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Light Rail Without Wires: A Dream Come True?

Since the dawn of electrification over a century ago, overhead wires have been used to convey electrical power and communications to offices, factories, and homes. Transportation, too, in the form of streetcars, and 0more recently, light rail vehicles, has commonly used overhead wires to transfer power to vehicles. Many people consider these wires to be unsightly and undesirable, but reluctantly accept them as a necessary evil because of a lack of practical alternatives. Only a few cities have managed to run significant streetcar systems without overhead wires for any length of time and all such systems are now defunct. In recent years, new technological developments in hybrid vehicles and ground level switched contact systems are at last showing signs of offering some practical alternative solutions. For light rail applications, the most promising development is the INNORAIL ground level switched contact system now being applied to the new light rail system in Bordeaux, France, which will be examined in detail. Based on the significant progress being made there, it seems likely the dream of having a practical alternative to overhead wires will be coming true in the very near future.