Refining light rapid transit typology: a UK perspective

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - europe, mode - bus, mode - tram/light rail, economics - appraisal/evaluation, infrastructure - right of way, mode - bus rapid transit


bus; light rail; mode definition; typology; decision tree; rapid transit


Recent developments in the light rapid transit sector have introduced transit modes that are attempting to imitate the performance of others, e.g. buses with tram-like characteristics. The boundaries between existing definitions of what is a bus, tram or train are becoming blurred. For transport studies and practice this requires a review of how we define modes. This is not just a matter of semantics, but has safety and competition regulation implications for system operators. This paper proposes a structure to produce rail- and bus-based transit mode definitions and typology that are appropriate for modern use. A decision tree is used to classify and define the transit modes as guided-bus, trolley-bus, light rail and tram-train and is provided with example systems. The paper provides a robust definitional framework that allows transit system promoters, operators and other interested parties to have a consistent basis of reference when specifying and comparing rapid transit systems.