Limited express

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A limited express is a type of express train service. It refers to an express service that stops at a limited number of stops in comparison to other express services on the same or similar routes.



The term "limited express" is a common translation of the Japanese compound noun tokubetsu kyūkō (特別急行); literally "special express"; often abbreviated as tokkyū (特急). Although some operators translate the word differently, this section is about tokubetsu kyūkō trains in Japan regardless of the translation by the operators. This term also includes terms with limited express in them, such as "Rapid Limited Express" (快速特急, kaisoku tokkyū).

There are two types of limited express trains: intercity and commuter. The former type of limited express trains generally use long-distance coaches, equipped better than other ordinary express trains, including reserved seating, dining cars or food and beverage carts, and "green cars" (first class cars). The latter type of limited express train usually incurs no surcharge, but seating is usually first-come, first-served, since this type of train uses commuter train coaches. Both types of trains travel faster and stop at fewer stations.

Until 1972, the Hikari on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen was officially a chōtokkyū ( 超特急 ), that is, "beyond limited express" or "super express", and was priced higher than the Kodama , the limited express on the same line. Presently all Shinkansen services are officially limited express, but are usually referred to as "super express" in English.

The table below summarizes the limited express on major Japanese railways (JR Group, Toei and 16 major private railways minus one major private railway that does not operate limited express, which is Tokyo Metro).

Limited express on major railways in Japan
RailwayTrain typeSurchargePicture
JR Group Limited ExpressTokkyū
Tsūkin Tokkyū (JR West only)
Yes N'EX ;The Narita Express.JPG
Toei Airport Limited ExpressEapōto KaitokuNo Du Ying Di Xia Tie 5300Xing Di 24Bian Cheng .jpg These services operate on the Toei Asakusa Line.
Limited ExpressKaitoku,
Kaisoku Tokkyū,
Access ExpressAkusesu Tokkyū
Commuter ExpressTsūkin Tokkyū
Tobu Railway Limited ExpressTokkyūYes Tobu100iki.jpg Limited express services with no surcharge on the Tobu Tojo Line were discontinued on 13 June 2008.
Seibu Railway Limited ExpressTokkyūYes Xi Wu 10000Xi Dian Che chichibuHao .jpg
Keisei Electric Railway Limited ExpressKaisoku Tokkyū,
No Keisei3728F.jpg Skyliner , Morningliner , Eveningliner and Cityliner limited express services are classed higher than conventional limited express trains and are charged.
Access ExpressAkusesu Tokkyū
Commuter ExpressTsūkin Tokkyū
Keio Corporation Special ExpressTokkyūNo Keio Series8000.jpg Keio Liner is classed higher than special express and is charged.
Semi Special ExpressJuntokkyū
Odakyu Electric Railway Limited ExpressTokkyūYes OER 50000 Blue Ribbon Awards.jpg Some Romancecar limited express services operate on the Tokyo Metro network (one of the two operators of the 16 major private railways that do not offer limited express services at all).
Tokyu Corporation Limited ExpressTokkyūNo Dong Ji Dian Tie 5050Xi .jpg S-Train services from Seibu Railway that are classed higher than Tokyu limited express services and are charged operate on the Tokyu Toyoko Line.
Commuter Limited Express
(also called Commuter Express)
Tsūkin Tokkyū
Keikyu Corporation Limited ExpressKaitoku,
No Hakkei bunko 001.jpg Keikyu Wing and Morning Wing services are classed higher than limited express and are charged.
Airport Limited ExpressEapōto Kaitoku
Sagami Railway Limited ExpressTokkyūNo Sagami railway 20000 series.jpg
Nagoya Railroad μSKYMyū-SukaiYes Nagoya Railway 2000.jpg Trains consist of first class cars (charged) only.
Rapid Limited ExpressKaisoku TokkyūSome trainsSome trains consist of regular cars only.
Limited ExpressTokkyū
Kintetsu Railway Limited ExpressTokkyūYes Kintetsu 21020.jpg
Nankai Electric Railway Limited ExpressTokkyūSome trains Nankai Rapit at Namba.jpg Rapi:t , Koya, Rinkan,and Senboku Liner services consist of reserved seat cars (charged) only.
Keihan Electric Railway Limited ExpressTokkyū,Kaisoku TokkyūSome trains Keihan8000 Premium car connection.jpg Starting August 2017 one first class car (called Premium car) is present on some Limited Express services
Hankyu Corporation Limited ExpressTokkyūNo HK-9300series-9300F.jpg
Commuter Limited ExpressTsūkin Tokkyū
Rapid Limited ExpressKaisoku Tokkyū
Rapid Limited Express AKaisoku Tokkyū A
Hanshin Electric Railway Limited ExpressTokkyū,
Chokutsū Tokkyū,
Kukan Tokkyū,
No Hanshin-9303F.jpg
Nishi-Nippon Railroad Limited ExpressTokkyūNo Nishitetsu 8000.jpg


In Australia, particularly in Melbourne, selective commuter trains often skip smaller stations during peak hours, primarily for the purpose of more efficient delivery of passengers to interchange stations or higher-patronage stations. In Brisbane and Sydney, limited stop services are formed by commuter trains that run as limited stops or express services from the city centre to the edge of the suburban area and then as all stops in the interurban area (an example of such an express pattern can be seen on the Gold Coast line).

New Zealand

In the era of steam-hauled provincial expresses, limited express services were common on highly trafficked routes. The Night Limited was the premier express train on the North Island Main Trunk Railway between Auckland and Wellington from 1924 until 1971; during peak seasons, it was augmented by the Daylight Limited . Following the Night Limited was a slower unnamed express that stopped at more stations and provided a lower level of comfort.

A different pattern was employed on the Main South Line. The South Island Limited express ran three days a week from Christchurch through Dunedin to Invercargill, with a slower regular express operating on the other four days. Both regular and limited expresses were augmented by additional services between intermediate destinations, such as an evening railcar between Christchurch and Dunedin operated by the 88 seater or Vulcan classes.

Limited expresses were rare beyond the main trunk routes and the regular provincial expresses were typically augmented with even slower mixed trains. However, when the Rotorua Express schedule was accelerated in 1930 and its carriages upgraded, it was rebranded as the Rotorua Limited. Due to the Great Depression and rising car ownership levels, it did not achieve the level of success intended, thus in 1937 it reverted to the status and service pattern of a regular express.

After the demise of the Night Limited and the South Island Limited in 1971, the term "limited express" fell into disuse in New Zealand and has not been applied to any subsequent trains. However, from 1971 to 1979, the Silver Star performed the role of a limited express as it operated to a faster schedule than a supplementary slower service that was known from 1975 as the Northerner .

As of 13 March 2017, Auckland Transport introduced limited express services on the Onehunga Line. These services operate until 7:30 PM on weekdays, bypassing Parnell, Remuera and Greenlane stations. [1]


There were trains under the Manila Railroad Company and the Philippine National Railways that were called "Limited Express" or simply "Limited", as well as Special and Express trains that nonetheless stopped at fewer stations. [2] The first of such services were introduced in the 1950s and peaked in the 1970s. They only stop at major stations along the two intercity main lines in Luzon unlike regular expresses. They were given the highest priority, dedicated rolling stock, and the highest level of comfort and amenities. [3]

The North Main Line had the Ilocos Special and the Amianan Night Express that ran between 1973 and 1984, then the fastest services in the PNR and stopped at fewer stations compared to the Dagupan Express. Meanwhile, the second Bicol Express, opened in 1954, only stopped at 8 out of 66 stations of the line between Tutuban station in downtown Manila and Legazpi station in Albay. [4] Other examples on the South Main Line include the Peñafrancia Express, [3] the Isarog/Manila Limited, [5] and the Mayon Limited, all of these were defunct by 2013 when all intercity rail was discontinued in favor of building a new line.

There are plans to revive the "limited express" trains. The North–South Commuter Railway and the new South Main Line under the South Long Haul project will both feature "limited express" services. Both limited expresses will run on standard-gauge track and will use dedicated rolling stock capable of running of up to 160 kilometers per hour (99 mph) or higher-speed rail. [6] [7] For the North–South Commuter Railway (NSCR), an airport express train will connect Clark International Airport with Alabang station in Muntinlupa, skipping all the other stations in Central Luzon and only stopping at four other stations in Metro Manila. In comparison, the "Commuter Express" services on the NSCR will serve more stations but will use the same electric multiple units as the regular commuter service.

To the south of the NSCR, the Bicol Express flagship service of the PNR South Long Haul was originally proposed as a limited express service in 2018. [8] However, a new basic design report released on June 2021 reclassified the services into two groups: Local and Express. The new Bicol Express service has since been relegated to a regular express train service. [9]

United States

Some of the most elite trains in the United States in the twentieth century were called "limited", a name that typically graced overnight trains that made very few stops. (However, the fastest train between New York and Washington, DC, a day train, in the Pennsylvania Railroad era was called the Congressional Limited Express, and it had few stops, like the longer distance "Limiteds".)

Famous limiteds of America have included:

the Southern Pacific Railroad's Sunset Limited The B and O Railroad's Capitol Limited

From September 23, 1978, to April 15, 1990, the New York City Subway operated a limited express premium-fare subway service from Manhattan to JFK, which was called the JFK Express. The subway service made express stops at subway stations in Manhattan and one subway station in Brooklyn, before running nonstop to Howard Beach-JFK Airport, where transfers to free airport shuttle buses were provided. The JFK Express proved to be unsuccessful, seeing low ridership in part because the service did not actually serve any airline terminals.

Some commuter railroads operate express trains making limited stops. The Long Island Rail Road operates some rush hour trains that run 50 miles between the central city station and the first stop of its express route itinerary, for instance, on the Ronkonkoma Line. [10] The Metro-North Railroad runs some rush hour trains that run 29 miles between the central city and the first stop of their route itinerary on the Hudson Line and the New Haven Line.

Due to the wide availability of service on the Northeast Regional and Acela Express, most of Amtrak's medium- and long-distance trains operating along the Northeast Corridor only stop to discharge passengers from Washington Union Station (or in some cases, Alexandria Union Station) northward, and to receive passengers from Newark Penn Station southward.

South Korea

The term "Limited Express" is 특급 (特急, Teukgeup) in Korean. Limited express trains stop at fewer stations than regular express trains (급행, 急行, Geuphaeng).

Limited express on major railways in South Korea
RailwayTrain typeSurchargePicture
Korail Limited Express특급(特急)
No Korail Class 311000 EMU.jpg Seoul Subway Line 1
(Gyeongin Line)
Yongsan ~ Dongincheon
Yes KORAIL ITX 36808 Special.jpg Gyeongchun Line Yongsan ~ Chuncheon

See also

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  9. {{Cite report |title=Basic Design Report |work=Project Management Consultancy of the Philippine National Railways South Long Haul Project (North South Railway Project) (Package 1, Banlic to Daraga with San Pablo Depot) |publisher=China Railway Design Corporation |volume=1 |date=2021-06-30}
  10. LIRR Ronkonkoma Line schedule, November 12, 2018