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.



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.

NewAustralia used a figure of $50 Million per kilometre for a medium-sized Hitachi monorail in the Monorail Alternative submission. This would appear to be generous since the Okinawa monorail only cost $27 Million per kilometre in 2003 and the $40 million per kilometre for the Shanghai Maglev built in 2002.

Hitachi 'Large-Sized' monorails pictured below cost $70 - $80 million per km.

Bombardier Monorail Trains

Innovia 300 interior (Bombardier Transportation)
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

Hitachi Monorails (Hitachi & Wikipedia)
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.


View Larger Map
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.

Monorail Pillars

King Abdullah Financial District Monorail 
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.

Disabled Access

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 
Tama monorail (Image: Wikipedia)

Monorail systems are not immune from problems caused by poor design.

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).

Proposed Monorail Systems

Seattle monorail
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.




Monorails Australia

Monorails Australia

See Monorails Australia for more detailed information about monorails.

The Monorail Society

Monorail Society
Visit the Monorail Society for more information about monorails.

Hitachi Monorail Systems

Hitachi Rail is the leading manufacturer of high-capacity ALWEG monorail systems with over four decades of experience.

Bombardier Monorail

Bombardier Monorail
Visit the Bombardier site for more information about bombardier's automated monorail 'Innovia 300' and also this PDF.


Melbourne Metro blow out

5th Apr 2013: Cost now put at $9 billion for 9 kilometers, up from $4.9 billion originally. more...

Avalon Monorail

27th Feb 2012: Proposal for a monorail from Avalon Airport to the Geelong rail line. more...

New Monorails for Mumbai

15th Oct 2008: The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) on Wednesday passed a plan for a 9.25-km monorail project at the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC). more...

New Monorail for Korea

2nd Oct 2008: Hitachi has won the contract to build Korea's first 24km monorail for $US 333 million. This monorail will be fully automated, i.e. no drivers. more...

$B4.9 Footscray - Domain Metro

3rd Jul 2008: Rod Eddington's proposal for part of the Footscray - Caulfield rail tunnel (9 km) is made a national priority, but no funding. The Age Article.

This prices rail tunnel at $544 million per kilometer.

New Monorail for Dubai


1st Oct 2008: Hitachi has delivered the monorail cars for Dubai's new monorail. more...

Chongqing Monorail


18th Jun 2004: Stunning Chongqing monorail opens ahead of schedule. Click here or here for photos taken from the chinese language (Translate using Google).