Regional rail

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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 usually calling at every stop.
Finland VR Group Taajamajuna (Finnish) (FI), Regionaltåg (Swedish)"Conurbation train". Station announcements use "regional train".
France SNCF / RATP TER, RER, Transilien Trainsport Express Régional (TER) in most French regions, Transilien and RER for Île-de-France
Germany DB and others Regionalbahn (RB)
Regionalexpress (RE)
"Regional train". This category is used for trains calling at every stop outside urban areas. Previously they were named Nahverkehrszug and even before Personenzug.
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 their route to a major city within an operational area. Exceptionally, 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.
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
アーバンネットワーク(āban nettowāku) (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 is used by Norges Statsbaner for medium- and long-distance trains: those that do not stop at all stations. Norway has no high-speed trains except for short distances. Long-distance trains have frequent stops, since they are also used for regional travel and do not try to compete with air travel as the railways are winding and slow.
Poland Polregio Pociąg REGIO (PL)"REGIO 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 othersRegionaltåg (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. In some cases single ride tickets are sold mainly by the operator. 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, "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 is called "Regional Rail" as a marketing name because it covers the Philadelphia "region".

See also

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