The ntram Light Rail network in central Nottingham.

Light Rail, or LRT (Light Rail Transit) is a term used to denote a system that utilises less "heavy" infrastructure and rolling stock than Mainline Rail or Metro networks. Light Rail systems have a broad range of operating environments, being capable of operating "on street" in the manner of traditional tramways, on reserved track akin to conventional rail, or in tunnel akin to a high density metro.

Generally Light Rail in the UK is seen as stemming from the tramway networks of the 19th century, indeed many cities still retain Light Rail networks based upon these systems. Since then however, Light Rail has grown as a concept to encompass operations as diverse as the Docklands Express, an automated network in London operating on completely reserved alignment and in tunnel, through to the Mumbles Railway; a partially preserved "interurban" line linking Swansea with Mumbles head.

Although often considered a purely urban form or transport, Light rail schemes have seen recent success in places such as Cambridge, linking the City centre with a new dormitory town, and beyond that, St Ives and Huntingdon (15 miles distant).

Recent years have seen the blurring between pure Light Rail networks and their heavier cousins with the introduction of the Tram-train concept. This sees Light Rail vehicles sharing infrastructure with Mainline Rail operators, before heading "on street" as a conventional tramway to access city centre's. Currently examples exist in Manchester and Nottingham

Ultra Light Rail schemes have begun to see the light of day in recent years, with trial routes such as the Stourbridge Town branch being converted to use lightweight, low cost rail vehicles in an attempt to reduce costs of operation whilst retaining the qualities inherent in railed transport.

Light Rail networksEdit