Dual gauge

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A dual-gauge or mixed-gauge railway has railway track that allows trains of different gauges to use the same track. Generally, a dual-gauge railway consists of three rails, rather than the standard two rails. The two outer rails give the wider gauge, while one of the outer rails and the inner rail give a narrower gauge - one of the three rails is common to all traffic. This configuration is not to be confused with the electric third rail.


In railways, the most important specification is that of gauge, the distance between the inner surfaces of the heads of the travel rails (see diagram above). Both track and wheels bogies must be built to the same gauge; unless the two fit together within a tolerance of on the track, the train will either fall off the track or it will be impossible to go through switches or cross overs. For instance, the Hong Kong MTR -gauge EMU's may run on KCR -gauge rails, with a locomotive or a KCR EMU pulling due to different electrify voltages. A problem arises when different gauges meet one another, a situation known as a break of gauge. Either the track or the train must be built to handle different gauges, or passengers and freight must be taken off one train and loaded on to the next.

In allowing railway tracks of different gauges to share the same alignment, costs can be reduced, especially where there are bridges and tunnels. Dual gauge can replace two separate tracks, having two rails each, with one track with three rails. This...
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