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Inter-city rail services are express train passenger services which cover longer distances than commuter or regional trains.

There is no clear definition of Inter-city rail. Most broadly, it includes all rail service except short distance commuter rail within one city area and slow regional rail stopping all stations and covering local journeys only. It is often categorized as an express or inter-city train with limited stops and comfortable carriages to serve long distance travel.

Sometimes it provides international service and it is most active in the European region. Eurostar or EuroCity is such an example.


Its speed is quite diverse from 50 km/h or so in mountainous area or undeveloped rail track line to 200–350 km/h in newly constructed or improved truck and in the category of High speed rail. Ideally, average speed of inter-city rail service would be faster than 100 km/h in order to be competitive with automobile, highway bus or other transports.

Train schedule

Train schedule is also diverse from one service per week to every 10 minutes frequency. It is convenient and comprehensible for passengers to have hourly or bi-hourly service. In order to have active passenger flow of inter-city rail and attract business person in particular, one train every one to two hours or more frequent service world be desirable.

Distance of Inter-city rail
  • 50–100 km
Distance of Inter-city rail journey is about 50 or 100 km at least by its definition.

  • 100–500 km
It is common journey of Inter-city rail in many countries. In many cases, railway travel is most competitive in about two or three hours’ journey. However, in some countries, namely in North and South American region, most Inter-city rail has been abolished by the development automobile or highway bus in this medium-distance journey. There are some proposed projects for rail transport to recover by introducing High-speed rail.

  • 500-1,000 km
Inter-city rail works but is often taken over by faster air line in this case. But development of High speed rail in some countries would increase the share of railway in this longer distance journey. Paris- Marseille TGV (750 km. 3 hours) and Tokyo- Aomori Shinkansen (700 km. 4 hours) is the example. In conventional non-high speed rail, overnight train is common in this distance.

  • 1,000 km or more
In some countries with dense rail network, large territory and less air and automobiles transport, such as China, India and Russia, overnight long distance train service is provided and commonly used practically (See also Sleeping Car).

But in many other countries, such long distance rail journey has been replaced by air travel except tourist or hobby purpose, leisuire luxurious train, or having good cost benefit. Discount Eurail Pass travellers in Europe, Amtrak in United States and Indian Pacific in Australia might be the example.

Faster High-speed rail of 350 km/h, Proposed Beijing-Shanghai Express Railway in China (1,300 km, 5 hours) and Tokyo- Sapporo Hokkaido Shinkansen in Japan (1,000 km, 4 hours), may play significant role in this longer distance in the future.

Overview of Inter-city rail by country

Inter city train of Morocco in Rabat station


Railways in Africa is still developing or not practically used for passenger purposes in many countries but following countries have inter-city services between major cities:



The inter-city trains run by China Railways link almost every town and city in Chinamarker, including Beijing, Shanghai and Xi'anmarker, as well as onwards into Hong Kongmarker. New high speed lines from 200 km/h to 350 km/h high speed operation are constructed, and many conventional lines are also upgraded to 200 km/h operation.

Hong Kong

Inter-city train services crossing the Hong Kongmarker-Chinamarker border (often known as through trains) are jointly operated by Hong Kong's MTR Corporation and the Ministry of Railways of the People's Republic of China. Currently, Hung Hom Station (also known as Kowloon Station in Hong Kong, and Jiulong Station in China) is the only station in Hong Kong where passenger can catch these border-crossing trains. Passengers have to go through immigration and custom inspections before boarding a border-crossing train. There are currently three border-crossing train services: A new border-crossing service, namely the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, has been proposed. A new train station, West Kowloon Terminus, will be built in Hong Kong to be served by this new railway.


Indianmarker inter-city trains are run by Indian Railways. With 63,000 km of rail routes and 6,800 stations, the railway network in India is the third biggest in the world (after Russia and China) and the biggest in the world in terms of passenger kilometres. Shatabdi Express, Rajdhani Express and Duronto Expresses are the fastest Inter-city services in India and regarded as prestigious trains. All long-distance journeys require a reservation.


Israel Railways operates inter-city services between all the 4 major metropolitan areas of Israelmarker; Tel Avivmarker, Jerusalemmarker, Be'er Shevamarker and Haifamarker. However, due to the small geography of Israel, most of the railway services have a more suburban service pattern (with many short stops at stations between the major city centers).


Japanmarker has six main regional passenger railway companies, known collectively as Japan Railways Group or simply as JR. Four JR companies operate the "bullet trains" on very fast and frequent Shinkansen lines that link all the larger cities, including Tokyomarker, Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Fukuoka and many more.

Many other cities are covered by a network of JR's "limited express" inter-city trains on narrow gauge lines. Major cities are covered by convenient train services of every one hour or more frequent. In addition to the JR Group, Japan has several major regional carriers such as the Kintetsu and Nagoya Railroads.


KTM Intercity

Keretapi Tanah Melayu (Malaysian Railways) operates express trains called KTM Intercity along Peninsular Malaysiamarker and Singaporemarker. At the Malaysiamarker-Thailandmarker border, connections to State Railway of Thailand trains are available.

South Korea

Almost every major towns and cities in South Koreamarker are linked by railway, run by Korail. Mugunghwa-ho is the most common and most popular type of intercity rail travel. In addition, Seoulmarker and Busanmarker are linked by a high-speed train line known as KTX, which was built using French TGV technology.


Taiwan Island’s coastline is connected by frequent inter-city train services by Taiwan Railway Administration. Taiwan High Speed Rail opened in 2007 covers the most populated west-coast corridor.


Trains in Vietnammarker, run by Vietnam Railways, link Hanoimarker, Huémarker, Danangmarker, Nha Trangmarker, and Ho Chi Minh Citymarker.


There is only one train service in Cambodiamarker, from Battambangmarker to Phnom Penhmarker, running once a week.

Other Asian countries

Other Asian railway networks running inter-city services:


Western and Central Europe

In Europe, many long-distance inter-urban trains are operated under the InterCity (Intercity, or often simply IC) brand. The term InterCity originated with British Rail's InterCity sector, but it went out of official use in the UK following privatisation. The UK service became very popular in Britainmarker in the 1970s thanks in part to an advertising campaign fronted by Jimmy Savile.

The principal network of international express trains in continental Europe is called EuroCity, to distinguish it from the national InterCity networks and to indicate its better support for international journeys even though some IC trains also cross borders.

High-speed railways have particularly few stops. The Germanmarker high-speed train service was named InterCityExpress indicating its evolution from older InterCity trains. Other high-speed lines include the TGV (Francemarker), AVE (Spainmarker), Treno Alta Velocità (Italymarker) and Railjet (Austriamarker-Hungarymarker).

In Great Britainmarker, the inter-city rail links are now operated by a number of private companies such as Virgin Trains, National Express, Cross Country and First Great Western. In Irelandmarker, the inter-city rail network is maintained by Iarnród Éireann and Northern Ireland Railways.


Russia has dense network of long-distance railways all over its vast territory, the longest and most famous being the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscowmarker to Vladivostokmarker. Long distance train of more than 1,000 or 2,000 km is common and they keep on running two or three days. Speed is relatively low with 60 or 70 km/h average.

North America

United States

There was a dense system of inter-city railways in the United Statesmarker in the late 1800s and early 1900s, but after the decrease of passenger railroad in North America in the 1960s, the Inter-City lines decreased greatly. Today the system is far less dense and is operated by the government-owned Amtrak company. (Intercity rail service in Alaskamarker is not provided by Amtrak but by the Alaska Railroad.) The most heavily used routes with the greatest ridership and schedule frequencies are in the Northeastern United States, on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor. About one in every three users of mass transit in the United States and two-thirds of the nation's rail riders live in New York City. The two busiest passenger rail stations in the United States are Penn Stationmarker and Grand Central Terminalmarker, both in New York City. Passenger rail outside of the Northeast, California, and Chicagomarker is infrequent and rarely used relative to networks in Europe and Japan.


Canadianmarker inter-city trains are mostly run by VIA Rail, and connect many but not all major cities. Ontario Northland Railway operates passenger server from Toronto Union Station to Northern Ontario. International trains, run jointly by Amtrak and VIA Rail, connect New Yorkmarker with Torontomarker and Montrealmarker. Amtrack operates the Amtrak Cascades service linking Vancouvermarker and Seattlemarker. The White Pass and Yukon Route links Alaska with the Yukon.

Tourist oriented inter-city service includes the Royal Canadian Pacific, Rocky Mountaineer, and Whistler Mountaineer.


The Mexicanmarker federal government discontinued almost all scheduled inter-city passenger trains in January 2000. Ferromex operates trains on two routes: Chihuahuamarker to Los Mochismarker, and Guadalajaramarker to Amatitanmarker.



In Australia, the national interstate network operated by Great Southern Railway connects all mainland Australian capital cities except Canberra and Brisbane. Intrastate inter-city trains that traverse shorter distances are operated by V/Line, CountryLink, Queensland Rail and Transwa. Many of Australia's inter-city trains are not true inter-city services, given their leisurely average speed and primary role to transport people between regional areas and the nearest capital city or for the tourist market. As a result, Australian networks refer to these services as "country" trains. Australians usually fly between capital cities, given the massive distance involved in travel in Australia and the lack of dedication to providing quality rail services by both the Commonwealth and State governments. The fastest intercity trains in regular service are the tilting trains used by Queensland Rail, which have a top speed of 160 km/h and an average of only 80 km/h.

In Australia, electrified interurban commuter railway systems are used to connect urban areas separated by long distances and use heavy rail equipment:

On these systems, services either run as limited-stop expresses in the suburban area (e.g. Blue Mountains services) or as shuttles terminating where the suburban lines end (e,g. Rosewood services).

A large scale non-electric project of four regional lines (Regional Fast Rail) is also planned for Victoriamarker. Current interurban and intercity journeys outside the suburban area are usually locomotive-hauled, due to Victoria's lack of electrification outside of Melbournemarker.

South America

A few countries of South America were once interconnected by international train services, today they are almost non-existent. Most of governments in the continent have favoured roads and automobile transportation since mid-20th century.


Argentinamarker has inter-city services on a number of routes, run by Ferrobaires, Ferrocentral, and Trenes Especiales Argentinos. Trains in Argentina are experiencing a revival, since the government intends to re-establish long-distance passenger trains between major cities. High-speed rail is in consideration for the Buenos Airesmarker - Rosariomarker stretch with links to Córdobamarker. See: Buenos Aires-Rosario-Córdoba high-speed railway


Inter-city train services in Boliviamarker are operated by two train companies: Eastern and Western. The western network runs daily trains from Oruromarker to Tupiza, with both espresso (fast) and WaraWara (slow) trains. The eastern rail hub is Santa Cruz de la Sierramarker, with connections to Puerto Suarezmarker and Villamontes, and international lines to Brazil and Argentina.


Brazilianmarker inter-city services operate on one route, from Vitóriamarker to Belo Horizontemarker and Carajás to São Luismarker.


Chilemarker has inter-city services connecting Santiagomarker to Concepciónmarker and Temucomarker, run by Empresa de los Ferrocarriles del Estado.

See also


  • Overseas Timetable: Independent Traveller's Edition Winter 2008/9; Thomas Cook Publishing
  • European Rail Timetable: Independent Traveller's Edition Winter 2008/9; Thomas Cook Publishing

External links

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