This article is about trams sharing tracks with main-line railways. ‘Tram-train’ can also refer to a train of two or more coupled trams operating on a regular tramway.
"Train-tram" redirects here. For the Siemens-Duewag train-tram, see RegioSprinter.
Stadtbahn on main-line railway
A Nordhausen ‘DUO’ Combino on the track linking the urban tramway, where it is electrically powered via overhead wires, and the HSB (Harzer Schmalspurbahn) rural railway, where it is powered by an onboard diesel engine
The Zwickau Model has main-line lightweight diesel tram-trains running through urban streets. Because the trams are metre gauge and the trains standard gauge the shared tracks are dual-gauge, with one shared rail and one exclusive rail for each.
Kassel RegioTram dual voltage DC/AC Alstom RegioCitadis next to a KVG Bombardier Flexity Classic tram at Königsplatz
Kassel RegioTram dual mode diesel/electric Alstom RegioCitadis approaching Wolfhagen using diesel power

A tram-train is a light-rail public transport system where trams run through from an urban tramway network to main-line railway lines which are shared with conventional trains. This combines the tram's flexibility and accessibility with a train's greater speed, and bridges the distance between a main railway stations and a city centre.

There is also a train-tram, which is a train modified to also run on tramlines. Generally, the tram-train and train-tram are interchangeable, although a train-tram is based on a train design modified to also run as a tram and a tram-train is based on a tram design modified to also run on a train line.

The tram-train concept was pioneered with the Karlsruhe model in Germany, and has since been adopted on projects such as the RijnGouweLijn in the Netherlands, at Mulhouse in France and in Kassel and Saarbrücken in Germany.


The tram-train often is a type of interurban,[1] i.e. they link separate towns or cities. according to George W. Hilton and John F. Due's definition.[2]

Most tram-trains are standard gauge, which facilitates sharing track with main-line trains. Exceptions include Alicante Tram and Nordhausen which are metre gauge.

Tram-train vehicles are dual-equipped to suit the needs of both tram and train operating modes, with support for multiple electrification voltages if required and safety equipment such as train stops and other railway signalling equipment. The Karlsruhe and Saarbrücken systems use ‘PZB’ or ‘Indusi’ automatic train protection, so that if the driver passes a signal at stop the emergency brakes are applied.


The idea is not new: In the early 20th century, interurban streetcar lines often operated on the same tracks as steam trains, until crash standards prevented track sharing. In 1924, in Hobart, Tasmania, sharing of tracks between tram and train was proposed.[3]

The difference between modern tram-trains and the older interurbans and radial railways is that tram-trains are built to meet mainline railway standards, rather than ignoring them. An exception is the USA's River Line in New Jersey which runs along freight tracks with time separation: passenger trains run by day, and freight by night.

Existing systems


North America

Proposed systems




United Kingdom

A two-year tram-train pilot project is to be undertaken between Sheffield and Rotherham for service from 2015. If the trial proves successful, similar schemes could be rolled out across the UK.[8][9]

In March 2008 the UK Department for Transport released details of a plan to trial diesel tram-trains on the Penistone Line for two years starting in 2010.[10] There was no commitment to connect them to the Sheffield tram network, and in September 2009 the idea was withdrawn as it was deemed not economically viable for a trial due to the cost of the extra development required for the diesel engines to meet the forthcoming stringent EU emission regulations. Instead single-voltage electric tram-trains will be trialled between Rotherham and Sheffield.[11]

A tram-train trial in the Manchester area was ruled out as the Department for Transport wanted to try low-floor tram-trains, whereas Manchester Metrolink cars have high floors.[12]

In August 2009 the Liverpool Daily Post reported that a new Merseyrail tram-train link to Liverpool John Lennon Airport was under consideration. The Merseyrail Northern Line and the City Line between Liverpool Lime Street and Liverpool South Parkway were being assessed. From South Parkway the tram-trains would transfer seamlessly to a new tramway. A link from Edge Hill in the east of the city to the Arena at Kings Dock near the city centre was also being considered.[13]



Models of tram designed for tram-train operation include:

See also


  1. "UrbanRail.Net > Europe > Germany > Hessen > Kassel Tram / Straßenbahn".
  2. Hilton & Due 1960, p. 9
  3. "TRAMS AND TRAINS.". The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954). Hobart, Tas.: National Library of Australia. 12 February 1924. p. 6. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
  4. Haydock, David (April 2011). "France's first real tram train". Today's Railways. Platform 5 Publishing Ltd. pp. 37–40.
  5. "Tram-Train for Haifa-Nazareth.(Transit News)".
  6. "Aarhus tram-train project gets the go-ahead". Railway Gazette International. 10 May 2012.
  8. "Rotherham tram-tram project funding confirmed". Railway Gazette International. 17 May 2012.
  9. "First tram-trains get go-ahead for Sheffield and Rotherham". BBC News. Retrieved 17 May 2012.
  10. "Britain announces tram-train trials". Railway Gazette International. 18 March 2008.
  11. "Tram-train line given go ahead". South Yorkshire Transport Forum. Archived from the original on 2016-04-16.
  12. "Item 10 Rail Issues" (PDF). Transport for Greater Manchester Committee. 1 February 2008.
  13. "Tram link bid for Liverpool airport". Liverpool Daily Post. 3 August 2009. Archived from the original on April 6, 2012. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
  14. Archived July 21, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
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