Regional rail

Last updated

Regional rail, also known as local trains and stopping trains, are passenger rail services that operate between towns and cities. These trains operate with more stops over shorter distances than inter-city rail, but fewer stops and faster service than commuter rail. Regional rail services operate beyond the limits of urban areas, and either connect similarly-sized smaller cities and towns, or cities and surrounding towns, outside or at the outer rim of a suburban belt.


Regional rail normally operates with an even service load throughout the day, although slightly increased services may be provided during rush-hour. The service is less oriented around bringing commuters to the urban centers, although this may generate part of the traffic on some systems. Other regional rail services operate between two large urban areas, but make many intermediate stops.

In the United States, "regional rail" more commonly refers to commuter rail (and sometimes even larger heavy rail and light rail) systems that offer bidirectional all-day service and may provide useful connections between suburbs and edge cities, rather than merely transporting workers to a central business district. [1]


Northern Rail Class 158 at York station 158793 at York.JPG
Northern Rail Class 158 at York station

The main difference between regional rail and commuter rail is that the latter is focused on moving people between where they live and where they work on a daily basis. 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. Regional rail typically operates throughout the day but often at low frequency (once per hour or only a few times a day), whereas commuter rail provides a high-frequency service within a conurbation.

Regional rail services are much less likely to be profitable than inter-city (mainly because many passengers use monthly passes giving a lower price per ride, and that lower average speed gives less distance, meaning less ticket revenue per hour of operation) and hence require government subsidy. This is justified on social or environmental grounds, and because regional rail services often act as feeders for more profitable inter-city lines.

Since their invention, the distinction between regional and long-distance rail has also commonly been the use of multiple-unit propulsion, with longer-distance trains tending to be locomotive-hauled, although the development of trains such as the British Rail Class 390 and V/Line VLocity has blurred this distinction. Shorter regional rail services still usually be operated exclusively by multiple units where they exist, which have a shorter range and operate at lower average speeds than services on inter-city rail networks. Not using a locomotive also provides greater passenger capacity in the commuter role at peak periods. There are trains that are something in between regional and inter-city, like the Oresundtrain (between Copenhagen and three cities in Sweden over 3 hours away) with stopping pattern like a regional train and pass prices attracting work commuters.

Regional rail in different countries

This list describes the terms used for regional rail in various countries, as described above.

CountryRailway companyNameEnglish / comments
Austria ÖBB Regionalzug"Regional train". Calls at every stop. They only convey 2nd class.
Belgium NMBS/SNCB lokale trein/train local"Local train"
China China Railway 市郊旅客列车"Suburban Railway  [ zh ]" (S-series trains), not common. Note that "Inter-City EMU  [ zh ]" trains (C-series trains) may be more frequent than Suburban Railways and are used for commuting.
Czech Republic ČD Osobní vlak, Spěšný vlak"Passenger train", "Semi-fast train"
Denmark DSB, Arriva Regionaltog"Regional train". This category is used for trains calling at every stop.
Finland VR Group Taajamajuna (Finnish) (FI), Regionaltåg (Swedish)"Conurbation train". Station announcements use "regional train".
France SNCF / RATP TER, RER, TransilienTrain Express Régional in most French regions, Transilien and RER for Île-de-France
Germany DB Regionalbahn (RB)"Regional train". This category is used for trains calling at every stop outside urban areas. Previously they were named Nahverkehrszug and even before Personenzug.
Germany DB S-Bahn (S)"Suburban train" or "City train". This category is used for trains calling every stop in a city. S-Bahn only operated in cities. In the country it's called "Regionalbahn" (see above).
India IR Passenger train"Passenger train" or simply as "Passenger". This category is used for trains stopping at every railway station along its route.
Indonesia KAI Kereta Ekonomi Lokal"Local Economy Train". This category is used for trains stopping at every railway station along its route to a major city within an operational area. Exception is when operating in overlapping pattern with Jakarta commuter rail, the train only stops at certain stations.
Italy Trenord Treno suburbano (IT)"Suburban train" or "City train". This category is used for trains calling at every stop in the city of Milan. These trains are operated by Trenord, the regional train company for Lombardy.
Italy Trenitalia Treno regionale (IT)"Regional train". This category is used for trains calling at every stop, or most stops. Previously, regional trains were named treni locali (local trains).
Japan JR group 中距離列車,近郊形電車,アーバンネットワーク(Japanese) (JA)"Mid-distance Train," "Suburban Train," "Urban-Network." These categories are used for trains calling at less stops than commuter trains in city area, and making every stop in suburb or further.
Luxembourg CFL Regionalbunn (LB), RegionalExpressRegionalbunn ("Regional train") is used for trains calling at nearly every stop, unlike RegionalExpress
Netherlands NS and othersSprinter (NS)/Stoptrein (others) (NL)"Sprinter" or "Stopping train". Connects nearby cities, stops at (almost) all stations, the basic local train service.
Norway NSB Regiontog"Regional train". This term used by Norges Statsbaner for medium- and long-distance trains; those that do not stop at all stations. Norway doesn't have high-speed trains except for short distances. Also long-distance trains stop often, since they serve also regional travel and don't try to compete with air travel because of curvy and slow railways.
Poland Przewozy Regionalne Pociąg osobowy (PL)"Passenger train"
Portugal Comboios de Portugal Comboio Regional (PT)"Comboio Regional" Stops at the stations where a person has bought a ticket to the stop. Connects various towns and villages to big cities around the coast.
Romania CFR RegioShortened "Regional" (formerly, Personal)
Serbia Serbian Railways Putnički voz (Passenger train)Short-, medium- and long-distance stopping trains, that stop at all stations between two points. These trains are usually the slowest trains in Serbia, but are most commonly used because of their low price comparing to Brzi voz ("Fast train", stopping only at major stations) and Inter Siti Srbija ("InterCity Serbia", similar to Brzi voz, except that most are international trains). Most Putnički voz trains are consisted of one ŽS 441/ŽS 444 locomotive and one to three coaches or ŽS 412 EMU. There are plans to replace ŽS 412s with new ŽS 413 sets.
Spain Renfe Operadora Media Distancia "Medium Distance" (formerly, Regionales).
Sweden SJ and moreRegionaltåg (SV)"Regional train". The public transport organisations organise both local and regional trains in Sweden, with similar tickets in both cases, with monthly pass prices competitive with car commuting. An exception is around Stockholm County where SJ handles all ticketing including pricing. Otherwise, SJ mostly handles inter-city and high-speed traffic. SJ sells tickets to all regional trains, in parallel with the main operator.
Switzerland SBB-CFF-FFS and othersRegionalzug (German), Train régional (French), Treno regionale (Italian)"Regional Train". Replaces the former terms Personenzug (German, translates as passenger train) and train omnibus (French) to have a more precise description and basically the same word in all three national languages. Starting in December 2004 the abbreviation Regio was introduced for all languages. Trains named Regio call at every stop.
Taiwan Taiwan Railways Administration 區間車 (Chinese)Local trains stop at every stations on main lines; exclusive class on passenger branch lines. Trainsets include: EMU500, EMU700, EMU800, and DRC1000.
Turkey TCDD Bölgesel Tren"Regional Train". Stops at (almost) all stations, the basic local train service.
United States Amtrak Amtrak calls its slower trains on the Northeast Corridor "Northeast Regional" to distinguish them from its express Acela trains. Local passenger rail services are generally called "Commuter rail" even when they connect nearby cities. See Commuter rail in North America.
SEPTA Regional RailSEPTA's "Regional Rail" service is a commuter rail service. It's is simply called "Regional Rail" as a marketing name because it covers the Philadelphia "region."

See also

Related Research Articles

Commuter rail passenger rail transport service that primarily operates between a city center, and the middle to outer suburbs

Commuter rail, or suburban rail, is a passenger rail transport service that primarily operates within a metropolitan area, connecting commuters to a central city from adjacent suburbs or commuter towns. Generally commuter rail systems are considered heavy rail, using electrified or diesel trains. Distance charges or zone pricing may be used.

Transport in Italy

Italy has a well developed transport infrastructure. The Italian rail network is extensive, especially in the north, and it includes a high-speed rail network that joins the major cities of Italy from Naples through northern cities such as Milan and Turin. Italy has 2,507 people and 12.46 km2 per kilometer of rail track, giving Italy the world's 13th largest rail network.

Rail transport Conveyance of passengers and goods by way of wheeled vehicles running on rail tracks

Rail transport or train transport is a means of transferring passengers and goods on wheeled vehicles running on rails, which are located on tracks. In contrast to road transport, where vehicles run on a prepared flat surface, rail vehicles are directionally guided by the tracks on which they run. Tracks usually consist of steel rails, installed on ties (sleepers) set in ballast, on which the rolling stock, usually fitted with metal wheels, moves. Other variations are also possible, such as slab track. This is where the rails are fastened to a concrete foundation resting on a prepared subsurface.

Train A series of rail vehicles, including a locomotive, for transporting cargo and/or passengers

A train is a form of rail transport consisting of a series of connected vehicles that generally run along a railroad track to transport passengers or cargo. The word "train" comes from the Old French trahiner, derived from the Latin trahere meaning "to pull" or "to draw".

Light rail typically an urban form of public transport using steel-tracked fixed guideways

Light rail transit (LRT) is a form of passenger urban rail transit characterized by a combination of tram and metro features. While its rolling stock is more similar to a traditional tram, it operates at a higher capacity and speed, and often on an exclusive right-of-way.

Multiple unit type of train consisting of self-propelled carriages capable of coupling with others of the same or similar type

A multiple-unit train or simply multiple unit (MU) is a self-propelled train composed of one or more carriages joined together, which when coupled to another multiple unit can be controlled by a single driver, with multiple-unit train control.

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

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

Vy (transport operator) state-owned railway operator of Norway since 1996

Vygruppen, branded as Vy, formerly the Norwegian State Railways (NSB), is a government-owned railway company which operates most passenger train services and many bus services in Norway. The company is owned by the Norwegian Ministry of Transport and Communications. Its sub-brands include Vy Buss coach services, CargoNet freight trains through and the Swedish train transport company Tågkompaniet. In 2009 NSB carried 52 million train passengers and 104 million bus passengers. On 24 April 2019, passenger train and bus services were rebranded by as Vy.

West Coast Express

The West Coast Express is a commuter railway serving the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia, Canada. Opened in 1995, it provides a link between Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley Regional District, and is the only commuter railway in Western Canada.

<i>Pacific Surfliner</i> railway line

The Pacific Surfliner is a 350-mile (560 km) passenger train service serving the communities on the coast of Southern California between San Diego and San Luis Obispo.

Tri-Rail Commuter rail service in South Florida

Tri-Rail is a commuter rail line linking Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach, Florida, United States. The Tri prefix in the name refers to the three counties served by the railroad: Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade. Tri-Rail is managed by the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA) along CSX Transportation's former Miami Subdivision, the line now wholly owned by the Florida DOT. The 70.9-mile-long (114.1 km) system has 18 stations along the Southeast Florida coast, and connects directly to Amtrak at numerous stations, and to Metrorail at the Tri-Rail and Metrorail Transfer station and at Miami Airport station.

InterCity type of long-distance passenger trains

InterCity is the classification applied to certain long-distance passenger train services in Europe. Such trains generally call at major stations only.

Commuter rail in North America Rail passenger service primarily for travel between a city and its suburbs

Commuter rail services in the United States, Canada, Cuba, Mexico, Panama, and Costa Rica provide common carrier passenger transportation along railway tracks, with scheduled service on fixed routes on a non-reservation basis, primarily for short-distance (local) travel between a central business district and adjacent suburbs and regional travel between cities of a conurbation. It does not include rapid transit or light rail service.

Helsinki commuter rail

Helsinki commuter rail is the commuter rail system serving Greater Helsinki, Finland. The network is part of the HSL network, and is operated by VR, the Finnish state-owned national railway company. Together with the Helsinki Metro, buses, and trams, the network forms the heart of Helsinki's public transportation infrastructure.

Intermodal passenger transport the use of two or more modes of transportation in a journey

Intermodal passenger transport, also called mixed-mode commuting, involves using two or more modes of transportation in a journey. Mixed-mode commuting is often used to combine the strengths of various transportation options. A major goal of modern intermodal passenger transport is to reduce dependence on the automobile as the major mode of ground transportation and increase use of public transport. To assist the traveller various intermodal journey planners such as Rome2rio and Google Transit have been devised to help travellers to plan and schedule their journey.

Urban rail transit term for various types of local rail systems

Urban rail transit is an all-encompassing term for various types of local rail systems providing passenger service within and around urban or suburban areas. The set of urban rail systems can be roughly subdivided into the following categories, which sometimes overlap because some systems or lines have aspects of multiple types.

Various terms are used for passenger railway lines and equipment; the usage of these terms differs substantially between areas:

Railway companies in Europe assign their trains to different categories or train types depending on their role. Passenger trains may be broadly split into long-distance and local trains; the latter having average journey times of under an hour and a range of less than 50 kilometres. Goods trains have their own train types. The names of these train types have changed continually over the course of time.

Public transportation in the United States

Public transportation in the United States refers to publicly financed mass transit services across the nation. This includes various forms of bus, rail, ferry, and sometimes, airline services. Most established public transit systems are located in central, urban areas where there is enough density and public demand to require public transportation. In more auto-centric suburban localities, public transit is normally, but not always, less frequent and less common. Most public transit services in the United States are either national, regional/commuter, or local, depending on the type of service. Furthermore, sometimes "public transportation" in the United States is an umbrella term used synonymous with "alternative transportation", meaning any form of mobility that excludes driving alone by automobile. This can sometimes include carpooling, vanpooling, on-demand mobility, infrastructure that is fixated toward bicycles, and paratransit service.

Public transport Shared transportation service for use by the general public

Public transport is a system of transport, in contrast to private transport, for passengers by group travel systems available for use by the general public, typically managed on a schedule, operated on established routes, and that charge a posted fee for each trip. Examples of public transport include city buses, trolleybuses, trams and passenger trains, rapid transit and ferries. Public transport between cities is dominated by airlines, coaches, and intercity rail. High-speed rail networks are being developed in many parts of the world.


  1. "Public Transportation: Bus, Rail, Ridesharing, Paratransit Services, and Transit Security" (PDF). Transportation Research Record. Transportation Research Board. 1433: 81–112. 1994.