Rubber-tyred metro

The bogie of an MP 05, showing the flanged steel wheel inside the rubber tyred one, as well as the vertical contact shoe on top of the steel rail.
Bogie from an MP 89 Paris Métro rolling stock.
Rubber tyres and guide bars of a Montréal Métro train.
Lausanne Metro line M2 based on MP 89 (Paris Métro).
NS93 (based on MP 89 (Paris Métro)) in 5-Line of Santiago Metro combines rubber tire traction with elevated right-of-way.

A rubber-tyred metro is a form of rapid transit system that uses a mix of road and rail technology. The vehicles have wheels with rubber tyres which run on rolling pads inside guide bars for traction, as well as traditional railway steel wheels with deep flanges on steel tracks for guidance through conventional switches as well as guidance in case a tyre fails. Most rubber-tyred trains are purpose-built and designed for the system on which they operate. Guided buses are sometimes referred to as 'trams on tyres', and compared to rubber-tyred metros.


An MP 73 Paris Métro rolling stock.

The first idea for rubber-tyred railway vehicles was the work of Scotsman Robert William Thomson, the original inventor of the pneumatic tyre. In his patent of 1846[1] he describes his 'Aerial Wheels' as being equally suitable for, "the ground or rail or track on which they run".[2] The patent also included a drawing of such a railway, with the weight carried by pneumatic main wheels running on a flat board track and guidance provided by small horizontal steel wheels running on the sides of a central vertical guide rail.[2]

During the World War II German occupation of Paris, the Metro system was used to capacity, with relatively little maintenance performed. At the end of the war, the system was so worn out that thought was given as to how to renovate it. Rubber-tyred metro technology was first applied to the Paris Métro, developed by Michelin, who provided the tyres and guidance system, in collaboration with Renault, who provided the vehicles. Starting in 1951, an experimental vehicle, the MP 51, operated on a test track between Porte des Lilas and Pré Saint Gervais, a section of line not open to the public.

Line 11 Châtelet - Mairie des Lilas was the first line to be converted, in 1956, chosen because of its steep grades. This was followed by Line 1 Château de Vincennes - Pont de Neuilly in 1964, and Line 4 Porte d'Orléans - Porte de Clignancourt in 1967, converted because they had the heaviest traffic load of all Paris Métro lines. Finally, Line 6 Charles de Gaulle - Étoile - Nation was converted in 1974 to cut down train noise on its many elevated sections. Because of the high cost of converting existing rail-based lines, this is no longer done in Paris, nor elsewhere; now rubber-tyred metros are used in new systems or lines only, including the new Paris Métro Line 14.

The first completely rubber-tyred metro system was built in Montreal, Canada, in 1966. Santiago Metro and Mexico City Metro are based on Paris Métro rubber-tyred trains. A few more recent rubber-tyred systems have used automated, driverless trains; one of the first such systems, developed by Matra, opened in 1983 in Lille, and others have since been built in Toulouse and Rennes. Paris Metro Line 14 was automated from its beginning (1998), and Line 1 was converted to automatic in 2007-2011. The first automated rubber-tyred system opened in Kobe, Japan, in February 1981. It is the Portliner linking Sanomiya railway station with Port Island.


Sapporo Subway guide rail and flat steel roll ways.


5000 series central rail-guided rubber-tyred rolling stock operated by Sapporo City Transportation Bureau, Japan, and built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries Rolling Stock Company.

The vehicle is in the form of electric multiple unit, with power supplied by both, of the guide bars, which thus also serves as the third rail (the current is not picked up through the horizontal wheels, but through a separate lateral pickup shoe). The return current passes through a return shoe to the top of one, or both of the rails, or to the other guide bar, depending on the type of system.

The type of guideway used on a system varies between networks. Two parallel roll ways, each the width of a tyre, are used, either of concrete (Montreal Metro, Lille Metro, Toulouse Metro, most part of Santiago Metro), concrete slab (Busan Subway Line 4), H-Shape hot rolled steel (Paris Métro, Mexico City Metro, the non-underground section of Santiago Metro), or flat steel (Sapporo Municipal Subway). As on a railway, the driver does not have to steer, because the system relies on a redundant system of railway steel wheels with flanges on steel rail tracks. The Sapporo system is an exception as it uses a central guide rail only.[3] The VAL system used in Lille and Toulouse has conventional track between the guide bars.

On some systems (such as Paris, Montreal, and Mexico City), there is a 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge railway track between the rollways and the vehicles also have railway wheels with larger (taller) than normal flanges, but these are normally at some distance above the rails and are used only in the case of a flat tyre and at switches/points and crossings. In Paris these rails were also used to enable mixed traffic with rubber-tyred and steel-wheeled trains using the same track, particularly during conversion from normal railway track. Other systems (e.g. Lille and Toulouse) have other sorts of flat tyre compensation and switching methods.

Rubber-tyres have higher rolling resistance when compared to traditional steel wheels, which leads to some advantages and disadvantages.


MPL-85 rolling stock in Lyon métro.

Compared to steel wheel on steel rail, the advantages of rubber-tyred metro systems are:


The higher friction and increased rolling resistance cause disadvantages (compared to steel wheel on steel rail):


  1. ^ Rubber-tyred wheels have better adhesion than traditional rail wheels. However, modern steel-on-steel rolling stock using distributed-traction with a high-proportion of powered axles, have narrowed the gap to the performance found in rubber-tyred rolling stock.
  2. ^ In order to reduce weather disruption, the Montreal Metro runs completely underground. On Paris Métro Line 6, upgrades of tyres (as used with cars) and special ribbed tracks have been tried out. The southernmost section of the Sapporo Municipal Subway Namboku Line is also elevated, but is covered by an aluminum shelter to reduce weather disruption.
  3. ^ In effect, there are two systems running in parallel so it is more expensive to build, install and maintain.
  4. ^ Since rubber tyres have higher wear rates, they need more frequent replacement. Although steel wheels set is more expensive than tyres, the frequency of their respective replacements makes rubber tyres the more expensive option. Rubber tyres for guidance are needed.

Although it is a more complex technology, most rubber-tyred metro systems use quite simple techniques, in contrary to guided buses. Heat dissipation is an issue as eventually all traction energy consumed by the train  except the electric energy regenerated back into the substation during electrodynamic braking  will end up in losses (mostly heat). In frequently operated tunnels (typical metro operation) the extra heat from rubber tyres is a widespread problem, necessitating ventilation of the tunnels.

Similar technologies

Automated driverless systems are not exclusively rubber-tyred; many have since been built using conventional rail technology, such as London's Docklands Light Railway, the Copenhagen metro and Vancouver's SkyTrain, the Disneyland Resort Line which uses converted rolling stocks from non-driverless trains, as well as AirTrain JFK which links JFK Airport in New York City with local subway and commuter trains. Most monorail manufacturers prefer rubber tyres.

List of systems

Elevated section of Rennes metro
Track of Singapore LRT
Country/Region City/Region System Technology
 Canada Montreal Montreal Metro Michelin
 Chile Santiago Santiago Metro (Lines 1, 2 and 5) Michelin
 People's Republic of China Guangzhou Zhujiang New Town Automated People Mover System Bombardier's INNOVIA APM 100
Hong Kong (Chek Lap Kok Airport) Automated People Mover Mitsubishi / Ishikawajima-Harima
 France Laon Poma 2000 (defunct) Cable-driven
Lille Lille Metro VAL 206, 208
Lyon Lyon Metro (Lines A, B, and D) Michelin
Marseille Marseille Metro Michelin
Paris Paris Métro (Lines 1, 4, 6, 11, and 14) Michelin
Paris (Orly Airport) Orlyval VAL 206
Paris (Charles de Gaulle Airport) CDGVAL VAL 208
Rennes Rennes Metro VAL 208
Toulouse Toulouse Metro VAL 206, 208
 Germany Frankfurt Airport SkyLine Inter-terminal Shuttle Bombardier's INNOVIA APM 100 (as Adtranz CX-100)
 Italy Turin Metrotorino VAL 208
 Japan Hiroshima Hiroshima Rapid Transit (Astram Line) Kawasaki / Mitsubishi / Niigata Transys
Kobe Kobe New Transit (Port Island Line / Rokkō Island Line) Kawasaki
Komaki Peachliner (abandoned) Mitsubishi
Osaka Nankō Port Town Line Niigata Transys
Saitama New Shuttle
Sapporo Sapporo Municipal Subway Kawasaki
Tokyo Yurikamome Mitsubishi / Niigata Transys / Nippon Sharyo / Tokyu
Nippori-Toneri Liner Niigata Transys
Tokorozawa / Higashimurayama Seibu Yamaguchi Line Niigata Transys
Sakura Yamaman Yūkarigaoka Line
Yokohama Kanazawa Seaside Line Mitsubishi / Niigata Transys / Nippon Sharyo / Tokyu
 Republic of Korea Busan Busan Subway Line 4 Woojin
Uijeongbu U Line VAL 208
 Mexico Mexico City Mexico City Metro (All lines except A & 12) Michelin
 Singapore Singapore Light Rail Transit Bombardier / Mitsubishi
  Switzerland Lausanne Lausanne Metro Line M2 Michelin
 Taiwan Taipei Taipei Metro Brown Line Bombardier's INNOVIA APM 256
VAL 256
Taoyuan Airport Inter-terminal Shuttle
 UAE Dubai Dubai Airport Rapid Transit
 United Kingdom Gatwick Airport Terminal-Rail Shuttle Bombardier's INNOVIA APM 100
Stansted, Essex (Stansted Airport) Terminal Trams Bombardier's INNOVIA APM 100
 United States Chicago, Illinois (O'Hare) Airport Transit System VAL 256
Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas (DFW Airport) DFW Skylink Bombardier's INNOVIA APM 200
Houston, Texas (George Bush Intercontinental Airport) TerminaLink Bombardier's INNOVIA APM 100
Miami, Florida Metromover Bombardier's INNOVIA APM 100
Phoenix, Arizona (Sky Harbor International Airport) PHX Sky Train Bombardier's INNOVIA APM 200
San Francisco, California (SFO Airport) AirTrain (SFO) Bombardier's INNOVIA APM 100

Under construction



Country/Region City/Region System
 Republic of Korea Suwon one line, name not yet announced
Gwangmyeong one line, name not yet announced
 People's Republic of China Macau Macau Light Transit System
 Turkey Istanbul 3 lines, name not yet announced
Ankara Ankara Metro, some new lines, names not yet announced
 Australia Brisbane[6] One line, Conversion of CBD sections existing Northern Busway & South East Busway

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rubber-tyred metro.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rubber-tyred rolling stock.


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