Trackless trams proposed as cheaper alternative to light rail in Cork

Trackless trams proposed as cheaper alternative to light rail in Cork
An trackless tram runs on the road in Zhuzhou, China. It has been suggested that a similar system could be installed in Cork at a much cheaper cost that a Luas system which would required a full track network.

A TRACKLESS tram could save €500m in plans for a light rail system contained in Cork’s Metropolitan Area Strategy (CMATS), it has been claimed.

CMATS includes a 25-stop, 17km light rail network from Ballincollig to Mahon Point costing an estimated €1bn, which the National Transport Authority hopes to have in place by 2040. 

Significant infrastructure works to lay light rail lines will be needed in the coming years to facilitate a track-based light rail system.

However, a new start-up company headed up by Pat O’Flynn, who was involved in plans for the city’s tourist train, has said a rubber-tyre, e-TramBus system could potentially deliver a light rail system much earlier than the mooted 2040 timeline and cost less.

The company, Street Train Services (STS), said it specialises in transport vehicles for sightseeing, mobile hotels, passenger transit operations and mass cargo distribution.

Its submission to CMATS states that an e-TramBus system, which is currently being trialled in Qatar, provides opportunities for commercial viability and ease of installation.

A similar system, described as a cross between a bus and a train, has been used in the Chinese city of Zhuzhou in the Hunan province since 2017.

A three carriage train in the city carries 300 passengers and the driver’s consoles are fitted with technology to allow for detours to avoid heavy traffic.

“The STS e-TramBus proposal sets out an alternative methodology for the delivery of rapid passenger transit on the route by means of rubber-tired rolling stocks that eliminates the disruptive need for the costly bidirectional rail installations that have been used in traditional tram installations,” the submission states.

“STS estimates that a consideration in favour of the e-TramBus proposal would indeed provide savings for that element of the transport strategy in the region of half a billion euros. There are many operational benefits that e-TramBus can provide for in addition to the considerable cost saving.”

The company added that a €50m to €100m investment could support the development of the e-TramBus assembly facility that could later become a depot.

Submissions to the CMATS draft document closed at the end of June.

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