August 19, 2003

The Caen Twisto

Category: Transit

Caen, France: Here's a neat combination of bus and light rail. The 'twisto' system in the Norman city of Caen runs on rubber tires but has a single central rail that keeps it on course. It runs on overhead electrical wires in town, but can also run on diesel when it the suburbs or when confronted by obstructions. Certainly more expensive than a bus system, but cheaper than a full rail system, the so called 'Guided Light Transit' system offers an interesting compromise.

Having testing this thing out I have to say it was an amazingly smooth ride, the floor is low, and it was decently fast. Apparently these systems are all over France enjoying varied levels of success.

[official website][more info]

Posted by Nick at August 19, 2003 2:27 PM


I'm wondering what the advantages of this system, if any, are over just a diesel bus. Even guided, it still needs a driver, and that driver necessarily has to have enough skill to pilot the bus on unguided parts. Then you also have to put up the overhead wires and cut a slot in the pavement. I'll agree that the low floor and clean vehicles are probably nice, but I'm having trouble seeing the advantage of these systems over just a clean bus system. Any clues?

Posted by: Highway at August 23, 2003 2:48 AM

Well, the train can be a lot bigger and longer, plus it get's in own right of way, out of traffic. Logically speaking though, your right that the advantages are not hugely obvious. I think a big one is psychological - people tend to turn up their noses at busses, and have an affection for trains (or things that look like trains).

Of course, that didn't stop Curitiba, Brazil from implementin a "bus rapid transit system" See this entry -

Posted by: Nick at August 23, 2003 10:03 AM

There are only 2 systems, Nancy and Caen. Nancy has had considerable trouble with derailments and has been in and out of service while Caen has had 2 tyre explosions due to wear from the tyre rubbing against the kerb at stops

Posted by: T Ereston at September 2, 2003 1:39 PM

I'm from Caen and i take the tramway everyday. the main advantage is that it's very fast and very accessable, unlike the sky train in vancouver which i've tried too. the tramway has the priority on the cars which is very unbearable for car drivers but it makes you go to a place to another very fast. it's true there r a few problems but its a good solution against polution

Posted by: arnaud at March 11, 2004 2:30 PM