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Translohr vehicles are now providing tram-like service in Clermont-Ferrand.

Translohr is the name of a rubber-tired tramway (or guided bus) system, originally developed by Lohr Industrie of France and now run by a consortium of Alstom Transport and Fonde stratégique d'investissement (FSI) as newTL[1] (taking over from Lohr in 2012). It is used in Clermont-Ferrand, Medellín, Tianjin, Shanghai, Padua, Paris and in the Venice-Mestre district.[2]


Translohr in Padova

The Translohr system is intended to provide a much more tram or light rail-like experience than that provided by regular buses. Unlike other guided bus systems (including the similar but incompatible Guided Light Transit system developed by Bombardier Transportation), Translohr cars are permanently fixed to guide rails, and cannot divert from them, similar to traditional steel-wheeled rail vehicles.

Since the guide rail automatically guides the vehicle along its route, there are minimal steering controls in the driver's cab, with acceleration and braking the only aspects the driver controls. Like a conventional tram, power is provided by overhead wires and collected with a pantograph, although the vehicle can also be run on internal batteries (arranged in packs) in sections of the route where overhead wires are deemed to be undesirable.

There are two main designs for the vehicles; the bi-directional STE series, and the uni-directional SP Prime series. They consist of three to six articulated sections like a conventional tram, with a length from 25 to 46 metres (82 ft 14 in to 150 ft 11 in) long and 2.2 metres (7 ft 2 58 in) wide. Their net weight is 23–44 tonnes (22.6–43.3 long tons; 25.4–48.5 short tons), depending upon the number of car sections.

Translohr LRVs cannot run without a guide rail since they are not classified as buses. Hence, vehicles that are used on the Clermont-Ferrand network do not have license plates.


Diagram of the central guide rail (green) and the vehicle's guide wheels (red), which grasp the rail perpendicular to each other, helping to avoid derailments.
Section of the guidance rail (during the Clermont-Ferrand installation in 2006)

An advantage over conventional trams is that rubber tires give significantly more traction than steel wheels, and so can be used to climb steeper hills, up to a grade of 13%, at the cost of a greater rolling resistance.

Compared to buses, the use of a guidance rail allows Translohr LRVs running in parallel lanes to pass closer together than drivers could safely steer. Much like trams, Translohr vehicles can dock with low station platforms for level boarding, and give access to passengers dependent on wheelchairs without requiring the time-consuming deployment of ramps or ‘kneeling’ systems.


The Translohr system is more expensive than conventional trams or light rail systems, with higher building and running costs, the 14 km (8.7 mi) Châtillin–Virofly Line in Paris costs 27.4 million euros per km, including infrastructure, improvements of the right-of-way, and 28 STE6 vehicles.[3] In addition, due to the tyres constantly running over the same area of road, there is significant erosion of the roadway; this has already happened with Bombardiers's GLT transit system, resulting in extensive repairs at significant cost to the operator. This adds to already high running costs. Ride quality is also said to be poor and is not much of an improvement over a standard bus[4] due to the four-wheeled design, whereas trams have trucks (bogies) with shock absorbers or springs.[citation needed]

The Translohr system has also suffered some derailments, the Tianjin system suffered a derailment on 20 August 2007, three months after its inauguration.[5] There were five derailments on Padua's new installation in 2007 before its inauguration[6] and one on 22 April 2010[7] due to a misaligned switch.[8]

Critics of the system also point out that, unlike a conventional tramway, Translohr is a proprietary system, meaning that once having installed it, a city would face difficulties in buying vehicles from any manufacturer other than Lohr Industrie.[6][9] A standard tramway, on the other hand, can easily accommodate vehicles from multiple suppliers; Strasbourg, for example, chose the Citadis tram from Alstom in 2005 to supplement its existing Bombardier Eurotram fleet.

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