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On a single rail into the future

Worldwide, 84 percent of monorails fulfil a transport task in public transport, and thanks to their economic advantages and shorter implementation times, the trend is rising. In order to promote the efficient use of monorails in public transport, the non-profit member association International Monorail Association (IMA) provides a platform for the exchange of ideas between public authorities, transport operators and the industry.

The world’s longest driverless monorail system with a total length of almost 100 kilometres is currently being built in Cairo. The double-track monorail system will significantly improve public transport in Greater Cairo. The 54-kilometre route between the new administrative capital and eastern Cairo will be covered in 60 minutes. The 42 kilometres between 6th of October City and Giza will take passengers only 42 minutes. These are the performance parameters: Both lines will be able to carry around 45,000 passengers per hour per direction. The vehicles will reach an operating speed of 80 kilometres per hour. In addition, the project will be realised in an enormously short time. After the contract for planning, construction and operation was awarded in August 2019, the first line will go into operation in May 2022, followed by the second line in spring 2023. Monorails are thus setting standards for rail-based transport systems.

Alternative monorails

Monorails are not only convincing on greenfield sites; they offer decisive advantages especially in developed or rapidly growing urban areas. The elevated construction reduces the space requirement to a minimum and does not lead to a displacement of existing surface traffic. As opposed to many cases where trams or dedicated bus routes are introduced, monorails fully preserve the capacity of existing road infrastructures. Some monorails manage very small curve radii of as little as 18 metres and gradients of up to 12 percent, making them ideally suited for locations and regions with a challenging topography or urban conditions. Monorails are also among the quietest transport systems. The prefabricated construction of the infrastructure - such as rail beams, supporting pillars and trackside components – which are often manufactured at the gates of a city, enables the structures to be erected quickly and without massive traffic restrictions at the operating site. The crossing-free operation eliminates the need for additional track safety devices outside the stations and allows fully automatic driverless operation according to Level 4 automation.

IMA develops a performance catalogue

In order to further promote the use of monorails, there is a particular need for a tool which enables the evaluation of monorails in comparison to other transport systems in the course of higher-level transport planning or concrete tenders. With the “Technical Performance Specifications”, IMA is developing just such a performance catalogue for components, subsystems, vehicles and the infrastructure. This describes the performance of an entire monorail system in a way which enables users to understand what is possible and what can be requested. It also gives the vehicle and infrastructure supply industry a better insight into technology requirements and avoids system-specific isolated solutions. This performance-oriented standardisation will ensure more competition along the supply chain and further strengthen the economic efficiency of the overall system. The first edition of the “Technical Performance Specifications” will be officially adopted at the IMA conference “Monorailex” from 16-18 September in Rust, Germany, and unveiled to the professional public at InnoTrans 2022.

A train is passing over a bridge in Kairo.

The world‘s longest monorail system is under construction in Cairo. Photo: Alstom / Ezz Production Agency