Malaysia beats Vancouver to introducing next-gen SkyTrain vehicles

Malaysia’s busiest railway line is about to receive an injection of new trains. Bombardier and Prasarana launched the first next-generation SkyTrain technology vehicles (Innovia Metro 300) yesterday in Kuala Lumpur, beating Vancouver to the task.


The next-generation, 4 car vehicles feature a next-generation design with larger windows. 56 cars were ordered, both to serve an extension of Malaysia’s busiest railway line (the Kelana Jaya Line) and increase its service frequency to beyond 3 minutes.

The new train features a humongous front window and side windows that go down to waist-height, which I can imagine would provide exquisite views from inside the vehicle.

Similar trains have already been received at SkyTrain OMC and are undergoing testing here in Vancouver right now, although an unveiling event has yet to be announced.

For Kuala Lumpur, the first train is to undergo a testing phase that starts now, and ends at around May of this year – at which time the new-generation train will enter service.

With two SkyTrain technology extensions now in the works in Kuala Lumpur (the current extension of the Kelana Jaya Line and an all new “LRT3” Klang Valley Line), Bombardier’s Innovia Metro 300 vehicles will be seeing a lot of service in Malaysia for years to come.

Sendai celebrates SkyTrain technology with opening of new Tozai Line


Sendai Subway map showing the new Tozai Line (east-west line in blue)

The sun is rising over a quiet city, where the lights inside 13 new rapid transit stations turn on and the first station staff make their way down the relatively unused escalators to prepare to open the platforms for the first wave of customers.

The familiar hum of a linear induction motor system populates the station as the first of 15 four-car trains rolls in from the maintenance yard, ready to board passengers for the first service of the day.

If you think I’m describing an event in Vancouver, you would be wrong because I am describing what’s happening right now in a major Japanese city, one that decided to build a brand new rapid transit line with the same SkyTrain technology developed in Canada and pioneered here in Vancouver.

See: New subway line opens in disaster-hit Sendai – The Japan Times

Sendai, Japan is the city that was hit hard during the March 11, 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The completion of the new Tozai Line, a 14km rapid transit subway with both underground and elevated stations, has turned the page for the city, marking its vibrance and prosperity as it progresses in its recovery from the devastation of 4 years ago.

I went back to Sendai for a business trip, and it also happened to be the day the Tozai line opened to the public. It was crazy! The city and its people are treating it like a big event!
-Ryukyurhymer from Skyscrapercity (LINK)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Videos and photos of the launch celebrations show thousands of people making use of the new system, and celebrations ranging from idol girl groups performing on the station platforms, local sports team mascots out to celebrate, men in samurai outfits, traditional dance performances on board the trains, and picnics at the park beside the train’s visible elevated section. It is a lively hustle and bustle and the mood appears to be as festive as when I visited Sendai just 4 months ago to attend the city’s most famous Tanabata Festival, as part of my 1-year Japan studies journey. It is arguably the biggest occurrence in the city since this August and the biggest revolution for the city since the first steps in recovery were made after 2011.

Pictures from TransLink of mockup Mark III Skytrain vehicle

SkyTrain technology was developed in Canada and pioneered right here in Vancouver.

Since the first km of demonstration track opened in early 1983 here in Vancouver, SkyTrain technology has made its way around the world with just over 20 systems complete or being proposed in 15 cities worldwide. We have reinvested in it and expanded our system several times, yet we’ve been overtaken by a certain Guangzhou, China that has made a monstrous investment in this technology with over 99km of track – reaching 130km by next year.

Sendai’s will to revitalize their city with the help of a technology pioneered here in Vancouver, Canada should be seen as a wonderful treat and a mark of our contributions to this technology’s progress, and a reminder of the big impacts we can make with choices that we would otherwise deem irrelevant. Sendai’s choice of SkyTrain technology will help the city fast-track its ongoing recovery from the events of 4 years ago.

The line will serve 80,000 riders a day next year, with an additional 3% more estimated to come each year and grow the system’s ridership. According to the schedule on the city’s website, trains will run every 3-4 minutes during peak hours and no less frequently than every 7.5 minutes at off-peak times and weekends – an excellent service standard for a medium-sized city of 1 million people.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The new line is already enabling new transit-oriented development nodes in the city, maximizing the line’s potential and giving a nod to the transit-oriented development practices that Greater Vancouver pioneered for every city in North America.

In an area around Arai Station, work to establish a new community of nearly 20,000 people is progressing. Public apartments have been built for those affected by the tsunami, with people moving there from areas closer to the Pacific coast as part of a collective relocation program. (The Japan Times)

We should celebrate a technology that’s made an impact around the world

As a result of the practical research for three years from Fiscal 1985, we confirmed that low-cost subway “Linear Metro” that has been developed as a public transport is suitable for regional hub city as a semi-main metropolitan line or branch line. For this reason, the Japan Subway Association established the “Linear Metro Promotion Headquarters” within the association in October 1988.


Comparison of conventional subways and linear motor subways. From Osaka Municipal Transportation Bureau’s info page on LIM technology

Japanese researchers started studying linear induction motors (LIMs) as train propulsion in 1985. After Osaka built Japan’s first LIM line (the Nagahori Tsurumi-Ryokuchi line), it was found that the city had saved approximately 20% in construction costs. This is one of the key advantages that come with LIMs – the less-complicated motors enable trains to have lower platform heights, which  means tunnels can be significantly smaller and less costly without impacting the quality of service. There is no doubt that with the majority of Sendai’s new subway line tunneled, millions in cost savings were found with the use of SkyTrain technology.

This same advantage was directly to blame for the use of an existing railway tunnel on our Expo Line SkyTrain downtown, a choice that saved us hundreds of millions of dollars as a traditional light rail system would have required new and larger tunnels to be dug under our downtown core.

“The new line is a symbol of development for the disaster-hit Arai district. I hope the Tozai Line will play a major role in leading the city.”
– Emiko Okuyama, Mayor of Sendai (The Japan Times)

See also: List of Linear induction motor rapid transit systems

Sendai’s system brings the amount of in-service SkyTrain technology systems from 17 to 18. 14 cities/areas are currently using SkyTrain technology, and a 15th (Okinawa Island, also in Japan) has declared its use for a major future transit investment.

I am pleased to hear about and report on this successful launch, and I encourage all of us in Vancouver to cheer this Japanese city and its people in celebrating a brand new era of progress and motion.

Local news report (Japanese)

Watch trains arrive and depart at Sendai Central Station

Map: Proposed "Metro 7" and "Eight Liner" rapid transit line circling outer Tokyo. The Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation wants to use SkyTrain technology to reduce the project costs of this transit line.

SkyTrain technology declared for 60km outer belt metro in Tokyo

“SkyTrain technology” (linear motor propulsion, with automated operation) has been declared for a major investment in rail rapid transit in the outer boroughs of the city of Tokyo, Japan – the world’s largest metropolitan area with over 38 million people residing.

Map: Proposed "Metro 7" and "Eight Liner" rapid transit line circling outer Tokyo. The Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation wants to use SkyTrain technology to reduce the project costs of this transit line.

Map: Proposed “Metro 7” and “Eight Liner” rapid transit line circling outer Tokyo, which will run under the city’s 7th and 8th Ring Roads. The Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation wants to use SkyTrain technology to reduce the project costs of this transit line.

The proposed lines – initially two separate projects codenamed “Metro Seven” and “Eight Liner” – will be merged into a single project that is 59.7km long, with 42 stations.

There is an additional 13.7km extension to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (bringing the total project length to a whooping 73.4km) under consideration. It has not been finalized as part of this proposal and is pending further study, likely given that other Haneda-oriented rail projects are currently being considered by other operators.

Case study

I was given a link to a study on the Itabashi ward website, which concluded that the use of SkyTrain technology would significantly save costs and improve the project business case, due to significant reductions in tunneling and land acquisition costs.

LINK: 平成25年 – 度区部周辺部環状公共交通に係る調査 – 概報告
English: 2013 Fiscal –Outer Ward Circumferential Public Transit Study – Summary Report

The Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation (Toei) has proposed to build and operate the subway line with public funds, a rarity in a country where most major railways are built and operated by private companies.

Linear Motors Save Costs

The new metro line in Tokyo will use a new specification called “Smart Linear Metro“, which is identical to the 69km SkyTrain technology railway line proposed in Okinawa. Short, 12m long cars – similar to Vancouver’s Mark I SkyTrain vehicles – will enable a further reduction in tunnelling height, curve radius and land costs compared to 16m long “standard linear metro” cars already in use in Fukuoka, Yokohama, Kobe and other cities, which themselves allow for smaller tunnels than standard 20m rotary propulsion metro cars. To enable the high carrying capacity required for a Tokyo metro line, multiple-car, articluated units will be used.

Through the reduction in tunnelling and land acquisition costs – made possible by the key advantages of linear motor propulsion in lower floor heights and tighter curve radii – the use of SkyTrain technology is estimated to save taxpayers the equivalent of $300 million Canadian dollars.

Slides from the case study (tap to enlarge):

Trains will initially operate every 3 minutes during peak times on the higher-demand western segment, whereas a 5 minute frequency will be used on the eastern segment.

Popular in Japan

Japan is one of the world countries that has recognized the benefits of SkyTrain technology and pushes a widespread application of SkyTrain technology in every new railway project. There are now 9 lines in 6 cities running, under construction or under consideration. The new circumferential line will be the 9th such line in Japan, and the 20th such line in the world.

The Toei Oedo subway has been operating since 1991, and had one extension in 2001.

The Toei Oedo subway has been operating since 1991 and is one of the busiest Tokyo subway lines.

Toei has previously demonstrated SkyTrain technology successfully on the Toei Oedo Line, a major Tokyo subway line with a ridership of over 850,000 passengers daily. The Oedo Line has operated successfully for over 23 years. It’s no surprise that with this record, Toei would want to build another such line.

See also: List of Linear Induction Motor Rapid Transit Systems

List of Linear Induction Motor rapid transit systems

A concise list of all current and future rapid tranist lines using linear induction motor propulsion technology. There are over 20 in-service or proposed systems across 15 cities/metro areas.

Less significant installations (I.e. non-urban-rail systems) are not included. The list is sorted by system length.

Guangzhou Metro

Guangzhou Metro Line 5

System length: 260.3km (99.9km linear motor track) – Future 130km linear motor track
Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– CSR-Sifang and ITOCHU EMU (300 cars, 4-car and 6-car consists)
– CSR-Sifang and ITOCHU EMU (FUTURE; 388 cars, 4-car and 6-car consists)
Systems with LIM propulsion:
– Line 4 (2005) 43.7km (12.5km extension opening 2016)
– Line 5 (2009) 31.9km
– Line 6 (2013, OPEN) 24.3km (17.6km extension opening 2016)
Train control: Automated (SIEMENS system) with backup driver

Vancouver SkyTrain

2-car SkyTrain approaches Brentwood Station on the Millennium Line

System length: 68.6km (49km linear motor track) – Future 61km linear motor track
Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– ICTS Mark I (150 cars, 75 “married pairs”)
– Bombardier ART 200 (108 cars, 54 “married pairs”)
– Bombardier INNOVIA Metro 300 (FUTURE; 28 cars, 7 4-car consists)
Systems with LIM propulsion:
Expo Line (1986) 28.9km; daily ridership:
– Millennium Line (2002) 20.1km (11km Evergreen ext. opens 2017)
Train control: Fully automated (Thales SELTRAC)

Okinawa Island Railway

Okinawa Railway System - Urban elevated railway station concept

System length: 69km
Announced: November 2014
Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– FUTURE: 4-car consists
Train control: Unannounced automated system

Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway

Toei Oedo Subway

System length: 109.1km (40.7km linear motor track)
Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– Nippon Sharyo/Hitachi 12-000 series EMU (440 cars, 55 8-car consists)
– Kawasaki Heavy Industries 12-600 series EMU
Systems with LIM propulsion:
– 都営地下鉄大江戸線 (Toei Ōedo Line) (1991) 40.7km; daily ridership: 795,461
– メトロセブン・エイトライナー (Metro 7/Eight Liner) (FUTURE) 59.7km
Train control: Automated with backup driver

RapidKL Rail (Kuala Lumpur)

Kelana Jaya Line

System length: 64.6km (29km linear motor track) – Future 82km linear motor track
Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– Bombardier ART 200 (70 cars, 35 “married pairs”)
– Bombardier ART 200 order 2 (140 cars, 35 4-car consists)
Systems with LIM propulsion:
Kelana Jaya Line (1998) 29km (17km extension opening 2016)
Klang Valley Line (UNDER CONSTRUCTION; 2020) 36km
Train control: Fully automated (Thales SELTRAC)

Beijing Subway

Beijing Airport Express

System length: 456km (28.1km linear motor track)
Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– Bombardier/Changchun Railway Vehicles ART 200 (40 cars, 10 “Married pairs”)
Systems with LIM propulsion:
– Airport Express (2008) 28.1km
Train control: Automated with backup driver (Alstom CBTC)

Osaka Municipal Subway

Osaka Subway LIM rolling stock

System length: 129.9km (26.9km linear motor track)
Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– Kawasaki/Kinki Sharyo 70 series EMU
– Kawasaki/Kinki Sharyo 80 series EMU
Systems with LIM propulsion:
– 長堀鶴見緑地線 (Nagahori Tsurumi-ryokuchi Line) (1990) 15km
– 今里筋線 (Imazatosuji Line) (2006) 11.9km
Train control: Automated with backup driver

EverLine Rapid Transit System (Yongin, Korea)

Yongin EverLine

System length: 18.143km
Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– Bombardier ART 200 (30 cars)
Train control: Fully automated (Bombardier CityFLO 650)

Sendai Subway

Crews oversee a train on powered tracks with linear motor reaction rails installed.

System length: 28.7 km (14 km linear motor track)
Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– Kinki Sharyo 2000 series EMU (60 cars, 15 consists)
Systems with LIM propulsion:
– 仙台市営地下鉄東西線 (Tozai Line) (OPENED Dec 6, 2015) 13.9km

Yokohama Municipal Subway

Yokohama Subway LIM train

System length: 53.4km (13km linear motor track)
Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– Kawasaki 10000 series EMU
Lines with LIM Propulsion:
– 横浜市営地下鉄グリーンライン (Green Line) (2008) 13km
Train control: Automated with backup driver

Fukuoka City Subway

Fukuoka Subway

System length: 29.8km (12km linear motor track)
Linear propulsion rolling stock:

– Hitachi 3000 series EMU (68 cars, 17 consists)
Systems with LIM Propulsion:
– 七隈線 (Nanakuma Line) (2005) 12km (1.6km extension opening 2020)
Train control: Automated with attendant

AirTrain JFK (New York)

AirTrain JFK

System length: 13km
Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– Bombardier ART 200 (32 cars)
Systems with LIM Propulsion:
– Current AirTrain system (2002) 13km
Lower Manhattan – Jamaica/JFK Transportation Project via Long Island Rail Road track-sharing (FUTURE)
Train control: Fully automated (Thales SELTRAC)

Kobe Municipal Subway

Kobe Subway

System length: 40.4km (7.9km linear motor track)
Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– 5000 series EMU
Systems with LIM propulsion:
– 海岸線 (Kaigan Line) (2001) 7.9km
Train control: Automated with backup driver

Toronto Subway and RT

Scarborough RT

System length: 68.3km (6.4km linear motor track)
Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– ICTS Mark I (62 cars, 31 “married pairs”)
Systems with LIM Propulsion:
– Scarborough RT (1985) 6.4km
Train control: Driver-controlled with partial automation

Detroit People Mover


System length: 4.7km
Linear propulsion rolling stock:
– ICTS Mark I (12 cars, 6 “married pairs”)
Train control: Fully automated