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Judging by the capacity, Ma On Shan Line of MTR can also be regarded as a medium-capacity system

In rail transport, a medium-capacity system (MCS) is a non-universal term coined to differentiate an intermediate system between light rail and heavy rail. The concept is similar to Light Metro, seen in European countries (see section Variants of the term). A medium-capacity system is proposed when an area requires a rapid transit service but the predicted ridership falls between the gap of the other two rail tiers. In contrast with light rail, a medium-capacity system is usually running on an exclusive right-of-way. Furthermore, the distance between stations is much longer. An MCS may also be a branch connection to another mode of a heavy-capacity transportation system, such as an airport or the main route of a metro network.


Suggested system

Elevated platform of Ulitsa Gorchakova Station, Moscow Metro. Its structure shares some similarity to stations of Ma On Shan Line

The definition of a medium-capacity system varies due to its non-standardization. This can exist even within a relatively small country. For example, the Taiwan Ministry of Transportation and Communications states that each train can board around 6,000 to 20,000 passengers per hour per direction (p/h/d).[1] However, the Taiwan Department of Rapid Transit Systems (TCG) suggests an MCS has a capability of boarding around 20,000 to 30,000 p/h/d.[2]

The train may have a shorter configuration than the standard metro system, usually 3 to 6 cars, allowing shorter platforms to be built. Rather than using steel wheels, rubber-tyred metro technology, such as the VAL system used on the Taipei Metro, is sometimes recommended, due to its low running noise, as well as the ability to climb steeper grades and turn tighter curves, thus allowing more flexible alignments.

Variants of the term

Train on the Copenhagen Metro

The term may vary in different countries. In Russia, the "Light Metro" (Лёгкое метро) Л1 - Butovskaya Line has been built to serve the residents of outer Moscow. This line connects the passengers with the main routes of Moscow Metro. VAL, the French rubber-tyred fully automated metro system, also applies the term "Light Metro" to define its capacity (up to 30,000 p/h/d.[3]) These can thus also be categorized into the medium-capacity system family.

Confusion sometimes arises when the operator of a transport system chooses a name that differs from conventional mode definitions used by transport planners. New rail systems, opened in Bucharest in 2002 and in Madrid in 2007, adopted the name Metrou uşor or Metro Ligero, which translates as light metro, but it is, in fact, a light rail system.[4]. Another example with some naming confusion is the Copenhagen Metro which is called a Metro, but has only 39 meters long trains, and must be defined as a light metro.

VAL 256 in 4-car configuration, running on the Taipei Rapid Transit System's Muzha Line


Medium-capacity systems have a latent weakness in that as the service district's population increases, the increased transportation demand might create bottlenecks. But it is difficult to extend the platforms once in operation, since it must be done without interfering with traffic, especially for underground railway systems. Some railway planners may make provisions such as longer platforms than necessary so that they will be capable, in future, of accommodating trains with more cars or longer cars. The Ma On Shan Line in Hong Kong has even applied the metro standard (with less car configuration) for a possible link with the other existing heavy rail route without reconstructing the current system.



  1. ^ "Transportation term definition" (in Chinese). Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC). Retrieved 2008-06-30.  
  2. ^ "Comparison between high capacity and medium capacity systems" (in Chinese). Taiwan Department of Rapid Transit Systems, TCG. Retrieved 2008-06-30.  
  3. ^ "VAL and NeoVAL" (in English). Siemens TS. Retrieved 2008-06-30.  
  4. ^ Von Mach, Stefan (March 2008). "Madrid Light Rail: Three lines to feed the metro". Metro Report International, of Railway Gazette International (UK).
  5. ^ MTR South Island Line (east section) official construction plan
  6. ^ Circle Line On Track For Completion

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