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Suburban commuter railroad or commuter railway a passenger rail transport service between a city center, and outer suburbs and commuter towns or other locations that draw large numbers of commuters—people who travel on a daily basis. Trains operate following a schedule, at speeds varying from 50 to 200 km/h (30 to 125 mph). Distance charges or zone pricing may be used.

Common non-English names are Cercanías in Spanish, S-Bahn in German, and Elektrichka in Russian. The development of commuter rail services has become popular today, with the increased public awareness of congestion, dependence on fossil fuels, and other environmental issues, as well as the rising costs of owning, operating and parking automobiles.


Most commuter trains are built to main line rail standards, differing from light rail or rapid transit systems by:
  • being larger
  • providing more seating and less standing room, for the longer distances involved
  • having (in most cases) a lower frequency of service
  • having scheduled services (i.e. trains run at specific times rather than at specific intervals)
  • serving lower-density areas, typically by connecting suburbs to the city center
  • sharing track or right-of-way with intercity or freight trains

Train schedule

Compared to rapid transit, commuter rail has lower frequency, following a schedule rather than fixed intervals, and fewer stations spaced further apart.They serve lower density areas, and often share right-of-way with intercity or freight trains. Some services operate only during peak hours.Average speeds are high, often 50 km/h (30 mph) or higher.Some services include express services which skip some stations in order to run faster and separate riders from longer distance from short-distance ones.

The general range of commuter trains' distance varies between 15 and 200 km (10 and 125 miles).


Their ability to coexist with freight or intercity services in the same right-of-way can drastically reduce system construction costs. However, frequently they are built with dedicated tracks within that right-of-way to prevent delays.

Most such trains run on the local standard gauge track. Some light rail systems may run on a narrower gauge. Examples of narrow gauge systems are found in Japanmarker, Switzerlandmarker , in the Brisbanemarker (Citytrain) and Perthmarker (Transperth) systems in Australia, and on the Genoa-Casella line in Italymarker.Countries like Indiamarker, Pakistanmarker, and Sri Lankamarker use the Broad Gauge.

Distinction between other modes of rail


In some cases, hybrids between a train and a metro have been created. They run underground in the dense city centres and on surface or elevated tracks in lower-density areas. Examples include the Madridmarker Cercanías network, the Dublin Area Rapid Transit, the Liverpoolmarker Merseyrail network, the Parismarker RERmarker, lines 6-8 of the Barcelona Metro, the S-Bahn systems of Berlin, Munich, Viennamarker and Zürichmarker, the Naplesmarker narrow gauge Circumvesuviana, the suburban railway (HÉV) in Budapestmarker, Valparaíso Metro, San Francisco's BART, and the rail systems of Tokyomarker, Seoulmarker (Seoul Metropolitan Subway), Sydneymarker (CityRail), Melbournemarker and Brisbanemarker (CityTrain.

Regional 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. Regional rail operates outside major cities. Unlike Inter-city, it stops at most or all stations. It provides a service between smaller communities along the line, and also connections with long-distance services. Alternative names are "local train" or "stopping train".Examples include the former BR's Regional Railways, France's TER (Transport express régional) and Germany's DB Regio services.Regional rail does not exist in this sense in the USAmarker, so the term "Regional Rail" has become synonymous with commuter rail.

Inter-city rail

In some European countries the distinction between commuter trains and long-distance/intercity trains is very hard to make, because of the relatively short distances involved. For example, so called "intercity" trains in Belgiummarker and the Netherlandsmarker carry many commuters and their equipment, range and speeds are similar to those of commuter trains in some larger countries.

Russian commuter trains, on the other hand, frequently cover areas larger than Belgium itself, although these are still short distances by Russian standards. They have a different ticketing system from long-distance trains, and in major cities they often operate from a separate section of the train station.

High-speed rail

Sometimes High-speed rail can serve daily use of commuters. Japanese High-speed rail Shinkansen is heavily used by commuters in Greater Tokyo Areamarker. They commute for 100 or 200 km distance by Shinkansen. To meet the demand of commuters, commuter discount pass is sold by JR and bilevel car E4 Series Shinkansen of sixteen car, 1,600 seats capacity has been introduced in morning and evening rush hour.

Train types

Commuter trains are usually optimized for maximum passenger volume, in most cases without sacrificing too much comfort and luggage space, though they seldom have all the amenities of long-distance trains. Cars may be single- or double-level, and aim to provide seating for all. Compared to intercity trains, they have less space, fewer amenities and limited baggage areas.

Multiple unit type

Commuter rail trains are usually composed of multiple units, which are self-propelled, bidirectional, articulated passenger rail cars with driving motors on each (or every other) bogie. Depending on local circumstances and tradition they may be powered either by diesel engines located below the passenger compartment (diesel multiple units) or by electricity picked up from third rails or overhead lines (electric multiple units). Multiple units are almost invariably equipped with control cabs at both ends, which is why such units are so frequently used to provide commuter services, due to the associated short turn-around time.

Locomotive hauled services

Locomotive hauled services are used in some countries or locations. This is often a case of asset sweating, by using a single large combined fleet for intercity and regional services. Loco hauled services are usually run in push-pull formation, that is, the train can run with the locomotive at the "front" or "rear" of the train (pushing or pulling). Trains are often equipped with a "driving van trailer" (DVT), a control cab at the other end of the train from the locomotive, allowing the train driver to operate the train from either end. The motive power for locomotive-hauled commuter trains may be either electric or Diesel-electric, although some countries, such as Germany and some of the former Soviet-bloc countries, also use diesel-hydraulic locomotives.

Seat plans

In the U.S. and some other countries, a three-and-two seat plan is used. However, few people sit in the middle seat on these trains because they feel crowded and uncomfortable. [629] It is said one industrial designer for one of New York City's commuter railroads, Metro-North, told people: "I designed the aisle seat with a half-back and no upholstery, so it will be very uncomfortable to sit there. They'll move in and take the center seat!" [630] (This seating design can also be found on older New Jersey Transit and Long Island Rail Road rolling stock.)

In Japan, longitudinal (sideways window-lining) seat is widely used in commuter rail to increase capacity in rush hours. Carriages are not organized to increase seating capacity even in the case of commuting longer than 50 km and commuters in Greater Tokyo Areamarker have to stand in the train for more than an hour.

Commuter rail in the world


Currently there are not many examples of commuter rail in Africa. Metrorail is operated in South Africa, and there are some commuter rail services in Moroccomarker and Tunisiamarker.


Commuter trains are currently uncommon in Chinamarker, although a small system has been inaugurated in Beijing in 2008.Another system, which is going to serve a chain of stations between Guangzhou and Zhuhai is under construction.

In Hong Kongmarker, the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) system contains several railway lines that connect various areas in the New Territories to the core urban areas. These lines are the , the , and the . They can be considered as commuter rails.

In Japanmarker, commuter rails have extensive network and frequent service, and are heavily used. It is notable that many of them are run by Private railway companies.

In Iranmarker, SYSTRA has done "Tehran long term urban rail study". SYSTRA proposed 4 express lines which are similar to RERmarker lines in Parismarker.Tehran Metro is going to construct express lines. For instance, the Rahyab Behineh (consultant of Tehran Metro) is studying Tehran Express Line 2. Tehran Metro currently has a commuter line between Tehranmarker and Karajmarker.

In Indiamarker, there are commuter rail in some cities. For example, Mumbai Suburban Railway ‎is the rail of the longest history in Asia and said to be most congested railway in the world. It was also noted in the movie Slumdog Millionaire. The Chennai Suburban Railwaymarker is another railway of comparison. In Hyderabadmarker, the MMTS has done a good job in transporting people from the city centre to HI-TEC citymarker, the Information Technology hub.

Other examples in Asia include Seoul Metropolitan Subway which has suburban lines operated by Korail in South Koreamarker, KTM Komuter in Malaysiamarker, and KRL Jabotabek in Jakartamarker Metropolitan area, Indonesiamarker.


Major metropolitan areas in most European countries are usually served by extensive commuter rail systems. Well-known examples include S-Bahn in Germanymarker, Switzerlandmarker and Austriamarker, RERmarker in Francemarker, Cercanías in Spainmarker.

In Russiamarker, Ukrainemarker and some other countries of the former Soviet Unionmarker, electrical multiple unit passenger suburban train called Elektrichka is widespread.

North America

In the United Statesmarker and Canadamarker, regional passenger rail service is performed by commuter railroads, which are usually governmental or quasi-governmental agencies.

South America

Currently in Buenos Airesmarker, Argentinamarker, an extensive 558 Mile (899 km) commuter system covers the Buenos Aires metropolitan area. There are also systems in Rio de Janeiromarker, Brazilmarker, the Supervia in Rio de Janeiromarker, the State Secretariat for Metropolitan Transports and the Metrotrén in Santiago, Chilemarker, among many others.


Major cities in Australia have commuter rail services in their metropolitan area. The main systems include:

New Zealandmarker has two commuter rail systems: in Auckland and in Wellington (Tranz Metro).

See also

*Rail accidents pre-1950
*Rail accidents 1950–1999
*Rail accidents 2000–present

External links

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