Commuter rail

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Commuter rail, also called suburban rail, is a passenger rail transport service between a city center, and outer suburbs and commuter towns or other locations that draw large numbers of commuters—people who travel on a daily basis. Trains operate following a schedule, at speeds varying from 50 to 200 km/h (30 to 125 mph). Distance charges or zone pricing may be used.

Non-English names include Treno suburbano in Italian, Cercanías in Spanish, S-Bahn/Nahverkehrszug in German, Train de banlieue in French, Příměstský vlak in Czech and Elektrichka in Russian. 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, operating and parking automobiles.



Most commuter trains are built to main line rail standards, differing from light rail or rapid transit systems by:

  • being larger
  • providing more seating and less standing room, for the longer distances involved
  • having (in most cases) a lower frequency of service
  • having scheduled services (i.e. trains run at specific times rather than at specific intervals)
  • serving lower-density areas, typically by connecting suburbs to the city center
  • sharing track or right-of-way with intercity or freight trains
  • not fully grade separated (containing grade crossings with crossing gates)

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