Light Rail Systems Free of Overhead Wires

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - tram/light rail, technology - intelligent transport systems


light rail, overhead contact system (OCS), onboard energy storage, third rail, electrical energy


Light rail systems are experiencing a revival in several countries in the world. Nevertheless, light rail systems are facing a more demanding market and by implication the need for continuous evolution and new technologies. An example of this need is related to the requirement of avoiding visual intrusion in some areas of cities that are more sensitive to visual impacts. This sensitivity has led to the implementation of new solutions that try to avoid the need for overhead contact wires throughout the whole network or throughout the distances between stations. These solutions are generally based on the use of new systems with an embedded third rail, onboard energy storage devices, or electrical energy produced on board the vehicle. This paper explains these technologies and their applicability, as well as their advantages, risks, and inconveniences, in an attempt to clarify the available options and their reliability.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Transportation Research Board, copyright remains with them.