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Medium-capacity rail system

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Glasgow Subway
Rapid KLKelana Jaya Line
Taipei MRT Wenhu Line (Brown Line)
Toronto subway's former Line 3 Scarborough was fully integrated with the rest of the heavy rail network, despite using light metro technology.

A medium-capacity system (MCS), also known as light rapid transit or light metro, is a rail transport system with a capacity greater than light rail, but less than typical heavy-rail rapid transit.[1] MCS's trains are usually 1 to 4 cars. Most medium-capacity rail systems are automated or use light-rail type vehicles.

Since ridership determines the scale of a rapid transit system, statistical modeling allows planners to size the rail system for the needs of the area. When the predicted ridership falls between the service requirements of a light rail and heavy rail or metro system, an MCS project is indicated. An MCS may also result when a rapid transit service fails to achieve the requisite ridership due to network inadequacies (e.g. single-tracking) or changing demographics.

In contrast with most light rail systems, an MCS usually runs on a fully grade separated exclusive right-of-way. In some cases, the distance between stations is much longer than typically found on heavy rail networks. An MCS may also be suitable for branch line connections to another mode of a heavy-capacity transport system, such as an airport or a main route of a metro network.


A Docklands Light Railway train leaving Canary Wharf DLR station heading for Bank DLR station in central London

The definition of a medium-capacity system varies due to its non-standardisation. Inconsistencies in international definitions are even reflected within individual countries. For example, the Taiwan Ministry of Transportation and Communications states that each MCS system can board around 6,000 to 20,000 passengers per hour per direction (p/h/d or PPHPD),[2] while the Taiwan Department of Rapid Transit Systems (TCG) suggests an MCS has a capability of boarding around 20,000 to 30,000 p/h/d,[3] and a report from the World Bank places the capacity of an MCS at 15,000 to 30,000 p/h/d.[4] For comparison, ridership capacity of more than 30,000 p/h/d has been quoted as the standard for metro or "heavy rail" standards rapid transit systems,[5] while light rail systems have passenger capacity volumes of around 10,000 to 12,000 p/h/d[4] or 12,000 to 18,000 p/h/d.[5] VAL (Véhicule Automatique Léger) systems are categorised in the medium-capacity rail systems because their manufacturer defines their passenger capacities as being up to 30,000 p/h/d.[6] In Hong Kong, MTR's Ma On Shan line could, in some contexts, are classified as a medium-capacity system (as it used shorter 4-car SP1950 trains, compared to 7- to 12-car trains on other heavy rail lines) but can attain up to 32,000 p/h/d which is comparable to the passenger capacity of some full metro transit networks.[7] However, it was built to the full heavy rail standard as it was designed to be extended. Full-length, 8-car trains were deployed on the line in advance of its extension and the line was extended into the Tuen Ma line in June 2021. Two other lines, the Disneyland Resort line shuttle service to Hong Kong Disneyland Resort since 2005 and the South Island line since December 2016, are also classified as MCS because of their shorter trains and smaller capacity, however they use the same technology as the full-capacity rapid transit lines.

Generally speaking, medium capacity designation is created from relative lower capacity and/or train configuration comparisons to other heavy rail systems in the same area. For example, the train in an MCS may have a shorter configuration than the standard metro system, usually three (though, in some cases, just two) to six traincars, allowing for shorter platforms to be built and used. Rather than using steel wheels, rubber-tyred metro technology, such as the VAL system used on the Taipei Metro, is sometimes recommended, due to its low running noise, as well as the ability to climb steeper grades and turn tighter curves, thus allowing more flexible alignments.

Fully heavy rail or metro systems generally have train headways of 10 minutes or better during peak hours.[8] Some systems that qualify as heavy rail/metro in every other way (e.g. are fully grade separated), but which have network inadequacies (e.g. a section of single track rail) can only achieve lesser headways (e.g. every 15 minutes) which result in lower passenger volume capacities, and thus would be more accurately defined as "light metro" or "medium-capacity" systems as a result. An example is the LA Metro B/D line during the COVID-19 pandemic, as headways were reduced to every 12-20 minutes on each line.


Train on the Copenhagen Metro
Rennes Metro VAL

In addition to MCS, light metro is a common alternative word in European countries, India,[9][10] and South Korea.[11]

Ui-Sinseol Line train leaving Solbat Park station in Seoul, South Korea

In some countries, however, light metro systems are conflated with light rail. In South Korea, light rail is used as the translation for the original Korean term, "경전철" – its literal translation is "light metro", but it actually means "Any railway transit other than heavy rail, which has capacity between heavy rail and bus transit".[12][13][14][15] For example, the U Line in Uijeongbu utilises VAL system, a variant of medium-capacity rail transport, and is therefore categorised "light metro" by LRTA and others,[11] though the operator itself and South Korean sources refer to the U Line as "light rail".[16] Busan–Gimhae Light Rail Transit is also akin to a light metro in its appearance and features, thought the operator refers it as a "light rail".[17] Likewise, Malaysian officials and media commonly refer to the Kelana Jaya, Ampang and Sri Petaling lines as "light rail transit" systems;[18][19][20] when originally opened, the original Malay abbreviations for the lines, PUTRA-LRT (Projek Usahasama Transit Ringan Automatik/Automatic Light Transit Joint Venture Project) and STAR-LRT (Sistem Transit Aliran Ringan/Light Flow Transit System) did not clearly distinguish between light rail and light rapid transit. Some articles in India also refer to some "light metro"-type systems as "light rail".[21] The Light Rail Transit Association (LRTA), a nonprofit organisation, also categorises several public transport systems as "light metro".[22][a]

Advantages and disadvantages[edit]

The main reason to build a light metro instead of a regular metro is to reduce costs, mainly because this system employs shorter vehicles and shorter stations.

Light metros may operate faster than heavy-rail rapid transit systems due to shorter dwell times at stations, and the faster acceleration and deceleration of lighter trains.[citation needed] For example, express trains on the New York City Subway are about as fast as the Vancouver SkyTrain, but these express trains skip most stops on lines where they operate.

Medium-capacity systems have restricted growth capacities as ridership increases. For example, it is difficult to extend station platforms once a system is in operation, especially for underground railway systems, since this work must be done without interfering with traffic. Some railway systems, like Hong Kong and Wuhan, may make advance provisions for longer platforms, for example, so that they will be able to accommodate trains with more, or longer cars, in the future. Taipei Metro, for example, constructed extra space for two extra cars in all its Wenhu Line stations.

List of medium-capacity rail systems[edit]

The following is the list of currently-operating MCSs which are categorised as light metros by the Light Rail Transit Association (LRTA) as of March 2018,[23] unless otherwise indicated.

The list does not include, for example, monorails and urban maglev, despite most of them also being "medium-capacity rail system".

Country Location System Lines Year opened Notes
Armenia Yerevan Yerevan Metro 1 1981 Rolling stock uses only 2-car trains
Austria Vienna Vienna U-BahnLine 6 1 1989 Low-floor trains T and T1 built by Bombardier Transportation, 27.3 metres (90 ft) and 26.8 metres (88 ft) long respectively, are operated in 2- or 4-car configurations.
Bulgaria Sofia Sofia Metro – Line 3 1 2020 Driverless vehicle system – 60-metre-long (200 ft) trains; Siemens chosen as technology supplier[24]
Canada Ottawa O-TrainConfederation Line 1 2019 While using equipment typically employed in light rail systems, the Confederation Line approaches the capacity of a full "light metro" system since it operates with a 6-car Alstom Citadis Spirit trains.
Montreal Réseau express métropolitain 1 2023 Driverless vehicle system.[25] Categorised by itself[26] as a light metro. Trains are 38 metres long.
Vancouver SkyTrain 3 1985 While using equipment typically employed in medium-capacity systems, the Expo line approaches the capacity of a full "rapid transit" system since it operates with longer 4- and 6-car Bombardier Innovia Metro trains. However, the Canada Line operates with 2-car Rotem trains.
China Beijing Beijing SubwayYanfang line, Capital Airport Express 2 2008 Capital Airport Express uses 4-car L-type trains, 60m long. Yanfang line uses 4-car B-type trains, 76 metres (249 ft) long, with trains from both lines being driverless.
Changchun Changchun Rail TransitLine 3, Line 4, Line 8 3 2002 All three lines use light rail vehicles, with line 3 also having level crossings.
Dalian Dalian MetroLine 3, Line 12, Line 13 3 2002 Uses 4-car B-type trains, with some trains on line 3 having 2 cars.
Guangzhou Guangzhou MetroLine 4, Line 6, Guangfo line, and Zhujiang New Town Automated People Mover System 4 2005 Lines 4 and 6 use 4-car L-type trains, 67m long. Guangfo line uses 4-car B-type trains, 76 metres (249 ft) long. Zhujiang New Town Automated People Mover uses 14 Bombardier Transportation's APM 100 cars built in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.[27]
Nanjing Nanjing MetroLine S6, Line S7, Line S8, Line S9 4 2014 Lines S6, S7, and S8 use 4-car B-type trains, 76 metres (249 ft) long, while line S9 uses 3-car B-type trains, 57 m long.
Shanghai Shanghai MetroLine 5 (branch), Line 6, and Pujiang Line 3 2003 Line 5 branch and line 6 use 4-car, 76 metres (249 ft) long, C-type trains. Pujiang line uses 11 Bombardier Transportation's APM 300 cars.[28]
Tianjin Tianjin MetroLine 9 1 2004 Line 9 uses 4-car B-type trains, 76 metres (249 ft) long.
Wuhan Wuhan MetroLine 1 1 2004 Line 1 uses 4-car B-type trains, 76 metres (249 ft) long.
Hong Kong Disneyland Resort Line (Penny's Bay Rail Link) 1 2005 Trains: 4 compartments without drivers. Some[clarification needed] of the M-Train cars used in the Disneyland Resort line were originally ordered from 1994–1998 as subtype H-Stock train (Phase 3 EMU, A/C 270–291, B/C 486–496). Units A/C274 A/C281 A/C284 A/C289 A/C291 and B/C490 are now used on the Disneyland Resort line.
South Island line 1 2016 Trains: 3-car S-Trains. Categorised as a "medium-capacity rail transport system".[29]
Macau Macau Light Rapid Transit 1 2019 Uses Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Crystal Mover APM vehicles with rubber tyres running on concrete tracks.[30] Mitsubishi supplied 55 two-car trains that are fully automated (driverless) and utilise a rubber-tyred APM system.[31] They have a capacity of up to 476 passengers.[30]
Denmark Copenhagen Copenhagen Metro 4 2002 Driverless vehicle system. Trains: 3-car configuration, 39 metres (128 ft) length.
France Lille Lille Metro 2 1983 VAL people mover system. Trains: 2-car configuration, 26 metres (85 ft) in length, with a passenger capacity of 208–240 per train (depending on VAL 206 or VAL 208 train). UrbanRail.net describes it as a "new generation of metro systems".[32]
Lyon Lyon Metro 4 1978 Trains: Driverless, 2 or 3-car configuration, 36 metres (118 ft) to 54 metres (177 ft) long. Can carry 252 to 325 people in a train.
Marseille Marseille Metro 2 1977 Trains: 4-car configuration, 65 metres (213 ft) long.
Paris Orlyval 1 1991 VAL people mover system, using VAL 206 vehicles.
Rennes Rennes Metro 2 2002 VAL people mover system – while trains have 80 second headways, they can only carry 158 people per train. Described as a "mini-metro line".[33]
Toulouse Toulouse Metro 2 1993 Although a VAL system, LRTA defines the system as "Metro". On the other hand, UrbanRail.net describes it as a "light metro VAL system".[34]
Hungary Budapest Budapest Metro Line 1 1 1896 Trains: The line uses 3-car, 30 metres (98 ft) long trains that can hold up to 190 people.
India Gurgaon Rapid Metro Gurgaon 1 2013 Driverless vehicle system. The line is designed to carry up to 30,000 passengers per hour.[35][36][37] Several articles define the system as "light metro".[35][36][37]
Indonesia Jakarta Jakarta LRT[38] 1 2019[39] Jakarta LRT is the first line in Jakarta to use a third rail system. It uses standard gauge (1435 mm). One trainset can carry 270-278 passengers[40]
Jabodebek LRT 2 2023 The elevated standard-gauge line is electrified at 750V dc third rail. It has moving block signalling designed for headways of 2–3 minutes.[41]
Palembang Palembang LRT 1 2018 Trains uses 3-car configuration
Italy Brescia Brescia Metro 1 2013 Trains: 3-car configuration, 39 metres (128 ft) length.
Catania Catania Metro 1 1999 Single-tracked at-grade section limits headways to 15 minutes. Currently 4.6 kilometres (2.9 mi) of double track extension are under construction.[42]
Genoa Genoa Metro 1 1990 Generally considered to be a "light metro" considering its low frequency, limited hours of operation and reduced transport capacity. It is actually categorised as "light rail" by LRTA.
Milan Milan Metro: Line 4 and Line 5 2 2013, 2022 Driverless vehicle system. Trains: 4-car configuration, 50.5 metres (166 ft) length, capacity for 536 passengers.
Naples Naples Metro 1 1993 Line 6 is categorised as "light metro", with only 16 minute headways. Line 1 has a single-tracked tunnel section.
Perugia MiniMetro 1 2008 LRTA defines the system as a "light metro", while they regarded the same system in Laon, which ceased in 2016, as a "cable monorail".
Turin Turin Metro 1 2006 VAL people mover system.
Japan Hiroshima Astram Line 1 1994 Driverless vehicle system. A small part of the underground section was built as Metro system.
Kobe Kobe New Transit 2 1981, 1990 Trains: Port Island Line and Rokkō Island Line. Both consist of 4-car configuration (300 people per train), but the platforms are made for fitting to 6-car configuration.
Osaka Nankō Port Town Line 1 1981 Trains: 4-car configuration, but the platforms are designed to apply to 6-car.
Saitama New Shuttle 1 1983 Trains: 6-car configuration, rubber-tyred and operated manually.
Sakura Yamaman Yūkarigaoka Line 1 1982 Trains: 3-car configuration (205 people per train). An AGT with center-guideway system. Because of the form, LRTA defines the system as a monorail.
Tokorozawa Seibu Yamaguchi Line 1 1985 Trains: 4-car configuration (302 people per train), rubber-tyred and operated manually. Not mentioned LRTA nor UrbanRail.net.
Tokyo Nippori-Toneri Liner 1 2008 Trains: 5-car configuration, driverless vehicle system.
Yurikamome 1 1995 Trains: 6-car configuration, driverless vehicle system.
Yokohama Kanazawa Seaside Line 1 1989 Driverless vehicle system.
Malaysia Kuala Lumpur Rapid KLKelana Jaya Line, Ampang Line, Sri Petaling Line, Shah Alam Line 4 1998, 1996 KELANA JAYA LINE: Bombardier INNOVIA ART 200 Trains: Mixed 2-car,[43] 4-car configuration fleet

Bombardier Innovia Metro 300 Trains: 4-car configuration AMPANG AND SRI PETALING LINES: CRRC Zhuzhou LRV Trains: 6-car configuration SHAH ALAM LINE: 3-car CRRC Light Rail vehicles

Philippines Manila LRT Line 1 1 1984 Trains: Line began with 2-car configuration, reconfigured to 3-car in 1999,[44] and procured new 4-car trains in 1999,[44] 2006, and 2022.[45] Line was originally designed for 18,000 p/h/d capacity,[44] increased to 40,000 p/h/d in 2006.[46] Categorised as "light rail" by LRTA.[47]
MRT Line 3 1 1999 Trains: 3-car configuration, with a max. capacity of 1,182 passengers, and running with 3.5–4 minute headways. 4-car trains with a max. capacity of 1,576 passengers were introduced in 2022.[48] However, line is designed for 23,000 p/h/d capacity, expandable to 48,000 p/h/d.[49]
Russia Moscow Moscow Metro: Line 12 – Butovskaya Line 1 2003 Can carry 6,700 p/h/d.[citation needed] Trains: 3-car configuration, ~85 metres (279 ft) length
Singapore Singapore Singapore MRT: Circle line, Downtown line and Jurong Region line (future) 3 2009, 2013, 2027 The Circle line rolling stock consists of Alstom C830 and C830C trains in 3-car formations with a capacity of 931 passengers. The Downtown line rolling stock consists of Bombardier C951 & C951A trains also in 3-car formations with a capacity of 931 passengers. The Jurong Region line rolling stock will consist of Hyundai Rotem J151 trains in 3-car formations with a capacity of 600 passengers.
South Korea Busan Busan Metro Line 4 1 2009 Unmentioned by LRTA, though UrbanRail.net categorises the line as a "light metro".[50]
Busan–Gimhae Light Rail Transit 1 2011 Driverless vehicle system. Trains: 2-car configuration. Unmentioned by LRTA, but the operator calls the system "light rail".[17]
Gimpo Gimpo Goldline 1 2019 Each train consists of 2-car trains and runs unmanned.
Incheon Incheon Subway Line 2 1 2016 Each train consists of 2-car trains and runs unmanned.
Seoul Ui LRT 1 2017 Each train consists of 2-car trains and runs unmanned.
Sillim Line 1 2022 Each train consists of 2-car trains and runs unmanned.
Uijeongbu U Line 1 2012
  • VAL driverless system. Trains: 2-car configuration.
  • Categorised as a "light metro" by LRTA and elsewhere,[11] though there are also articles categorizing it as "Light Rail".[16]
Yongin Yongin Everline 1 2013 Driverless vehicle system applied.
Spain Barcelona Barcelona Metro: Line 8 and Line 11 2 2003 Driverless vehicle system. Trains: 2-car configuration. LRTA also categorises Line 8 as "light metro".
Málaga Málaga Metro 1 2014 System contains at-grade intersections on surface section of Line 1.[51] Described as a "light metro" by at least one rail publication.[52]
Palma, Majorca Palma Metro: Line M1 1 2007 Mostly underground line operates with just 15-minute headways and 2-car trains (306 passengers max.); one reference[53] even categorises line as "light rail".
Seville Seville Metro 1 2000 Trains: 31.3 metres (103 ft) length with a max. capacity of 280 passengers. Described as a "light metro" by rolling stock manufacturer, CAF.[54]
Switzerland Lausanne Lausanne Métro 2 1991 Line M1 uses light rail vehicles, 30 metres (98 ft) long. Line M2 has driverless, rubber-tyred trains; 30 metres (98 ft) long.[citation needed]
Taiwan Taipei Taipei Metro: Wenhu/Brown Line and Circular/Yellow Line 2 1996, 2020
  • Brown Line (Line 1)Trains: Rubber-tire system; 4-car configuration; categorised as a part of the "metro" by LRTA.
  • Yellow Line – 4-car AnsaldoBreda Driverless Metro vehicles, categorised as a "light metro" by LRTA.
Taichung Taichung Metro: Green Line 1 2021 2-car EMU.[55]
Thailand Bangkok Bangkok MRT: MRT Purple Line 1 2016 3-car configuration
Turkey Ankara Ankaray Light Metro (A1 Line) 1 1996 Trains: 3-car configuration, approx. 90 metres (300 ft) length. Categorised as a "light rail" by LRTA, though Current capacity: 27,000 p/h/d.[56]
Bursa Bursaray 2 2002 Uses light rail cars, similar to Frankfurt U-Bahn
Istanbul Istanbul Metro: M1 Line (Istanbul Hafif Metro) 1 1989 Trains: 4-car configuration. "Hafif Metro" literally translates as "Light Metro". Categorised as a "light rail" by LRTA.
İzmir İzmir Metro: M1 Line (İzmir Hafif Rayli Metro Sistemi) 1 2000 Trains: 5-car configuration, upgraded from former 3- and 4-car configurations
United Kingdom Glasgow Glasgow Subway 1 1896 Gauge: 4 ft (1,219 mm). Trains: 3-car configuration.
London Docklands Light Railway 7 1987 Driverless vehicle system. Trains: generally 2- to 3-car configuration. Categorised as a "light rail" by LRTA.
Tyne and Wear Tyne and Wear Metro 2 1980 Trains: 2 MU configuration with 7 level crossings[57] it is technically a semi-metro[58] system.
United States Chicago Yellow Line 1 1964 Light rail-like due to presence of multiple (but gated) grade crossings.[59][60] 2-car operation.
Detroit Detroit People Mover 1 1987 Considered to be a "people mover".
Honolulu Skyline 1 2023 Trains: 4-car Hitachi Rail Italy Driverless Metro trains, 78m (256ft) long.
Miami Metromover 3 1986 Considered to be a "people mover".
New York City Franklin Ave Shuttle 1 1963 Under the Shuttle branding. Single person operation. 2-car trains used. Single track.[61]
Philadelphia Norristown High Speed Line (part of the SEPTA rail system) 1 1907 Operates on a private primarily surface-level "right-of-way" with partial triple-tracking, allowing for peak express services. Has been categorised by APTA as being "Light rapid rail transit"[62] (i.e. between "rapid transit (heavy rail)" and "light rail"). While it has high platforms and third rail power, all intermediate stops are flag stops and fares must be paid to the operator upon boarding except at the termini. This makes it difficult to categorise, as it has the infrastructure and rolling stock of a light metro but is operated in many ways like a trolley or bus service.
Venezuela Maracaibo Maracaibo Metro 1 2006 Trains: 3-car trainset configuration, ~58 metres (190 ft) length (originally designed for Prague Metro). Categorised as a "light rail" by LRTA.
Valencia Valencia Metro 1 2007 Trains: 2-car Siemens SD-460 configuration, ~55 metres (180 ft) length. Categorised as a "light rail" by LRTA.

Former examples[edit]

The following is the list of former-MCSs that either developed into a full rapid transit system, or which are no longer in operation:

  • Guangzhou, China
    • Line 3 – began with 3-car configuration, changed to 6-car in 2010.
  • Komaki, Japan
  • Seoul, South Korea
    • Line 9 – trains lengthened from 4 cars to 6 cars in 2019.[63]
  • Sha Tin and Ma On Shan, Hong Kong
  • Toronto, Ontario
    • Line 3 Scarborough – Categorised by APTA as being "intermediate rail" (i.e. between "heavy rail" and "light rail"),[64] and categorised as a "light metro" by LRTA.[23] Scheduled to cease operations in November 2023, service was suspended following a derailment in July 2023 and was not resumed, instead being replaced by an express bus service.[65]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The French term Métro léger, a literal translation of "light metro", means light rail.


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  27. ^ Ltd, DVV Media International. "Guangzhou peoplemover enters service". Railway Gazette.
  28. ^ "上海首条胶轮APM浦江线 3月31日起通车试运营". 上海地铁 (in Chinese (Taiwan)). 在轨道交通选型上,采用中运量 (MCS)、胶轮转向轨制式、噪音相对小、启停加减速快捷等特点的APM全自动无人驾驶系统
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  30. ^ a b Leung, Natalie (31 December 2010). "Mitsubishi wins LRT tender". Macau Daily Times. Archived from the original on 2013-10-02.
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