Monorails - The Affordable Subway Alternative
A June 2011 Bombardier presentation to the City of Rio de Janeiro for an integrated transit project in Barra da Tijuca featuring a monorail that would be ready for the 2016 Olympic games.
Monorails offer a cost-effective way of adding fully grade-separated public transport over major roads where no ground-level transport easement is available. The other alternative is a rail subway - but subways are up to ten times more expensive.
Monorails also could be used to replace selected inner city rail suburban services allowing express services or freight to use the ground-level heavy rail easement.
- Monorails are proven. Many monorail systems are in use as high-capacity public transport systems carrying thousands of passengers a day at up to 80 kmh.
- Monorails are safe. Being totally grade-separated monorails are one of the safest forms of transport.
- Monorails are independent. A new monorail system would be completely independent of existing transport modes and so unaffected by problems on other networks.
- Monorails are environmentally friendly. As well as having the energy-efficiency of other mass-transit systems, monorails are far less energy-intensive to build than a subway while having a far lower footprint than surface rail. Monorails can be installed with a minimum of disruption on the ground. Monorails have a lower visual impact than other types of elevated rail systems. Monorails can travel at over 80km/h providing an excellent alternative to cars in crowded cities.
- Monorails are cost effective. Retrofitting a subway to a crowded city is usually prohibitively expensive. Great uncertainties usually exist as to the full cost of dealing with the myriad underground services (sewers, storm water, mains water, electricity, gas, etc) as well as geological challenges such as rock and mud. Often subway systems are below sea-level creating many expensive challenges during construction and maintenance. A high-capacity dual-beam Monorail system costs around 12% per km as much as a two-track subway. (See Melbourne East-West Monorail page with submission to East West Link Needs Assessment enquiry.)
The Monorail Society has an excellent guide to Monorail Cost. Compare these numbers with the $500 - $600 million per kilometre quoted in the 2008 Victorian Transport Plan for the new rail subway under Melbourne.
Hitachi 'Large-Sized' monorails pictured below cost $70 - $80 million per km.
Bombardier Monorail Trains
Proposed interior of the Bomardier Innovia 300. (Bombardier Transportation)
See also The Monorail Society - Innovia Page.
Note the width of the carriages is 3.147m compared to 2.650m for a D-Class Siemens tram.
Design speed is 80km/h and 2 to 8 car trains are possible.
Hitachi Monorail Trains
Daegu's new Hitachi Monorail. (Daegu Blog)
Hitachi monorails have an open layout allowing for loads of over 1,000 passengers on a medium-sized six-car train.
In general monorail trips are likely to be quite quick (less than 15 minutes) so the monorail cars should be mainly for standing rather than sitting which will maximize passenger capacity.
The width of Hitachi Large and Medium monorail cars is 3.00m compared to 2.65m for a D-Class Siemens tram.
For both Large and Medium designs the top operating speed is 80km/h and 2 to 8 car trains are possible. Minimum curve radius is just 100m.
Stations can be built into existing buildings increasing the value of the building. Stand - alone stations can have a small footprint if they use only a lift with surrounding stairs to an island platform rather than escalators.
Stations would not have car parks but would link into other public transport and have ample bike storage.
Station frequency would be in the 2-3km range allowing speeds of 60-70Km/h between stations.
Platform Screen Doors (PSD) are recommended for all stations both for safety and to provide protection from the weather. Using PSD's means the station roof does not have to wrap around the monorail reducing the size of the island platform to a minimum.
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The Tokyo-Haneda monorail runs silently over the Tokyo suburbs (google street view)
Monorail pillars can be part of a pleasant urban landscape as shown below on the Monorail Society page featuring the Tokyo-Haneda monorail.
This monorail silently carrys 300,000 passengers on each week day over these park lands and roadways.
King Abdullah Financial District Monorail (Bomardier)
Bombardier offers more aesthetic pillars than those currently is use by other large monorail systems such as Hitachi. However, pillar design is independent of the monorail vehicle vendor.
Unlike earlier Bombardier monorails, these new vehicles have flat walk-through floors.
Monorail systems are accessed by lift from street level. As lift floor, platform floor and monorail car floors are at the same level there is no impediment to the disabled person using the Monorail.
There is no difference in accessibility compared to a subway system, the lift just go up instead of down.
Tama monorail (Image: Wikipedia)
Monorail systems are not immune from problems caused by poor design.
- The Seattle monorail has suffered a collision between two cars on a section of track where the beams were too close together. Tracks should always be far enough apart to allow monorail cars to pass each other.
- Where monorail pylons are located on or near road or rail lines they should be built to withstand substantial impacts without collapse.
- As far as possible Monorail cars should be fire proof and provide some means of escape. For example the Moscow monorail provides a emergency walkway along the entire length of the beamway. Alternatively monorail trains should be able to couple together so that defective monorail trains can be shunted or evacuated. Hitachi recommends evacuation from one monorail train to another one on the adjacent beam, although this has never been necessary.
- If monorail beams were to cross roads with a height clearance less than other existing infrastructure then a protecting beam should be placed across the road ahead of the monorail beam.
- The monorail should draw power at multiple points and have regular back-up generators capable of at least moving the monorail cars to the next station.
It should be noted that emergency evacuation from an above-ground monorail would generally be far easier than from a subway deep in the ground.
Monorail Myths & Misconceptions
Switches at the storage facility of Osaka Monorail. (Monorail Society).
- Monorails switches are a problem. One of the more persistent myths about monorails is that there is a problem with switches. In reality all commuter transit monorails use switches as much as conventional rail systems. For more on monorail switches (including videos) see The Monorail Societies Switch Myth page.
- Monorails can't run at ground level. The above picture shows a monorail running just above ground level. The whole point of a monorail is that there is no space for a ground level transit system.
- With Monorails you can't have level crossings. Surely the dumbest of dumb criticisms! Monorails are built so you don't have any level crossings.
- Monorails can't go through tunnels. Many monorails run through tunnels for part of their length due to the difficult terrain. Examples are Tokyo and also Chongqing in China. Chongqing monorail has several underground stations.
- Monorails are not standardized. This means care needs to be taken to avoid being locked into one manufacturer's product indefinitely. In reality these Monorails are not that high-tech and a wide range of manufacturers could build new monorail cars to fit on any particular track.
- Monorails are slow. 80kmh is suitable for a transit system.
- Monorails are low capacity. Large Hitachi monorails carry 900 passengers in a six-car train. The Tokyo monorail has carried millions of commuters for decades.
Proposed Monorail Systems
What a high capacity 80km/h Australian monorail could look like (Image: Seattle monorail)
The following monorail systems are suggested. Funding for this is from cancelling much smaller and more expensive subway projects. Priority is given to servicing high-density areas or routes with little existing public transport.
- Highpoint - Chadstone: Highpoint Shopping Centre - Flemington Racecourse - Dynon Road - North Melbourne Station - Southern Cross Station - Kings Way - Queens Way - Dandenong Road - Caulfield Station - Dandenong Road - Chadstone Shopping Centre.
- Docklands - Doncaster: Southern Cross Station - La Trobe Street - Victoria Parade - Hoddle Street - Eastern Freeway - Doncaster Road - Doncaster Shopping Town.
- Glen Waverley - Ferntree Gully: Connecting Glen Waverley railway line to Belgrave line via Knox & The Glen shopping centres.
- Chadstone: This monorail could provide a link between three railway lines across the geographic centre of Melbourne. Oakleigh Railway Station - Chadstone Shopping Centre - Holmesglen Railway Station - Ashburton Railway Station.
- Paramatta Road: City to Paramatta.
See Monorails Australia for more detailed information about monorails.
The Monorail Society
Visit the Monorail Society for more information about monorails.
- Why Monorail?
- Monorail Cost.
- Monorail Types.
- Tokyo Monorail.
- Okinawa Monorail.
- Shonan Safege Monorail.
- Seattle Monorail.
Hitachi Monorail SystemsHitachi Rail is the leading manufacturer of high-capacity ALWEG monorail systems with over four decades of experience.
Visit the Bombardier site for more information about bombardier's automated monorail 'Innovia 300' and also this PDF.
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