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5000 series central rail-guided rubber-tyred rolling stock operated by Sapporo City Transportation Bureau, Japan, and built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries Rolling Stock Company

A rubber-tyred metro or rubber-tired metro is a form of rapid transit system that uses a mix of road and rail technology. The vehicles have wheels with rubber tires that run on rolling pads inside guide bars for traction, as well as traditional railway steel wheels with deep flanges on steel tracks for guidance through conventional switches as well as guidance in case a tyre fails. Most rubber-tyred trains are purpose-built and designed for the system on which they operate. Guided buses are sometimes referred to as 'trams on tyres', and compared to rubber-tyred metros.[1]


The first idea for rubber-tyred railway vehicles was the work of Scotsman Robert William Thomson, the original inventor of the pneumatic tyre. In his patent of 1846[2] he describes his 'Aerial Wheels' as being equally suitable for, "the ground or rail or track on which they run".[3] The patent also included a drawing of such a railway, with the weight carried by pneumatic main wheels running on a flat board track and guidance provided by small horizontal steel wheels running on the sides of a central vertical guide rail.[3] A similar arrangement was patented by Alejandro Goicoechea, inventor of Talgo, in February 1936, patent ES 141056; in 1973, he built a development of this patent: 'Tren Vertebrado', Patent DE1755198; at Avenida Marítima, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

During the World War II German occupation of Paris, the Metro system was used to capacity, with relatively little maintenance performed. At the end of the war, the system was so worn that thought was given as to how to renovate it. Rubber-tyred metro technology was first applied to the Paris Métro, developed by Michelin, who provided the tyres and guidance system, in collaboration with Renault, who provided the vehicles. Starting in 1951, an experimental vehicle, the MP 51, operated on a test track between Porte des Lilas and Pré Saint Gervais, a section of line not open to the public.

Line 11 ChâteletMairie des Lilas was the first line to be converted, in 1956, chosen because of its steep grades. This was followed by Line 1 Château de VincennesPont de Neuilly in 1964, and Line 4 Porte d'OrléansPorte de Clignancourt in 1967, converted because they had the heaviest traffic load of all Paris Métro lines. Finally, Line 6 Charles de Gaulle – ÉtoileNation was converted in 1974 to reduce train noise on its many elevated sections. Because of the high cost of converting existing rail-based lines, this is no longer done in Paris, or elsewhere. Now, rubber-tyred metros are used in new systems or lines only, including the new Paris Métro Line 14.

The first completely rubber-tyred metro system was built in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, in 1966. The trains of the Santiago and Mexico City Metros are based on those of the Paris Métro. A few more recent rubber-tyred systems have used automated, driverless trains; one of the first such systems, developed by Matra, opened in 1983 in Lille, and others have since been built in Toulouse and Rennes. Paris Metro Line 14 was automated from its beginning (1998), and Line 1 was converted to automatic in 2007–2011. The first automated rubber-tyred system opened in Kobe, Japan, in February 1981. It is the Port Liner linking Sannomiya railway station with Port Island.



VAL tracks on the Lille Metro
Sapporo Subway guide rail and flat steel roll ways

Trains are usually in the form of electric multiple units. Just as on a conventional railway, the driver does not have to steer, with the system relying on some sort of guideway to direct the train. The type of guideway varies between networks. Most use two parallel roll ways, each the width of a tyre, which are made of various materials. The Montreal Metro, Lille Metro, Toulouse Metro, and most parts of Santiago Metro, use concrete. The Busan Subway Line 4 employs a concrete slab. The Paris Métro, Mexico City Metro, and the non-underground section of Santiago Metro, use H-Shaped hot rolled steel, and the Sapporo Municipal Subway uses flat steel. The Sapporo system and Lille Metro use a single central guide rail only.[4]

On some systems, such those in Paris, Montreal, and Mexico City, there is a conventional 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge railway track between the roll ways. The bogies of the train include railway wheels with longer flanges than normal. These conventional wheels are normally just above the rails, but come into use in the case of a flat tyre, or at switches (points) and crossings. In Paris these rails were also used to enable mixed traffic, with rubber-tyred and steel-wheeled trains using the same track, particularly during conversion from normal railway track. The VAL system, used in Lille and Toulouse, has other sorts of flat-tyre compensation and switching methods.[clarification needed]

On most systems, the electric power is supplied from one of the guide bars, which serves as a third rail. The current is picked up by a separate lateral pickup shoe. The return current passes via a return shoe to one or both of the conventional railway tracks, which are part of most systems, or to the other guide bar.

Rubber tyres have higher rolling resistance than traditional steel railway wheels. There are some advantages and disadvantages to increased rolling resistance, causing them to not be used in certain countries.[1]


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Compared to steel wheel on steel rail, the advantages of rubber-tyred metro systems are:


The higher friction and increased rolling resistance cause disadvantages (compared to steel wheel on steel rail):

Although it is a more complex technology, most rubber-tyred metro systems use quite simple techniques, in contrast to guided buses. Heat dissipation is an issue as eventually all traction energy consumed by the train — except the electric energy regenerated back into the substation during electrodynamic braking — will end up in losses (mostly heat). In frequently operated tunnels (typical metro operation) the extra heat from rubber tyres is a widespread problem, necessitating ventilation of the tunnels. As a result, some rubber-tyred metro systems do not have air-conditioned trains, as air conditioning would heat the tunnels to temperatures where operation is not possible.

Similar technologies

Automated driverless systems are not exclusively rubber-tyred; many have since been built using conventional rail technology, such as London's Docklands Light Railway, the Copenhagen metro and Vancouver's SkyTrain, the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort line, which uses converted rolling stocks from non-driverless trains, as well as AirTrain JFK, which links JFK Airport in New York City with local subway and commuter trains. Most monorail manufacturers prefer rubber tyres.

List of systems

Country/Region City/Region System Technology Year opened
 Canada Montreal Montreal Metro Bombardier MR-73 (Green, Blue, Yellow)
Alstom/Bombardier MPM-10 (Orange, Green)
 Chile Santiago Santiago Metro (Lines 1, 2, and 5) Alstom NS-74 (5)
Concarril NS-88 (2)
Alstom NS-93 (1, 5)
Alstom NS-04 (2)
CAF NS-07 (1)
CAF NS-12 (1)
Alstom NS-16 (2, 5)
 China Chongqing Bishan SkyShuttle BYD Skyshuttle 2021
Guangzhou Zhujiang New Town Automated People Mover System Bombardier Innovia APM 100 2010
Shanghai Shanghai Metro (Pujiang line) Bombardier Innovia APM 300 2018
 France Lille Lille Metro Matra VAL206
Siemens VAL208
Lyon Lyon Metro (Lines A, B, and D) Alstom MPL 75 (A, B)
Alstom MPL 85 (D)
Marseille Marseille Metro Alstom MPM 76 1977
Paris Paris Métro (Lines 1, 4, 6, 11, and 14) Michelin / Alstom, 1,435 mm between Rollways 1958[e]
Paris (Orly Airport) Orlyval Matra VAL206 1991
Paris (Charles de Gaulle Airport) CDGVAL Siemens VAL208 2007
Rennes Rennes Metro Siemens VAL208 2002
Toulouse Toulouse Metro Matra VAL206
Siemens VAL208
 Germany Frankfurt Airport SkyLine Bombardier Innovia APM 100 (as Adtranz CX-100) 1994
Munich Airport Bombardier Innovia APM 300 2015
 Indonesia Soekarno–Hatta International Airport Soekarno–Hatta Airport Skytrain Woojin 2017
 Hong Kong Hong Kong (Chek Lap Kok Airport) Automated People Mover Mitsubishi Crystal Mover
2007 (Phase II)
 Italy Turin Metrotorino Siemens VAL208 2006
 Japan Hiroshima Hiroshima Rapid Transit (Astram Line) Kawasaki
Niigata Transys
Kobe Kobe New Transit (Port Island Line / Rokkō Island Line) Kawasaki 1981 (Port Island Line)
1990 (Rokkō Island Line)
Osaka Nankō Port Town Line Niigata Transys 1981
Saitama New Shuttle 1983
Sapporo Sapporo Municipal Subway Kawasaki 1971
Tokyo Yurikamome Mitsubishi
Niigata Transys
Nippon Sharyo
Nippori-Toneri Liner Niigata Transys 2008
Tokorozawa / Higashimurayama Seibu Yamaguchi Line Niigata Transys 1985
Sakura Yamaman Yūkarigaoka Line Nippon Sharyo 1982
Yokohama Kanazawa Seaside Line Mitsubishi
Niigata Transys
Nippon Sharyo
 South Korea Busan Busan Subway Line 4 K-AGT (Woojin) 2011
Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi-do U Line Siemens VAL208 2012
Seoul Sillim Line K-AGT (Woojin) 2022
 Macau Taipa, Cotai Macau Light Rapid Transit Mitsubishi Crystal Mover 2019
 Malaysia Kuala Lumpur International Airport Aerotrain Bombardier Innovia APM 100 (as Adtranz CX-100) 1998
 Mexico Mexico City Mexico City Metro (All lines except A & 12) Michelin, 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) between Rollways 1969
 Singapore Singapore Light Rail Transit Bombardier Innovia APM 100 (C801 [as Adtranz CX-100] and C801A) and future APM 300R (C801B)
Mitsubishi Crystal Mover (C810 and C810A)
  Switzerland Lausanne Lausanne Metro Line M2 Alstom MP 89 2008
 Taiwan Taipei Taipei Metro Brown Line Matra/GEC Alsthom VAL 256
Bombardier Innovia APM 256
Taoyuan Airport Taoyuan International Airport Skytrain Niigata Transys 2018
 Thailand Bangkok Gold Line Bombardier Innovia APM 300 2020
 UAE Dubai International Airport Dubai International Airport Automated People Mover Mitsubishi Crystal Mover (Terminal 3)
Bombardier Innovia APM 300 (Terminal 1)
 United Kingdom Gatwick Airport Terminal-Rail Shuttle Bombardier Innovia APM 100 (Replaced C-100s) 1988
Stansted, Essex (Stansted Airport) Stansted Airport Transit System Westinghouse/Adtranz C-100
Adtranz/Bombardier CX-100
Heathrow Airport Heathrow Terminal 5 Transit Bombardier Innovia APM 200 2008
 United States Chicago, Illinois (O'Hare) Airport Transit System Bombardier Innovia APM 256 (Replaced VAL256s in 2019) 1993–2018 (VAL), 2021 (Innovia)
Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas (DFW Airport) DFW Skylink Bombardier Innovia APM 200 2007
Denver, Colorado (DEN Airport) Automated Guideway Transit System Bombardier Innovia APM 100 1995
Houston, Texas (George Bush Intercontinental Airport) Skyway Bombardier Innovia APM 100 (as Adtranz CX-100) 1999
Miami, Florida Metromover Bombardier Innovia APM 100 (Replaced C-100s late 2014) 1986
Phoenix, Arizona (Sky Harbor International Airport) PHX Sky Train Bombardier Innovia APM 200 2013
San Francisco, California (SFO Airport) AirTrain (SFO) Bombardier Innovia APM 100 2003
Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) The Plane Train Westinghouse C-100/Bombardier Innovia APM 100 1980
Washington, D.C. (Dulles International Airport) AeroTrain Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Crystal Mover 2010

Under construction

Country/Region City/Region System
 South Korea Busan Busan Metro Line 5
 United States Los Angeles, California (LAX Airport) LAX Automated People Mover

Defunct systems

Country/Region City/Region System Technology Year opened Year closed
 France Laon Poma 2000 Cable-driven 1989 2016
 Japan Komaki Peachliner Nippon Sharyo 1991 2006

See also


  1. ^ Rubber-tyred wheels have better adhesion than traditional rail wheels. Nonetheless, modern steel-on-steel rolling stock using distributed-traction with a high proportion of powered axles have narrowed the gap to the performance found in rubber-tyred rolling stock.
  2. ^ In order to reduce weather disruption, the Montreal Metro runs completely underground. On Paris Métro Line 6, upgrades of tyres (as used with cars) and special ribbed tracks have been tried out. The southernmost section of the Sapporo Municipal Subway Namboku Line is also elevated, but is covered by an aluminum shelter to reduce weather disruption.
  3. ^ In effect, there are two systems running in parallel so it is more expensive to build, install and maintain. This is in turn an advantage for conversions to this technology because it can be done with less service disruptions on an existing line, and allows to use more widespread railway components compared to VAL for example.
  4. ^ Since rubber tyres have higher wear rates, they need more frequent replacement, which makes them more expensive in the long run than steel wheelsets with higher first cost (that may be needed anyway as backup). Rubber tyres for guidance are needed.
  5. ^ The system opened in 1901, but was not converted to a rubber-tyred system until 1958.


  1. ^ a b "Rubber-Tyred Metro". Rail System. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  2. ^ GB 10990, issued 10 June 1846  [dead link]
  3. ^ a b Tompkins, Eric (1981). "1: Invention". The History of the Pneumatic Tyre. Dunlop Archive Project. pp. 2–4. ISBN 0-903214-14-8.
  4. ^ "Sapporo Subway". UrbanRail.Net. Archived from the original on 29 April 2008. Retrieved 15 April 2008.
  5. ^ "Sticking with rubber". Montreal Gazette. 14 September 2005. Archived from the original on 17 May 2012. Retrieved 21 December 2011.
  6. ^ Harrison, Matthew C. (1 February 1974). "Rubber Tire vs. Steel Wheel Tradeoffs". SAE Technical Paper Series. Vol. 1. p. 740228. doi:10.4271/740228.
  7. ^ Pierson, W. R.; Brachaczek, Wanda W. (1 November 1974). "Airborne Particulate Debris from Rubber Tires". Rubber Chemistry and Technology. 47 (5): 1275–1299. doi:10.5254/1.3540499.