Metro trains on tires: solutions for now, and for the future

Between now and 2050, 70% of the world’s population will be concentrated in urban areas. This is where the mobility challenge of the future lies: how can we provide safe, fast and efficient daily travel for millions of people? Public transport, and particularly metro train networks, will necessarily be part of the solution and Michelin has over 60 years of experience in this field.



Michelin, from the first metro train running on tires to automatic trains

In the 1930s, the RATP (Paris Public Transport Service) was considering whether to equip its metro trains with tires in order to improve transport conditions and facilitate operation. It quite naturally turned to the autorail designed by Michelin, which had just beaten the record for the Paris-Deauville route, in January 1931: the famous Micheline. Twenty years’ later our collaboration with the RATP resulted, in 1951, with world’s first metro train running on tires, on an experimental route intended to test the innovations developed by the RATP : line 11 (Châtelet – Mairie des Lilas), which was started in 1935.


1st metro on tires (1959)

The benefits of this technical solution quickly became clear: acceleration and braking are improved, meaning that speed on lines with short distances between stations can be increased. Trains mount slopes better and can take tighter bends, which makes it easier to create routes within all kinds of urban environments due to less limitations on tracing of the route. Tires also reduce both vibration and noise, ensuring better traveler comfort and less disturbance for the neighbors! Reduced vibration also prolongs the life expectancy of equipment, both the rails and the train’s carriages.

All these qualities ensured the success the metro trains running on tires, first in France and then worldwide. The same technology is used for the shuttle trains operating in most airports and is ideal for automatic routes, which have been created in increasing numbers over these past few years.
When a public transport operator launches a line that runs on tires, it makes a commitment that will last for several decades. It therefore needs a reliable partner. Our 66 years of experience are a real asset, which explains why Michelin supplies tires for 8 out of 10 trains, worldwide.



Innovative tires for more efficient metro trains

Today operators want tires that offer a maximum of security with a longer lifespan, tires that consume less energy and services to make maintenance easier. Our latest innovations meet their expectations: INFINICOIL technology, which was initially used for HGVs, is used to reinforce the tire’s structure, making it stronger. The tire can take a greater load but is less voluminous, which makes it particularly well suited to high-capacity monorails, and for the new generations of heavy metro trains. Projects are on the increase worldwide (Santiago, Sao Paulo, Mumbai, Bangkok, Cairo, China, etc.), with Michelin playing a leading role, working in partnership with the main players in the industry (Alstom, Bombardier, Hitachi, MHI, BYD, CRRC, Siemens, etc.).



New rubber mixes and the progress made in terms of sculpture are also improving energy yield and traveler comfort. Finally, thanks to connectors in our tires, our clients can keep track of their fleet permanently, making it easier to plan for maintenance operations.