and an agglomeration size of nearly 200.000, is currently investigating a regional light rail scheme including the use of regional heavy rail infrastructure.
First thoughts in this direction date from the first half of the 1990s, but a study at that time did not come to a recommendation, neither regarding an urban tramway nor a regional light rail scheme. Besides the demand issue the street and traffic conditions in the historic city centre played a major role at this stage.
A new study dealing both with road traffic and public transport, finished in 2005, does now form the basis for taking things further - see here ...

Next steps are a conceptual study regarding the proposed light rail scheme and the possible integration in the regional public transport plan. Axel Kuehn has been assigned by Regensburg municipality as an external advisor for the conceptual study, especially with regard to the technical feasibility of alignments in the historic Regensburg context.

Alicante, El Campello, June 2005

May 2006 - TrenTranvia: TramTrain goes Spain

TramTrain operation is called in Spain TrenTranvia, thus literally translated TrainTram, which we use differently per definition. The Alicante-Denia “TrenTranvia”-scheme is well known for some time already, see below some “artist impression” of the vehicle which will be delivered soon. Reading ALSTOM here raises the question whether this is another child of the RegioCitadis TramTrain-family, which is operating in Kassel within the RegioTram scheme? No it isn’t! This vehicle is a real local product, coming from the workshops of the local Valencia production plant of VOSSLOH, which was belonging until 2004 to ALSTOM and which has contributed a good deal of the vehicles for light rail and metro projects in the Valencia region.

This metre gauge vehicle will be operating under 1500V/750V DC, so in principle showing “Dutch TramTrain conditions” and is foreseen for a maximum speed of 110km/h in the railway sections which is more then all other TramTrain schemes did go for. It will be only partly low-floor with high floor sections above the bogies.

A second TramTrain scheme is on the move now in the Cadiz region, thus in the very South of Spain! It will link the two towns of Chiclana and San Fernando with Cadiz. Part of the project will be urban tramway (Chiclana-San Fernando), while the extension to Cadiz will involve mixed operation light/heavy rail on ADIF infrastructure.

Axel Kuehn and Rob van der Bijl are members of the project team of Ardanuy Ingenieria S.A., which have been assigned earlier in the year by GIASA with a study detailing technical issues of the TramTrain scheme in the fields of signalling, communication, rolling stock and interfaces between the two systems tramway and heavy rail. Axel Kuehn is currently dealing with a rolling stock study which will contribute to the preliminary specification of the future TramTrain-vehicles. Be sure to hear more about this scheme in the future!

Kassel, March 30, 2006

May 2006 - RegioTram visits Sweden

Since several years the Swedish State research institute VTI is investigating into the transferability of the TramTrain idea to Sweden. Within the so-called DUOSPårVAG-project a test operation in Östergötland region around the two bigger cities Norrköping and Linköping has been investigated and prepared. You find more information about this project under
On April 25th 2006 a Kassel RegioCitadis vehicle of the Diesel hybrid type was transferred on rails -but within a special train- to Kiel and further on by ferry to Trelleborg in Sweden. The vehicle serves as a demonstration vehicle within two seminar days organised by VTI jointly with ALSTOM Sweden.
The first seminar is held in Åtvidaberg on May 10th and included a transfer from Linköping to Åtvidaberg by REGIO TRAM, the second seminar takes place on May 18th in Kisa and again the transfer from Linköping will be made by the “German guest”!
Axel Kuehn, who had participated in very early feasibility studies regarding TramTrain in the Norrköping-Linköping corridor in the mid 90s, is glad to see the development which has been made since! And it was kindly arranged to postpone the own Zwickau TramTrain-workshop (originally planned for 11-12th of May!) to a June date (workshops2006...) in order not to compete with the Swedish events!

Mulhouse centre, October 2005

February 2006 - Mulhouse (France): Avanto selected

Soon Mulhouse will open its new city tramway. Part of the central portion of this tramway will be used by a regional TramTrain.

Photo: (C) Hondius, Wildenrath, April 29, 2005

Mulhouse (Region Alsace) has now decided to buy the Siemens Avanto for 4.4 Mio.€ per vehicle. This decision implies in principle the rescue of the tram-train idea in France. Even more, as the Mulhouse TramTrain project represents the first true track-sharing of light and heavy rail vehicles, while the otherwise first project of this kind in France, Aulnay-Bondy (Greater Paris region) is in fact more a conversion style project. Meanwhile the success of Siemens in the Mulhouse tender is evident. The very high price (last Karlsruhe and Kassel vehicles have been in the 2.8-3.0 Mio.€ range) leads to the assumption that other products, especially the ALSTOM Citadis haven’t been cheaper!? Remarkable: The French ALSTOM-group sells their product in Germany (and the Netherlands), while German SIEMENS has now achieved the second win in France. However, looking at RegioCitadis-production taking place in Salzgitter/Germany one could also conclude that the TramTrain-rolling stock market is still very much influenced from its native country Germany.

source: Internet/Eckart Sternol;

January 2006 - Most: a most interesting TramTrain case

Most is a city of 68000 population in Northern Bohemia/Czech Republic, which is neighbouring to Litvinov with 30000 population. Both towns are linked by a regional, standard gauge tramway network. The tramway uses modern Skoda rolling stock (see picture, quite similar to the one which is being used by the Portland and Tacoma tramways in the US, see: (Dutch only) & Light Rail Atlas (English).

source: Internet/Czech railways

Discussions for a TramTrain scheme have started recently which would link the city of Žatec with the Most-Litvinov tramway by both sharing heavy rail infrastructure and extending the urban tramway infrastructure South of Most.

The city of Most, formerly Brüx in German time, was until 1945 the terminus point of a railway route linking from Freiberg in Saxonia via Holzhau and Moldau (today Moldava).
Both on the German and the Czech side the branches are still being operated, in Saxonia the route from Freiberg to Holzhau was re-opened after refurbishement as a new regional rail service in 2000 after closure by DB the same year (see With 650 passengers per day it is also an example for the low-end limits in the RegioRail-world – maybe a motivation for those who think they need always and everywhere thousands of passengers per day to be able to do something. It all depends!!.

source: Internet/Heiko Vogler;

As part of the discussions about a Regiotram project in the Most region now also the re-establishing of the missing 8.7km track between Holzhau and Moldava is being discussed - currently it is used as a ski trail in wintertime in this touristic resort.

Most is one of currently two schemes under discussion in Czech Republic - the other one being the better known Liberec scheme, which is described in some depth on, in addition the project has been covered on Light Rail Atlas.

What makes the Most scheme most interesting? First of all it is a good example for (regional) tramways schemes in smaller cities, something still quite common in former Eastern European cities and secondly it shows that under specific conditions with the availability of existing infrastructures and supporting land-use structures those surviving tramway schemes may even offer options for extensions, in this case within a TramTrain scheme. However, the neighbouring regional rail scheme of Freiberg-Holzhau also shows how near a regional tramway, TramTrain and RegioRail features are or can come! It will be interesting to watch the development of this project in the coming years.

The authors are currently working on an adapted 50 issues list for RegioRail projects (see:, this project could perhaps become an interesting test case with regard to its features both from the TramTrain and RegioRail world.


Dudelange, October 2005
Existing railway – urban quality improvements not purely dependent on TramTrain?

December 2005 - Luxembourg: Red signals

The original TramTrain project in Luxembourg, based on the “Bahnhybrid”-study from 1993 and already developed to a decent planning quality until 1999 was then stripped after political changes to a more or less tangential scheme operating mainly on heavy rail infrastructure. The only section to be built anew (remaining from the old scheme!) was a branch into the Kirchberg sub-urban centre, but the city centre part was completely given up. The new scheme was brought to the public in 2002 and became also the public transport backbone of the so-called IVL, an advanced planning strategy for the further development of the whole country of Luxembourg in combining land-use and traffic planning aspects. For some time it looked realistic that the national railways CFL would order the TramTrain-vehicles for the foreseen services before too long. What rumours had told for a while has now become more official – CFL has withdrawn from TramTrain plans on short or better medium term, one is now speaking about 2018!!! The main reasons presented are safety/signalling aspects and from this the need for ETCS is argumented as a pre-requisite for the introduction of TramTrain vehicles. Increased costs for TramTrain rolling stock (big issue also in Mulhouse!) are another argument which is to be heard. While this means no TramTrains on CFL railway tracks on short term one is now starting to think about an urban tramway! This is quite astonishing for two reasons: firstly the city centre part was the most critically discussed part of the old TramTrain scheme, secondly the large commuter flows into Luxembourg have caused and reasoned the need for a high quality regional rail scheme, which can’t be easily solved or replaced by an urban tramway.

There is a basic question to be asked: what happens with the integrated IVL-approach when the TramTrain-backbone disappears? How to compensate TT on regional level, e.g. in the Southern Region (Esch/Dudelange)? The Dudelange railway line is a nice example here; branching off from the mainline at Bettembourg it offers already today four stops for a town of 17000 residents, which means that the planned TramTrain stops have already been established within today’s railway service. Freight operation will disappear with the closing of the last steel works next year and so there was hope to improve the “urban quality” of the railway by reducing its barrier impact (level crossings with barriers, fencing etc..) with TramTrain introduction.

The changed conditions certainly require a changed approach (Axel Kuehn is currently advising here as a member of a local project team), but the situation remains much better then it would have been 20 years ago. Today’s railway rolling stock has moved much nearer to light rail and interesting options exist also in the nearby TrainTram-world, if we look at projects like Zwickau, the US RiverLine project or the Swiss Seetalbahn approach (see also:


Kassel, new dieseltram at ALSTOM facilities, Salzgitter

November 2005 - Kassel: TramTrain in progress

A Dutch delegation (delete:of professionals) visited the RegioTram system of Kassel in Germany in view of the RijnGouweLine project. The group was lead by Jan Baartman (Prorail), who is shown here testing a brand new RegioCitadis Dieseltram. The 28 TramTrain-cars ordered are all dual-mode, 18 electric (600 V DC & 15 kV AC) and 10 diesel-electric (600 V DC & Diesel). Work on infrastructure (especially the main station link between railway and tramway) is still in progress, but the first regional TramTrain-lines (Hümme/Warburg) are running, others are due to open in 2006. Particularly the diesel LRV's represent a technical innovation that could be very useful for renewal of many regional and local railways in Europe, as well as in America.

Murgasse - the bottleneck in the Graz system; an urban bypass suitable for larger vehicles is really a pre-requisite of the TramTrain-vision.

September 2005 - Graz (Austria): Support for the Styrian Greens

Graz in 1993 was nearly the first city which decided to investigate the transferability of the Karlsruhe model. So this second biggest city of Austria was the first in a large row of feasibility study cases under discussion in the mid-nineties' boom years.
Axel Kuehn, who had been one of the authors of this feasibility study, now returned to "historic soil" on invitation of the Styrian Green party!
Within a public discussion on September 13th, 2005 he made clear that technology has moved on since the discussions 12 years ago.
New schemes like Saarbruecken, Kassel, Chemnitz or Zwickau on the TrainTram side have come up with promising features and allow today a fresh review of the Graz vision, which had been "sleeping" since delivery of final reports in 1995.
The discussion has already found considerable local newspaper coverage and the "Stadtregionalbahn" seems to be back on the agenda - also with regard to the state elections in Styria on October 2nd. We will see … (and report).

July 2005 - Even more tram-train (DE & CH) New schemes have been anounced in Germany and Switzerland. Stuttgart (DE) investigates to link the Korntalbahn (one of the WEG-branch lines) via DB infrastructure with SSB, using an existing underground alignment through the city, and connected again to an outbound branch on DB-tracks in the Filderstadt area. The Canton of Neuchâtel (CH) proposed a tram-train service from Neuchâtel to La Chaux-de-Fonds via Cernier or Corcelles. Both route variants will be considered in a next study soon.

January 2005 - Toyama (JP) The first tram-train system in Japan will be in Toyama; a service using dual-voltage 600/1500 VDC vehicles, is planned along a 7.6 kilometer route in 2006, utilizing Japan Rail's Toyamako line to Iwasehama, as well as a new, 1.5 km street-based link to the local railway station. Three new stops will be located on the JR alignment, one new on the new street running section. The scheme doesn't imply a connection to the existing urban tramway.


August 2004 - RijnGouwelijn (NL) August 30th the Dutch Minister of Transport has confirmed a contribution of 140 million euro for the eastern section of RijnGouweLijn. So, it is go for this first 'tram-train' project in Holland. Regional and local governments will contribute 90 million euro. Trams will run in 2010, while the current test operation will be continued for the next years.






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Our study tour page. Discover HQPT and TramTrain projects all around the world. We will be happy to guide you.
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European Transport Conference (ETC 2004) This webpage is based on our presentation for the Association for European Transport during their conference in Strasbourg, 4-6 October 2004. Click here... to download this presentation (PowerPoint; 7,30 MB).

Tram-trains: Euphoria or Depression? (TRAMWAYS & URBAN TRANSIT, December 2005) Critical remarks on TramTrain by Axel Kuehn, also discussing opportunities of TrainTram like in Camden (US). Click here... to download this article (PDF; 1,54 MB).













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