It is a far cry from the 1950s when cities around the world were ripping up tram lines with abandon in the name of progress.
Today, instead of being seen as old technology, light rail is at the forefront of innovation with manufacturers striving to make their products even more appealing.
We now have light-rail vehicles with on-board power storage which allows them to run considerable distances without the need for overhead infrastructure for power-pick-up using supercapacitors, we have a mix of overhead power supply and on-board power storage, and we have ground-level power supply, to name a few of the innovations that have been helping drive the light-rail resurgence.
Here in Australia light rail has taken off and proved to be a big hit with users and transport authorities. The Gold Coast Light Rail is a case in point, with patronage soaring. In its first 12 months 6.5 million passengers used the system and in the first quarter of 2015-16 it carried 1.88 million passengers – a 52 per cent rise on the corresponding period the previous year. A second Gold Coast line is already planned.
In Melbourne, on the world’s largest tram system patronage has gone up 24pc in 10 years, while Sydney recorded a rise of 57pc in 2014-15 over 2013-14, and there has been a similar healthy rise in Adelaide.
These figures show that people are happy to embrace light rail provided it is efficient and reliable.
At the recent light-rail conference in Melbourne (reported on in this issue) attendees heard of the success of light rail in several cities such as Manchester in the United Kingdom and Jerusalem in Israel, both of which have spent up big on their light rail networks.
– TONY DUBOUDIN, editor