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Rubber-Tyred Metros

Trains with rubber tyres provide higher traction and a smoother ride. They are found in a good bunch of monorails and subways around the world.

France has been the pioneer, starting with experimental rubber-tyred railway trains as early as 1929. In 1946, tyre manufacturer Michelin has patented a steel-belt rubber tyre. It was used from 1951 in experiments on the Paris Metro, leading to regular service on metro line 1 from 1956 till today.

The engineers in Paris came to the conclusion that the rubber-tyred system had three times the adhesion of steel-on-steel systems and could significally reduce vibrations and noise for passengers and neighboring residents alike. The bogies in Paris' metro trains do not only have rubber-tyred wheels but also backup steel wheels and rubber-tyred horizontal guiding wheels. Trains run on a concrete surface with auxiliary steel rails. Today, five metro lines run on rubber. The reason that not the entire Paris metro network has been converted to rubber-tyred operation was the cost of retrofitting of the horizontal guidance infrastructure.

Following the Parisian success story, the rubber tyre has been adopted by several metro systems around the world. Here's a list of cities with rubber-tyred urban transit lines. People movers listed only if part of urban transit.
  1. Busan (Line 4)
  2. Guangzhou (Zhujiang people mover)
  3. Hiroshima
  4. Hong Kong (SI, WI lines, planned)
  5. Kobe (Port Liner and Rokko Liner)
  6. Lausanne (line m2)
  7. Lille
  8. Lyon
  9. Marseille
  10. Mexico City
  11. Miami (Downtown people mover)
  12. Monterrey
  13. Montreal
  14. Osaka (Nanko Port Town Line)
  15. Paris (lines 1, 4, 6, 11, 14)
  16. Rennes
  17. Santiago
  18. Sapporo
  19. Singapore (LRT lines)
  20. Taipei (Line 1)
  21. Tokyo (Yurikamome line)
  22. Toulouse
  23. Turin
  24. Yokohama (Kanazawa Seaside LRT)

Monorails of the Alweg type also have rubber-tyred wheels and horizontal wheels. Alweg monorails are operating in:
  1. Seattle (1962)
  2. Tokyo (Haneda Line, 1964)
  3. Kitakyushu (1985)
  4. Tama (1998)
  5. Naha (2003)
  6. Las Vegas (2004)
  7. Singapore (Sentosa Express, 2006)
  8. Dubai (Palm Jumeirah Monorail, 2009)

Advantages of rubber tyres:
  • They are said to be quieter than steel wheels (not always true — but the sound may be more pleasant and the ride smoother).
  • Gradients can be steeper (better ability to climb).
  • Less wheel slip (important in automated systems).

Downsides of rubber tyres:
  • Higher energy consumption.
  • Higher wear (rubber tyres have to be replaced frequently).


Model of a rubber-tyred bogie in the Musée des Arts et Métiers, Paris.


Line 6 train departing from Pasteur station. Listen to the sound of a rubber-tyred metro.

Length: 24 sec.


Automated metros often have rubber tyres to avoid wheel slip.


Blue Line train departing from Outremont station.

Length: 22 sec.

Photos and videos by M. Rohde. Page updated 1 May 2011 (database entries may be more recent).


Dufour, Marc: The principle behind the rubber-tired metro.
Krischer, Reinhard: Alweg-Bahn. Technik, Geschichte und Zukunft der legendären Einschienenbahn. Transpress 2003.
Wikipedia: Rubber-tyred metro.

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