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I discovered some problems for tagging railways... I try to analyse the definitions and the worldwide use of tram/subway/light_rail the next days...

translations of tags

en: Full sized passenger or freight trains in the standard gauge for the country or state original, desribed in Wikipedia in en:Rail_transport
de: Eisenbahn shortened description, ok, en:Rail_transport linked with de:Eisenbahn
fr: Voie ferrovière pour trains passagers ou fret ok, en:Rail_transport linked with fr: Chemin de fer, chemin de fer ~ voie ferroviere
nl: Spoorweg shortened description, ok, en:Rail_transport linked with nl:Spoorweg
it: Ferrovia. Linea per il trasporto persone o merci. ok, en:Rail_transport linked with it:Ferrovia
es: Ferrocarriles de mercancías y pasajeros del ancho de vía normal en el país (en España, el ancho ibérico de RENFE) ok, en:Rail_transport linked with es:Ferrocarril
cz: Železniční trať s normálně rozchodnými kolejemi. seems ok, en:Rail_transport linked with cs:Železnice
fi: Suomen rautatieverkon kiskot seems ok, en:Rail_transport linked with fi:Rautatieliikenne
ru: Ж/д пути. en:Rail_transport linked with ru:Железнодорожный транспорт ok??
en: One or two carriage rail vehicles, usually sharing motor road described in en:Tram:

"A tram, tramcar, trolley, trolley car, or streetcar is a railborne vehicle, lighter than a train ... within, close to, or between villages, towns and/or cities, primarily on streets. ... Many newer light rail systems share features with trams, although a distinction is usually drawn between the two, especially if the line has significant off-street running.": So Wikipedia similar to OSM: tram = on street, light rail off street

de: Straßenbahn ok, en:Tram is linked to de:Straßenbahn.

"Sie fuhr ursprünglich als innerstädtisches Verkehrsmittel auf in der Straße verlegten Gleisen (= formerly on street), wurde aber in verschiedener Weise weiterentwickelt (further development). Die Verlegung von Strecken auf eigene Bahnkörper (= off street) oder in Tunnel (= underground) erhöhte die Reisegeschwindigkeit (=faster), derart modifizierte Straßenbahnen werden häufig auch als Stadtbahnen bezeichnet (modified trams called "Stadtbahn"), besonders wenn Tunnelstrecken einbezogen sind (U-Straßenbahn) (=partially underground), die Unterscheidung ist jedoch fließend. Überlandstraßenbahnen und daraus entstandene (teilweise auch Eisenbahnstrecken benutzende (= tram-train) ) Regionalstadtbahnen verkehren außerhalb geschlossener Ortschaften,..."

fr: Ligne de tramway. Généralement, la chaussée est partagée avec les voitures. ok, en:Tram is linked to fr:Tramway
nl: Tram-baan ok, en:Tram is linked to nl:Tram
it: Tram ok, en:Tram is linked to it:Tram
es: Tranvías. ok, en:Tram is linked to es:Tranvia
cz: Tramvajová trať, používaná ve městech ok, en:Tram is linked to cs:Tramvaj
hu: Villamos ok, en:Tram is linked to hu:Villamos
sk: Električková trať, môže byť aj súčasťou motorovej cesty ok, en:Tram is linked to sk:Elektri?ka
fi: Raitiovaunukiskot ok, en:Tram is linked to fi:Raitiovaunu
ru: Трамвайные пути ok, en:Tram is linked to ru:Tramban
en: A passenger rail service running mostly underground. "Underground" is a disambiguation: "Underground rapid transit system, urban railway",

en:Rapid transit is linked there, and Metro is a redirect to "Rapid transit"! --> "A rapid transit, underground, subway, elevated or metro(politan) system is a railway — usually in an urban area—with a high capacity and frequency of service and grade separation from other traffic. In most of the world, these systems are known as a 'Metro.'" and "Rapid transit is a rail-based transportation system used within urban areas to transport people. To be considered a rapid transit system, it must meet certain criteria: an urban, electric mass transit railway system; completely independent from other traffic; with high service frequency" At definition section Passenger rail terminology is linked, see below. So it's a little bit confusing that "Metro" is appearing again at "light rail" because subway and metro are similar in use...

de: U-Bahn en:Rapid Transit is linked to de:U-Bahn
fr: Métro en:Rapid Transit is linked to fr:Metro
nl: Metro en:Rapid Transit is linked to nl:Metro
it: ? en:Rapid Transit is linked to Metropolitana
es: Ferrocarril suburbano subterráneo, "metro". en:Rapid Transit is linked to es:Metro
cz: Metro, trať je většinou vedená pod zemí. en:Rapid Transit is linked to cs:Metro
hu: Földalatti/Metró. en:Rapid Transit is linked to hu:Metro
sk: Metro
fi: Metroverkko en:Rapid Transit is linked to fi:Metro
ru: Линия метро. en:Rapid Transit is linked to ru:Metro...
en: Short/light passenger trains. Metro systems. Metro see above ... en:Light rail defines: "Light rail or light rail transit (LRT) is a form of urban rail public transportation that generally has a lower capacity and lower speed than heavy rail and metro systems. The term is used to refer to modern streetcar/tram systems with rapid transit-style features that usually use electric rail cars operating mostly in private rights-of-way separated from other traffic but sometimes, if necessary, mixed with other traffic in city streets.

Light rail, unlike rapid transit, is not fully grade-separated from other forms of traffic and thus is a step below a true rapid transit system. The term light rail was devised in 1972 ... to describe new streetcar transformations which were taking place in Europe and the United States. In Germany the term stadtbahn was used to describe the concept..."

Summary: light rail is a modern variation of a tram with more off-road parts as a tram. Using nearly only off-road or underground it might be a subway...

de: up to 208-08-08 translated with "S-Bahn", since 2008-08-08 translated with "Stadtbahn und straßenbahnähnliche Untergrund und Überlandbahnen" suitable with english version... en:light Rail is linked with de_Stadtbahn and de:S-Bahn is linked with en:S-Bahn. English original "light rail" is a system derived from tram and german "S-Bahn" is derived from "heavy rail", so english and german definition were different!!! en:S-Bahn says: "S-Bahn lines are different from U-Bahn lines in that they have developed from conventional railways."
fr: Petits/légers trains passagers (régionaux ?, RER ?) The first part of translation follows english original, but the second part of translation (RER) follows german translation, that is nearly the french name for S-Bahn-like systems...
nl: Light-rail follows english original, nl:Lightrail
it: Metropolitana di superficie en:Light rail is linked to it:Metropolitana leggera.

it:S-Bahn translates S-Bahn as "ferrovia veloce urbana". And superficie?? Metropolitana seems to follow english original...

es: Metro ligero. También, partes del ferrocarril suburbano que discurren al aire libre. en:Light rail is linked to es:Tren ligero: "El Tren Ligero (Light Rail) es una mezcla de tranvía y tren" is: "...mixture of tram and train" examples look more like trams...
cz: Příměstská kolejová trať mimo síť normálně rozchodné železnice. Používá vozidla někde mezi tramvají, vlakem a či povrchových metrem. Příkladem může být spojení spojení Liberec - Jablonec nad Nisou giving an example that looks like a suburban tram
hu: HÉV. Könny? terhek szállítására épült, általában elektromos vasútvonal. en:light rail has no link to Magyar language... en:S-Bahn also... HEV is listed on en:S-Bahn
sk: Rýchloelektrička (?)
ru: Легкий пассажирский ж/д транспорт. en:Light rail is linked to ru:Легкорельсовый транспорт

other definitions in Wikipedia

At definition section Passenger rail terminology is linked, see below. There you can read:

  • Rapid transit
    • "Subway used in a transit sense refers to either a rapid transit system or (rarely) a light rail/streetcar system that goes underground. The term may refer only to the underground parts of the system, or to the full system.
    • The usage of underground is very similar to that of subway, describing an underground train system. Similarly, Metro usually refers to rapid transit.
    • U-Bahn and S-Bahn (german)
  • At-grade urban rail transit
    • Tram, streetcar, trolley
    • Light rail Light rail is a term coined in the 1970s during the re-emergence of streetcars/trams. In general, it refers to streetcar/tram systems with rapid transit-style features. It is named to distinguish it from heavy rail, which refers to rapid transit systems as well as heavier regional rail/intercity rail. The most difficult distinction to draw is that between light rail and streetcar/tram systems. There is a significant amount of overlap between the technologies ... (... traditional versus modern ...) At the highest degree of separation, it can be difficult or impossible to draw the line between light rail and rapid transit.
    • Interurban ... refers to a higher-speed rural streetcar line.
  • Heavy Rail sometimes refers to rapid transit, but sometimes refers to regional rail (also known as "commuter rail") and intercity rail.
    • Defined there: "Heavy rail typically refers to the standard inter-city rail network, which is built to be robust enough for heavy and high-speed trains, including freight trains, and long distance and high speed passenger trains. For these reasons, curves and slopes are gentle. Heavy rail is almost always built on its own dedicated right-of-way and is separate from road traffic.
      This distinguishes it from light rail which is built to lightweight construction including a steeper ruling gradient, suitable to lightweight trains or trams, and usually, but not always, intended for passenger traffic only, usually in urban and suburban areas.
      In the United States, the term is used as the general term for subway systems (underground systems and systems that are not running below the ground but are similar to underground systems in other respects); when the term is used in this way, it should be distinguished from commuter rail and inter-city rail services, which cover longer distances and may share tracks with freight trains. This usage is seldom found outside North America; in the United Kingdom, the term is instead used to differentiate the standard railway network, particularly the urban and suburban services offered by various National Rail companies, from local rail transit systems such as the London Underground and its counterparts."
  • Regional rail and Commuter rail
    • Defined there: "In North America, the term "Regional Rail" is synonymous with commuter rail

Regional rail usually provides rail services between towns and cities, rather than purely linking major population hubs in the way inter-city rail does"

    • Defined at commuter rail: "Commuter rail ... usually provides rail service between central business districts and commuter towns or other locations that draw large numbers of people on a daily basis.

Commuter trains are usually optimized for maximum passenger volume... Most commuter trains are built to heavy rail standards sharing track or right-of-way with intercity or freight trains ..."

  • en:S-Bahn says: S-Bahn refers to suburban metro railways in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. The S-Bahn is a railway that serves metropolitan traffic as well as direct regional traffic, and is characterised by high efficiency and a synchronised timetable that allows for denser train traffic on the rail lines.

The term "RER" (Réseau express régional), used in France and western Switzerland, and the "S-tog" in Copenhagen are very similar to the S-Bahn. In the United Kingdom, Merseyrail (Liverpool) and the SPT Rail Network (Glasgow) are roughly equivalent to S-Bahns By contrast, U-Bahn trains are underground and serve urban city centers.

It seems up to now that we have:

description Map_Features De:Map_Features
traditional tram (Straßenbahn) on street tram tram
"modern tram" off street developed from traditional tram

or "partial subway" developed from traditional tram (Stadtbahn)

light_rail light_rail since 2008-08-08
subway/underground (U-Bahn), covers city area like trams, build like trams (slopes, curves, ...) subway subway
underground, slopes and curves like heavy rail, Medium capacity system, ... ? ?
tram-train systems, changing from tram networks to heavy rail networks ? ?
rapid transit, suburban railways, ... developed from heavy rails (S-Bahn) -- light_rail up to 2008-08-08
"commuter trains", ... developed from heavy rails (S-Bahn) ? ?
other regional railway, intercity, freight, ...: heavy rail rail rail