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January 12, 2023

From Cairo to São Paulo: Monorail networks make the case for overland city rail

As cities around the world continue to expand and develop, monorails are becoming increasingly popular as a cost-effective, efficient and eco-friendly means of transportation

By City Monitor Staff

Sometimes known as light railways, monorails offer solutions for cities with frequent traffic congestion. As a result, many cities have started implementing networks over the past few decades to better serve their residents and visitors alike. In fact, Egypt is currently planning its own to service its new administrative capital and is boasting that it will be the ‘world’s longest’.

The Chongqing monorail passes through a high-rise residential building in China. (Photo by Jarrod Chen/Shutterstock)

Though many may know this mode of transport through its doomed appearance in an episode of The Simpsons, they actually have as much potential as underground metros and national rail services when done well. So after decades of construction, which cities have the longest monorail networks? And are there any in development that could challenge the top builds?

Cities with the longest monorail networks

As of 2023, the top three cities boasting the longest monorail networks are all in China: Chongqing, Wuhu and Shanghai. But other countries also have a noteworthy infrastructure. 

Chongqing, China

Chongqing, China, has the longest network in the world with a total length of 65km. It is part of a longer overall travel network so there is some argument over the total monorails’ network length inclusion. 

Established in 2005, The Chongqing Monorail serves the greater Chongqing area, connecting the city through popular destinations and even notably runs through an apartment building at Liziba station. (They were built at the same time despite rumours that the monorail blasted through a pre-existing residential block.)

Osaka, Japan

Osaka, Japan, also has a long monorail network with a total length of 28km. The Osaka Monorail is a private railway line, thus not state-owned, and connects the city to Itami International Airport in the region of Kansai. The monorail is a popular transportation option for locals and tourists alike and, although something of a stereotype, is known for its punctuality and reliability, since its inception in 1990.  

Daegu, South Korea

Daegu, South Korea, is home to the country’s longest monorail network with a total length of 23.9km. The network serves the city’s rapidly growing population, which has now surpassed two million. And the expansion continues with works scheduled through 2024

São Paulo, Brazil 

São Paulo Metro Line 4, or the Yellow Line, opened in 2010 to become South America’s first fully automated metro line. Metro Line 15 is currently under development and aims to be the longest and busiest monorail line in the Americas, and allow the network to compete worldwide at a total length of 17.4km.

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These cities have some of the longest monorail networks in the world, and with development still continuing into 2023, they prove monorails are an effective solution for cities looking to reduce traffic congestion and create a more efficient transportation system, even if they have to cut through the occasional high-rise building.

[Read more: Where does London’s Elizabeth line actually go?]

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