Tech. stuff for light rail – The LR55 rail system


What is of interest is that the SkyTrain lobby decry any sort of LRT/streetcar installation on Broadway as catastrophic, yet tram tracks can be laid quite quickly, depending on the method used, in Nottingham, penalties were to applied against the contractor, if tram track installation were to directly affect merchants directly adjacent to the construction for more than 20 days. Susan Heyes & InTransit BC take note! It seems that planners in Vancouver and TransLink, still use the extremely old-fashioned, 19th century, tie & ballast method for streetcar installation, while ignoring developments abroad.

Not only is the LR55 rail method appropriate for Broadway or other streets in Vancouver, the LR55 could be used for the ‘Valley Interurban Project’, for on-street operations in Cloverdale, Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack!

The following is from NET, the New Edinburgh Tramways (NETCo) web site.

One of the major expenses of conventional tram projects is the track. This is laid on a concrete raft set under the road. In order to accomodate these rafts the underground services, like gas and water, have been diverted out of the way of the tracks. This process took a considerable amount of time and money in schemes like Manchester and Sheffield. In addition it caused disruption to inhabitants while taking place.

To avoid or reduce these problems NET proposes to use the revolutionary LR55 rail system. This is laid in the road structure itself so that there is little or no disturbance to underground services. Instead a slot is cut in the road and the track laid in. The track exploits the strength of existing highway pavements by transmitting the static and dynamic loads from the upper surface, rather than the foot of the rail as in conventional track. This results in the load on the railhead being distributed onto the sub-base of the highway, being of a sufficiently low value not to require a separate foundation. Up to 100m can be laid in a night.


The track system consists of three main components:-

LR55 Rail
The rail carries the weight of the tram, steers the tram and is the return conductor for the electric power supply. The LR55 rail has a wide lip compared to conventional tram rail. This is to allow the road structure to carry the weight of the tram. The rail top surface and the trough unit are treated to provide a compatible skid resistance to the adjacent highway surface.
Elastomeric Grout
This is a rubber like compound that prevents vibrations from the tram being transfered to the road and surroundings. Old fashioned trams used to rumble along the street as the tracks did not have this feature. Modern trams are very quiet because of features like this grout. It also insulates the electricity returning to the sub station, so that it does not travel through other cables buried in the road.
Precast Trough Unit
This forms the base for the rail and connects it to the road structure. It is fitted into a slot cut into the road.

Track installation


Where there is a road base thicker than 225mm the Trough Unit is bedded into the base.


Where the road base is less than 225mm the Trough Unit is bedded onto the sub-base.

The track can also be laid in concrete pavements, older road construction and block paving. These are outlined in the technical specification for the track.

Should it be necessary to work on services crossing the tramway, the track is self-supporting over a distance of one metre. This allows access trenches to be dug without affecting the tram service. Safe methods of working have been developed to ensure the safety of tramway passengers and staff, as well as utility workers. These methods are already established in existing tram schemes.

There are further details of LR55 track at the LR55 web site.

For more information on LR55 for our more technical visitors:


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One Response to “Tech. stuff for light rail – The LR55 rail system”

  1. Willy Ford Says:

    Its about time someone addressed the problem of small community and small budget rail infrastructure. This rail is a step in the right direction but it has some way to go, I’d like to see support and progress for communities who would dearly wish to return to pollution free urban transport but are inhibited by costs that make such schemes unafordable.

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