I need to split a multilinestring layer by the vertices:

enter image description here

I've been trying to do this and nothing seems to work. I'm sure this is something really simple to do.

Using this example:

# Load required libraries

# Create sample data
line1 <- st_linestring(matrix(c(1,1,2,2,3,3), ncol=2))
line2 <- st_linestring(matrix(c(4,4,5,5,6,6), ncol=2))
multiline <- st_multilinestring(list(line1, line2))

# Combine into a data frame
data <- data.frame(id = 1:2)
row.names(data) <- c("line1", "line2")
data$geometry <- st_sfc(multiline)

# Convert to sf object
multiline_sf <- st_sf(data, crs = st_crs(4326))

# Plot using ggplot2
ggplot() +
  geom_sf(data = multiline_sf, color = "blue", size = 2) +

# Vertices 
Vertices <- multiline_sf %>%

Vertices <- Vertices %>%

ggplot() +
  geom_sf(data = multiline_sf, color = "red") +
  geom_sf(data = Vertices, color = "blue")

I have tried st_intersection, st_difference, st_erase (st_erase = function(x, y) st_difference(x, st_union(st_combine(y))))

Nothing seems to work.

For example, if I do something like:

# Buffer

buffers <- st_buffer(Vertices, dist = 0.1)

diff <- st_difference(multiline_sf, buffers)

The expected output should be a layer with 4 lines, but the output is a layer with 24 lines.

  • Splitting is one thing, but you've also constructed an object (multiline_sf) with two copies of the same geometry - did you want that made unique as well?
    – Spacedman
    Mar 21 at 16:19

1 Answer 1


I believe you can achieve such a split by utilizing lwgeom::st_split() on the multiline and vertices object.

In raw form it creates duplicates, to get rid of them I remove the original id and add a unique() call. This may be and may not be necessary in your original use case, but gets the job done in the toy example you provided.


result <- lwgeom::st_split(multiline_sf, Vertices) %>% 
  st_collection_extract("LINESTRING") %>% 
  # eliminate duplicites / lines vs line id's
  select(-id) %>%
  unique() %>% 
  # a technical id for nicer plot
  mutate(id = 1:n())

ggplot(result) +
  geom_sf(aes(color = as.factor(id)), linewidth = 2) +
  scale_color_brewer("object id", palette = "Set1")

a split multilines plot, viola!

  • 1
    You are the man! work lovely in the example, I'll give it a try with the real data. THANKS!
    – Papu
    Mar 21 at 14:49

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