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Benefits of Light Rail Transit (LRT) Network in Manchester


Discuss about the Light Rail in Manchester City for Improves Air Quality.

The city of Manchester has continued to experience rapid growth over the years and is still one of fastest growing cities in the UK. This has put immense pressure on existing transport network. As a result of this, light rail transit (LRT) is a worthwhile project to implement in the city. The decision to build an LRT network covering an area of 15 km around the city will play a major role in reducing traffic congestion. Other benefits of LRT include: reduces pollution, increases property values, improves air quality, improves safety, enhances comfort, has lower per passenger operating costs, enhances development in the area, can run on different energy sources, is more reliable, has higher passenger capacity, has greater aesthetic, can operate effectively with other modes of transport, and improves health of passengers (Cervero & Sullivan, 2011); (Hess & Almeida, 2007); (Higgins, et al., 2014) (Li, et al., 2012) (MacDonald, et al., 2010); (Seo, et al., 2014) (Shang & Zhang, 2013) (Topalovic, et al., 2012). In general, light rail system will bring a wide range of economic, social and environmental benefits to the city of Manchester.

But for the benefits of LRT to be fully realized, it is very important to ensure that each stage of the project is done effectually. This report aims at discussing preliminary design; detailed design and testing, evaluation, validation and optimization phases of the project and critical human factors to LRT network. These elements are very crucial considering that the LRT network will be operating alongside existing modes of transportation and other land uses. When designing an LRT network, it is very important to visualize how it will be constructed, operated and maintained. This helps in ensuring that the final product created meets its objectives adequately. Therefore information contained in this report is very useful when carrying out preliminary design; detailed design and development; and system testing, evaluation, validation and optimization processes of an LRT project. 

This is a very crucial phase that follows the conceptual design phase. During this phase, the project team is tasked to demonstrate that the solution chosen from the conceptual design phase will meet all the project requirements, goals and objectives. Here, the team comprehensively analyzes the project concept and selected solution so as to ensure that they meet the design and performance specifications of the project and can be developed using available resources. The project team also identifies potential time and cost constraints. This process starts by identifying key components of the LRT network and how they will operate. These key components include: route of the LRT (including surface stretches and underground tunnels), number and sizes of lanes, alignments of the LRT (both vertical and horizontal), type and size of LRT vehicles, overhead catenary system, power systems, communication systems, traffic and signal systems, relay houses, boarding stations, stops, system software, etc. The team analyzes these subsystems by determining different specifications, including: system specifications (technical, operational, performance and support features of the system), product specification (qualitative and quantitative technical requirements of products that can be created offsite), process specifications (qualitative and quantitative technical requirements of services needed to complete functional requirements), and material specifications (technical requirements of materials to be used in creating the system).

Importance of Effective Design Phases for LRT Network Implementation

The main focus in this phase is on analyzing the functional requirements of the LRT network’s subsystems and allocating resources for each subsystem. Each main function is split into sub-functions for easier analysis. The inputs and anticipated outputs, constraints and controls of the subsystems are also determined. By understanding all these items, it becomes easier for the project team to allocate resources appropriately. Therefore it is in this phase that the team will allocate the costs determined in conceptual design phase to specific subsystems of the LRT network (land purchase and survey; bridge, station and tracks; station infrastructure; communication and control signals; cables and electrical power; vehicles car sets; and labor).

The design criteria used in preliminary design phase are: functional capability usability, interoperability, reliability, sustainability, producibility, maintainability, safety, security, supportability, serviceability, affordability and disposability. This criteria ensures that subsystems are designed by considering important factors throughout their lifecycle, i.e. from design stage to disposal.

Successful completion of preliminary design phase requires all key stakeholders and professionals to work as a team and share their unique knowledge and experiences. This includes professionals from departments and/or fields such as design, environmental, manufacturing, quality, software, value, reliability, human factors, maintenance, logistics and safety/security. Every process completed in this phase is also evaluated and reviewed so as to identify other alternatives. Reviews of the preliminary designs created are also prepared for use in subsequent processes.

After establishing the technical specifications of all subsystems based on functional requirements of the LRT, the project team now goes ahead to create final designs of the subsystems and the entire system developed in preliminary design phase. This is done in the detailed design phase. In this phase, engineers, architects and designers use appropriate design software and engineering tools such as computer aided design (CAD) or computer-aided engineering (CAE) software, to create the designs (Blanchard & Fabrycky, 2010). But before starting to create the final designs, necessary field studies are also carried out so as to collect useful data and information such as groundwater levels, soil characteristics, climatic conditions etc. This helps in determining the right types and sizes of different subsystems such as foundation type and materials of the light rail.

Detailed design phase is an iterative process that continues from definition of the system to create designs that can be used to produce several similar products. Each system or component designed must have complete details to enable the manufacturer or contractor create it. The details are usually represented in form of design drawings (arrangement drawings, assembly drawings, connection drawings, construction drawings, control drawings, detail drawings, engineering drawings, installation drawings, logic drawings, numerical control drawings, piping drawings, schematic drawings, wiring/cable drawings and software drawings), electronic format or reports. Each design drawing is also reviewed by different professionals immediately it is completed so as to identify any errors (if any) or need for changes and/or improvement. After designing the subsystems and the entire system, the team prepares relevant documentations that entails design drawings, lists of components and materials, analyses and reports. Data and information contained in these documents is also used to prepare bills of quantities (BoQs) for the project. The designs and documents prepared in this phase should enable the manufacturer or contractor to create the subsystems or system as a whole in the factory or on site (Goral, 2007).

Preliminary Design Phase for LRT Network Implementation

After detailed design phase follows development phase. This is where the designers create mock-ups, engineering models and prototype models so as to have realistic simulations and visualization of the configuration of the proposed LRT network and how it will work. Using the operating model created, the design team is able to demonstrate how the LRT will function and its expected performance. In this case, the operating model will show how LRT will reduce traffic congestion in the city of Manchester by facilitating easy and seamless movement of people from one place to another. These models are created using approved components and by following the required standards, codes and regulations. They are also tested to establish whether they meet all the requirements.

Before the start of actual construction activities, it is very important to test, evaluate, validate and optimize the designed system. This is done so as to confirm that the system designs and models created meet all the necessary technical, functional, performance and other project requirements. The process of test and evaluation starts by testing individual parts then proceeding to subsystems and finally the entire system. After test and evaluation, these parts, subsystems and the entire system are validated, i.e. confirming that they meet the project requirements (technical, functional and operational specifications) (Luna, et al., 2013). It is important to note that the processes of testing, evaluating, validating and optimizing the system components are not established after the detailed design and development phases but during the conceptual design phase. This is where the scope of each test is determined, and required tools, equipment and personnel discussed. Doing so helps the project team to design the system and create models knowing the kind of tests they will be subjected. Even though it is not possible to establish the actual performance of a system until the final product is created, the findings obtained from the test and evaluation processes give a general impression of the expected performance of the system because these tests are performed in conditions that are customized to resemble real conditions.    

There are a number of tests that have to be performed on an LRT. Some of these include: structural tests (involves testing material characteristics and properties of various components), performance tests (entails testing individual parts of the system), reliability tests (involves testing the consistency of the system), environmental tests (involves testing the system when subjected to different environmental factors), maintainability tests (performed to determine maintenance needs of the system), support equipment tests (performed to ensure that all equipment are compatible), personnel test (carried out to ensure appropriate relationship between the system and people, including operators and users), software tests (carried out to ensure that the software performs the expected function efficiently), compatibility tests (performed to ensure that all subsystems have been integrated properly to form one complete system), noise and vibration tests and safety tests, among others (Cleghorn, 2009).

Detailed Design Phase for LRT Network Implementation

System test, evaluation and validation processes have to be planned appropriately and in advance. After identifying relevant tests to be performed on a system, the required equipment, software, data collection methods, data analysis techniques, facilities, test-site and personnel should also be identified. The team should also plan for retesting if the components fail to meet minimum requirements on first testing. Components that fail to meet the necessary requirements get invalidated and therefore they have to be re-evaluated, corrected and changed or improved before the final product is created.

Optimization is another very important process when design an LRT. This being a capital-intensive project, the government, key stakeholders and the general public expects to get maximum value for each dollar spent. As a result of this, the project team has to aim at optimizing every product created and process executed during the project. Generally, optimization is the process of seeking the best solution for each design problem. This is done using a variety of approaches such as differential calculus, function slope, partial differential, etc. In other words, the project team uses mathematical calculations to predict different aspects of the proposed LRT. This includes comparisons between costs and benefits of the project over a certain period of time. The ultimate goal of optimization is to analyze and compare different design alternatives so as to choose the best alternative that will meet all the project requirements at the lowest cost.   

Efficient operation of an LRT largely depends on human factors or elements put into consideration during the design process. This basically entails improving the interfaces between the light rail vehicles and the operators and users. For this reason, the design team has to consider all relevant human factors so that all the expected benefits of the LRT network can be realized by the residents of city of Manchester. The system should be designed to enhance usability and prevent abuse or misuse. There are three main categories of human factors as discussed below

These are factors related to human body’s physical dimensions. It is important for the designers to ensure that drivers and the crew have adequate space to execute their tasks, jobs and duties effectively (Naweed & Moody, 2015). The type and sizes of seats and other areas where they perform their functions should be adequate to prevent hindrances. Designers can create simulations of operating conditions so as to collect relevant experiment data or use data from past projects to know the right dimensions of various components.

Testing, Evaluation, Validation and Optimization of LRT Network

Sensory factors include sight/vision, hearing, touch/feeling, smell, etc. Operators of the light trains and/or vehicles should have sufficient horizontal and vertical fields so as to perform their jobs effectively and prevent accidents. The communication systems should be audible enough and the operators should not be affected by unnecessary noise. Workstations of the LRT should also provide a good sense of touch to the operators.

These are environmental factors that affect operators of the light rail trains when on duty. They include extreme temperatures, humidity, noise, vibration, toxic substances, gas and radiation. All these can be avoided by ensuring proper design (layouts and materials). The system should be designed to ensure that operators of the light rail are not subjected to stresses, strain, trauma, fatigue, etc. that can reduce their operational efficiency (Mitra, et al., 2010).    

Besides considering human factors and ergonomics affecting personnel, the designers should also put in mind the needs of passengers. These include comfort, safety, health, reliability and affordability. Therefore it is important for the design team to consider the unique requirements of drivers, crew and passengers during operation phase of the LRT when designing the system.

Conclusion and recommendations

Many cities in different parts of the world have been able to ease traffic congestion, reduce carbon emissions and boost social and economic development through use of LRT networks. This is because LRT is a high-tech, efficient, reliable and flexible transportation mode with numerous benefits over others modes of transport. Therefore the city of Manchester stands to benefit a lot from an LRT project. Nevertheless, LRT can only attain its potential environmental, social and economic benefits if it is designed appropriately. All activities undertaken during preliminary design stage, detailed design and development stages, and system test, evaluation, validation and optimization stages are very critical and should be treated as such. These are stages where the LRT solution selected in conceptual design phase is demonstrated to be the best for the transportation problem in the city and relevant subsystems designed, tested, evaluated, validated, optimized and integrated to create one system. For this to be attained, it is very important for the client to develop precise project requirements and have necessary resources before bringing in other stakeholders to start designing the system. All tasks in the preliminary design stage, detailed design and development stages, and system test, evaluation, validation and optimization stages must also be performed by qualified personnel. Besides ensuring that the designs created meet all technical, functional and performance requirements of the project, designers should also consider human factors when developing the LRT network. These include anthropometric, human sensory and physiological factors. Additionally, all decisions should be made by considering their environmental, economic and social impacts. The stakeholders should also work on the project as a team through appropriate coordination, collaboration and consultation. Most importantly is to review every process completed before proceeding to the next stage.


Blanchard, b. & Fabrycky, W., 2010. Systems engineering and analysis. 5th ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Cervero, R. & Sullivan, C., 2011. Green TODs: Marrying transit-oriented development and green urbanism. International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology, 18(3), pp. 210-218.

Cleghorn, D., 2009. Improving pedestrian and motorist safety along light rail alignments, Washington, D.C.: Transportation Research Board.

Goral, J., 2007. Risk management in the conceptual design phase of building projects. Goteborg, Sweden : Chalmers University of Technology.

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Higgins, C., Ferguson, M. & Kanaroglou, P., 2014. Light railway and land use change: railway transit's role in reshaping and revitalizing cities. Journal of Public Transportation, 17(2), pp. 93-112.

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MacDonald, J. et al., 2010. The effect of light rail transit on body mass index and physical activity. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 39(2), pp. 105-112.

Mitra, B., Al Jubair, J., Cameron, P. & Gabbe, B., 2010. Tram-related trauma in Melbourne, Victoria. Emergency Medicine Australia, 22(4), pp. 337-342.

Naweed, A. & Moody, H., 2015. A streetcar undesired: investigating ergonomics and human factors issues in the driver-cab interface of Australian trams. Urban Railway Transit, 1(3), pp. 149-158.

Seo, K., Golub, A. & Kuby, M., 2014. Combined impacts of highways and light rail transit on residential property values: a spatial hedonic price model for Phoenix, Arizona. Journal of Transport Geography, Volume 41, pp. 53-62.

Shang, B. & Zhang, X., 2013. Study of emission reduction: benefits of urbanrail transit. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, Volume 96, pp. 557-564.

Topalovic, P., Carter, J., Topalovic, M. & Krantzberg, G., 2012. Light rail transit in Hamilton: health, environmental and economic impact analysis. Social Indicators Research, 108(2), pp. 329-350.

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