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Is the Passenger Vehicle in this Video a Bus, a Tram, or a Train Without Rails?

When I first visited China back in the 1980’s the cities were over-run by bicycles – there where millions! These days bikes are a reasonably rare sight in most major cities. Motorbikes and buses are becoming less common too. This is because cheap, efficient, safe, environmentally friendly alternatives are now available.

China now has the biggest network of high speed bullet trains in the world, as well as extensive underground metro mass transit systems under most of its major cities. As an example by late 2020, Shanghai will have around 502 miles (808 km) of subway lines servicing 500 plus stations… and that’s just one city! The metro stations are spotlessly clean with marble tiles etc, and trains run every 3 to 4 minutes in most cases.

Above ground, traditional polluting diesel buses will become even more of a rarity when these new transit vehicles that run on “virtual sensor guided track” become widespread throughout China. Some people say its a type of train on a guided track, and others would claim its are a type of bus, or tram.

What’s your opinion? Remember there are no rails in the traditional sense, but it still needs a track of “almost invisible” sensors for it to run on, so it can’t leave the line of track like a bus could. It also has no Catenary or Pantographs; so in your opinion is it a bus, train, tram, or a hybrid with no name? Add your thoughts below.

The 32 meters long and 3.4 meters high people mover, can carry 307 passengers with a top speed of 70 kph.

Instead of track, this passenger vehicle runs along dotted lines on the ground, controlled by hundreds of sensors. It also use rubber tires, which makes the journey like riding the bus. It uses Lithium Titanate batteries enabling it to run 25 km after just 10 minutes of charging.

19 Responses to Is the Passenger Vehicle in this Video a Bus, a Tram, or a Train Without Rails?

  • David Stokessays:

    Hi Guys
    There are no “tracks” per se, and the units still require a driver with a steering wheel. The sensors in the road are therefore not for steering, but may have other uses not mentioned (commercial in confidence) but one could guess to record/monitor speed, to “nudge” other traffic out of the “bus lane” or some other function. It is definitely not a railway train or tramway in the traditional sense. One could describe it as an electric articulated bus with the capacity to change configuration ( one, two or three non-powered sections) as passenger numbers dictate. A “bendy bus on steroids”.

  • montysays:

    no photo of the unit showing

  • Gary Sanfordsays:

    I don’t see this as a train, which, as we know it, runs on steel tracks and can only go where the tracks are laid and it can not be steered off the track.

    I don’t think it could be called a bus, even though they don’t operate on tracks. Buses that are electrically powered, have to follow the overhead power lines. Gas powered buses are not restricted to there are articulated buses, where the lead section is powered and the second section is towed like a trailer. Also, buses, of any size and configuration have to have a driver to steer and operate it.

    A tram is defined as a trolly or street car used for public transportation, usually within the city limits. It can be a single car or, as they have here in Calgary, up to 3 or 4 cars, or more. But, like a train, it can only operate where there are tracks.

    • John Gibsonsays:

      my neighbour drives articulated buses here in Calgary The rear or second section is the powered portion. (reason they have so much troubled going up hill in the winter)

  • Billsays:

    There is no photo or plug in the story

  • Donsays:

    “The vehicle is fitted with sensors that detect the dimensions of the road allowing it to follow routes without the need for metal rails, according to the project engineers.”

    Train follows routes – sounds like a guided system.


  • Bobsays:

    Since there are no tracks, it isn’t a train, other than maybe a “road train” by Australian definition. Whatever it is, good luck avoiding accidents with it!

    • John Gibsonsays:

      Bob is right there is even a video showing the longest truck train in the world the tractor pulling eight trailers.

  • Randall Styxsays:

    The word “train” is not restricted to railroads. Any assemblage moving in concert following a leader – especially if in a long narrow grouping or in single file – can be called a train, whether they are interconnected or not. (If there is no leader, but a continuous stream, it’s not a train, but a current.) A pair of geese can have a train of goslings. A muleskinner can have a train of pack mules. A bride can have a train attached to her dress. A pop star can have a train of fans (as well as a mob of fans). A farmer can have a train of trailers behind his tractor.

    While model railroaders commonly include running just a locomotive in the jargon of “running your trains”, technically, a locomotive by itself is not a train. Nor is a line of “train cars” sitting idle on a siding with no means of getting them to move. Add a locomotive or traction motors on the axles so there is at least the potential of movement, and you have a train.

    if this new Chinese system uses a group of independent units joined together, then it is a train. What it is not is a railroad, for there are no rails. (Articulated units, where the sections cannot be moved independently, are not trains either, but single units, even as the articulated locomotive called a “Big Boy” is not two locomotives, but one that has two sets of drivers and four steam engines.)

  • Ian Grantsays:

    It’s a type of bus, or a passenger road train, similar vehicles operate in Europe, following a single rail, they were recently proposed for Parramatta Road.

  • Donsays:

    I believe it guided by the stripes, not steered by the driver. The “steering wheel” is not for steering. It is the throttle control. Wheels like this are often used on Chinese and European electrics and also on many diesels.

  • Tannsays:

    Yes, those clever Chinese have correctly categorized it. It is not a bus, not a tram and it is not a locomotive pulling rail cars on a railroad track. It is however by definition a train. Again, those clever Chinese are designing and building a new kind of train for the 21st Century, while the rest of the world argues semantics. Like anything new, I would give you that it could be referred to as a hybrid in mass transportation. Think back to the first hybrid car…..the “Horseless Carriage”. Kudos to the Chinese on this “train” project, for they as a people are the unsung hero’s to the success of building a railroad from the far West of America over and through the mighty Sierra Nevada and across the desert West to meet the rails from the East.

  • Scottsays:

    This is clearly a Tram. Much like a cable car, or the people movers at airports and convention centers, or at Disney World — each of which is on a fixed pathway, some of which share the same road surface as regular vehicles. I grew up in Chicago, and the “Elevated” is considered a Tramway, even if it was constructed using railroad rails, though one could argue that it is really a “Trolly” which blurs the line between a railroad and a tramway.

    Please note, this question would be much easier to answer if these words were used instead: “Is it a railroad, tram, or bus”. As the question is stated, there is no such thing as a railroad (ie. train) without rails.

  • Malcolm Simpsonsays:

    More like a bus, I think. Train/tram?? It’s a truss

  • Alin Boonsays:

    It’s a road train! Simple as that.

  • Billsays:

    Interesting. It’s a little of everything… a trackless tram-bus. How about TTB? Or wreck magnet. Got a bad feeling about how local traffic will navigate around these.

  • Henrysays:

    Looks like a Bus in training.

  • TJ Conwellsays:

    Wouldn’t this also be called … a bus? It just seems like using the word train is a really huge stretch for this kind of technology. Just my opinion.

  • Don Csays:

    I think it is TRAIM -train oriented tram.

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