Posted by on June 11, 2014 
So you (US people) you call that a "light rail" vehicle. But what is it precisely that you call "light rail"? What is the (US) definition of light rail? I initially thought that light rail was meaning street cars, what we call in Europe Tramways. But now, seeing that you call such Desiro railcar "light rail", I am confused. We (Europeans) would never consider such Desiro railcars "light rail", as they are used on main lines and secondary or branch lines for local / stopping service, sharing the rail at any time with all other types of trains (freight and passenger. We would rather consider as "light" the "tram-train" system, by which street cars using urban street rails keep running on railroad lines (e.g. when they reach the city limits) where the traffic is shared with standard passenger trains (including this Desiro used for standard local passenger service) and freight trains.
Posted by David Woerner on June 12, 2014 
A railroad vehicle in the US has to meet the AAR crashworthiness regulations, the Siemens Desiro doesn´t and because of this it can only operate as light rail. In Europe (i´m from germany) we didn´t care much about crash worthiness until a few years ago, so the Desiro was a "real train" here.
Posted by AJ Doyle on June 12, 2014 
Jean-Marc: I’m no expert by any stretch, and the term has probably evolved to mean different things to different people, but I believe “Light-Rail” in the US more often than not refers to a vehicle that is not compliant with the FRA’s standard for crash-worthiness (i.e not heavy enough to withstand a collision with a freight train). Hence, even though it operates on “heavy” freight trackage, this DMU would qualify as Light-Rail much like the Stadler vehicles on the River Line in between Trenton and Camden (once called Southern New Jersey Light Rail Transit System when it was under construction). However, as Greg points out, because of the shared trackage arrangement the FRA requires that freight movements be run outside of Sprinter’s scheduled service.
Posted by Greg Primrose on June 12, 2014 
Light rail in the USA is usually defined as the other posters have said, lighter weight vehicles that are not designed to withstand a collision with a freight train. Light rail and heavy rail can share trackage, but not at the same time. In Baltimore, they would actually place derails on the track above and below where NS would cross the light rail tracks to access the transload facility on North Ave. I also believe light rail track maintenance is less than heavy rail, as MTA Maryland cited the extra expense of maintaining the tracks to carry freight. Of course, that wouldn't apply here.
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