Regional rail

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For a treatment specific to North America, see Commuter rail in North America.
Image:Connex Train Melbourne.jpg
A Connex commuter train stands at a platform in Melbourne, Australia.

Regional rail or commuter rail usually provide a rail service between a central business district and suburbs or other locations that draw large numbers of people on a daily basis. The trains providing such services may be termed commuter trains. 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 and operating automobiles.

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[edit] Characteristics

Image:ER2 emu.jpg
Elektrichka departing from a station platform

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. The general range of commuter trains varies between 15 and 180 km (9 and 111 miles), with operating speeds from 55 to 175 km/h (30 to 110 mph). Passenger coaches are either single- or double-level, with a capacity of 80 - 110 passengers for single-level cars and 145 - 170 for double-level cars.

[edit] Defining aspects

In general, commuter trains are built to heavy rail standards, differing from light rail or rapid transit systems by:

  • being larger;
  • having (in most cases) a lower frequency of service;
  • having scheduled services (i.e. trains run at specific hours rather than at specific intervals);
  • serving lower-density areas, typically by connecting suburbs to the city centre;
  • sharing track or right-of-way with intercity or freight trains

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.

Generally such trains run on the local standard gauge track. Some broader gauges include 1520/1524 mm (Russia and countries of the former Russian Empire), 1600 mm (Ireland, Brazil, and parts of Australia), 1668 mm (Spain and Portugal), 1676 mm (India, Pakistan, Argentina and Chile). Light rail systems may run on a narrower gauge. Narrow gauge trains generally run on either 1067 mm (3 ft 6 in) track or on metre gauge (39.37 inches). Examples of narrow-gauge systems are found in Japan, Switzerland and India, and in the Brisbane (CityTrain) and Perth (Transperth) systems in Australia. Ireland uses standard gauge as a "narrow gauge" for its Luas tram system. Sweden has also a narrow gauge railroad called Roslagsbanan. It uses 891mm gauge, which is an old Swedish standard. The world's largest commuter railway, the Indian Railways, uses narrow gauge track for all commuter trains.

In some cases, hybrids between a train and a metro have been created. They run underground in the dense city centres and on ordinary outdoor tracks in lower-density areas. Examples include the Madrid Cercanías network, in Dublin the Dublin Area Rapid Transit, the Paris RER, lines 6-8 of the Barcelona Metro, the S-Bahn systems of Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Munich, Stuttgart, and Zürich, the suburban railway (HÉV) in Budapest, MetroValparaíso in Valparaíso (Chile) and the rail systems of Sydney (CityRail) and Melbourne. In Hong Kong, East Rail provides a metro-like service in terms of capacity of its cars (over 300 each), more standees and few seats, and high frequencies, except sharing some of its track with inter-city service.

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 Belgium and the Netherlands carry many commuters and their equipment, range and speeds are similar to those of commuter trains in some larger countries.

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

[edit] Train types

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.

Image:Metra City of Woodstock in Deerfield.jpg
A Metra push-pull locomotive commuter train approaches a platform.
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.

[edit] Seat plans

Since regional rail rides are usually within one or two hours, their designers may use every conceivable methods to cram as many passengers as possible. One frequently used seat plan is two rows of facing benches on the right and left sides of the train. This arrangement is uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous. However, it leaves much more room for people who stand in the center.

In the U.S. and other countries, a three-and-two seat plan is also used. However, most passengers prefer not to use the middle seat if all other seats are taken. Therefore, people may stand in the passageway rather than taking the middle seat. It is said one industrial designer for New York City's commuter rail, 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!"[1]

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

fr:Train de banlieue he:רכבת פרברית nl:Stoptrein ja:通勤形電車 sl:Regionalna železnica sv:Regiontåg zh:區域鐵路

Regional rail

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