I am trying to merge a multilinestring object to create a single linestring object and it looks like the st_line_merge function is appropriate for this purpose. However, it only seems to work when the line segments are "in order".

Consider this first code block that makes a LINESTRING:

mls1 = st_multilinestring(list(rbind(c(0,0), c(0.5, 0.7), c(1,1)), 
                              rbind(c(2,0), c(1,1)), 

Compare with this block that does not create a LINESTRING:

mls2 = st_multilinestring(list(rbind(c(0,0), c(0.5, 0.7), c(1,1)), 
                              rbind(c(2,0), c(1,1)), 

How can I make mls2 into a LINESTRING not a MULTILINESTRING?

  • 1
    a LINESTRING is an ordered set of coordinate pairs describing a single linear chain. Your second example mls2 is three linear chains, which you can't make into a single LINESTRING - did you try plotting it? R actually merges two of your linear chains to make a MULTILINESTRING with 2 elements, which is the best it can do. What did you expect?
    – Spacedman
    Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 8:27
  • Ah, I thought the second example was doing nothing because the postgis docs say If can't be merged - original MULTILINESTRING is returned (postgis.org/docs/ST_LineMerge.html).
    – jsta
    Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 14:04

1 Answer 1


I was ultimately after something like this where the original geometry is cut down from 4 lines to 3:

lines <- st_sfc(list(st_linestring(rbind(c(0,0), c(0.5, 0.7))), 
                    st_linestring(rbind(c(0.5, 0.7), c(1, 1))), 
                    st_linestring(rbind(c(2,0), c(1,1))), 
                    st_linestring(rbind(c(1,1), c(1, 3)))))

lines_merged <- st_cast(st_line_merge(
    st_union(st_cast(lines, "MULTILINESTRING"))), "LINESTRING")


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