I changed a few months ago routes in Charleroi from tram to light_rail, this subject is there to provide more explanations on this choice.
First, this network is called métro léger which is French for light rail, it’s has been its official name since the beginning, see for example this document.
Carolos call it tram because
there have been trams in Charleroi since 1895 ;
during a period from 1976 to 1994, the tram lines of the Société nationale des chemins de fer vicinaux/Nationale Maatschappij van Buurtspoorwegen (SNCV/NMVB) rode on the tracks of the MLC and at that time there were no light rail-only running lines only SNCV/NMVB ones ;
6126 90 by Michel REPS, sur Flickr. BN LRV railcar leaving the light rail section in Dampremy to join its “classic” route.
the railcars of the MLC, BN LRV, used to run on SNCV/NMVB lines (41, 62, 90), were planned to run on others (30, 80) and currently run on the MLC.
7438 M3 by Transports Belgique, sur Flickr
It was never made clear whether the SNCV tram lines would be phased out with the entry into service of the light rail or whether they would continue to use the sections of the MLC.
Are there any counterpart in Belgium?
Antwerp and Brussels have a tram and premetro system, Ghent is a tram-only city. Premetro is far different from light rail as built in Charleroi, tram tunnels are generally built in the city center and can be subsequently converted for use by metros, outside of these tunnels, trams keep their traditional route, arrangements can be made to create reserved lanes for them (fr: bande bus) or special sites (fr: site spécial franchissable) as for Brussels’ tram and premetro lines 3 and 4.
The Kusttram is not an urban tram like one finds in these cities, it was built and operated by the SNCV/NMVB, depending on the terrain or the route the tram was following, lines could run on the road or be completely independent of it. The Kusttram is mainly built on roads (having its own special site).
Is Charleroi light rail system, really light rail ?
The section from Fontaïne-l’Évêque Pétria to Anderlues is not part of the initial light rail project, it is the old line 90 Charleroi - La Louvière, typical of the SNCV on this section partly on the shoulder of the roadway.
7436 88 by Michel REPS, sur Flickr
Let’s put aside the current M3 line, I come back to it right after.
The answer is simple, yes, and in the light rail family, Charleroi is on the heavy trend. The rolling stock does not look heavy and looks like a conventional tram, which is not the case at all with the infrastructure:
The original project envisaged three types of site:
- own site “fr: site propre”
The only section built along the road in Dampremy is separated from it by a barrier and there are no level crossings.
All the other sections are independent of the road, built like a classic railway line, see here in Fontaine-l’Évêque. This is also the case towards Châtelet where the line re-uses the site of the old railway line 140A and towards Gosselies (original project) where the line would have followed the A54 motorway then the old railway line 119.
20.11.2021 (XXXVI); TEC excursie met de 7436 by Chris Westerduin, sur Flickr
20.11.2021 (XXV); TEC excursie met de 7436 by Chris Westerduin, sur Flickr
The M3 line was not supposed to have the route as we know it (see above). Apart from the original light rail sections, the line was built almost entirely on a special site, it does not have an infrastructure as heavy as the other lines but it can be considered as ligt rail, given:
- that it is part of a network which is light rail;
- that it uses sections of the original light rail project ;
- that it used the same rolling stock as the other lines.