Railway platform height

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Typical commuter rail station in Boston, Massachusetts, with two platform heights: low-level for most cars and a full height platform to accommodate passengers in wheelchairs.

On a railway, the platform height refers to the height of a railway platform Above Top of Rail (ATR). A related term is "train floor height" which is the height of the floor of the rail vehicle. Worldwide, there are a large number of incompatible standards for platform heights and train floor heights. When raised platforms are in use, the train width must also be compatible, to avoid both large gaps or mechanical interference which causes equipment damage.

Differences in platform height (and platform gap) can pose a risk for passenger safety. Platform ramps, steps, and platform gap fillers together with hazard warnings such as "mind the gap" are used to reduce risk and enable access. Platform height affects the loading gauge (the maximum size of train cars), and must conform to the structure gauge physical clearance specifications for the system. Tracks which are shared between freight and passenger service must have platforms which do not obstruct either type of railroad car.

To reduce station construction costs, many train systems use a low platform, and require passenger cars with internal stairs up to the train floor.

Height categories[edit]

Low floor tram platform in Cologne

Buses, trams, trolleys and railway passenger cars are divided into several typical categories.

  • Ultra Low Floor tram – 180 mm (7 in)
  • Low floor tram – 300 to 350 mm (12 to 14 in)
  • High floor tram – more than 600 mm (24 in)
  • Low floor train – 550 mm (22 in)
  • Train (in UK or narrow gauge) – 800 to 1,200 mm (31.5 to 47.2 in)
  • Standard North American passenger cars – 1,300 mm (51 in)
  • Train (standard gauge (except UK) or broad gauge) – 1,300 to 1,370 mm (51 to 54 in)




The majority of railway systems in Australia use high level platforms with a platform height a small distance below the train floor level. Exception to this include Queensland who have narrow gauge trains and lower platforms, and South Australia who have trains fitted with low level steps to enable the use of low level platforms.[citation needed]

In New South Wales, by 2000, the platform step (the difference between the platform height and the train floor height) had been allowed to grow to a maximum of about 300 mm (11.8 in), which was uncomfortably large. For the 2000 Olympics, new and altered platforms where designed to match the Tangara trains, which are 3,000 mm (9 ft 10 18 in) wide, leaving a gap of about 80 mm (3 18 in), with a next to zero step. This is the standard for all new platforms and trains.

Metro and light rail[edit]

The tramway network in Melbourne have some low level platforms and low floor vehicles, but most trams have steps and are boarded from the road. The Adelaide Tram line has low platforms at almost all stops and operates almost entirely with low-floor trams which also have retractable ramps for street boarding where required by persons unable to step up.[citation needed] The Gold Coast and Sydney light rail networks have low floor trams and platforms at all stops.


Chinese platforms are 380 mm (15.0 in), 550 mm (21.7 in), 760 mm (29.9 in) and 1,250 mm (49.2 in) (latters for most new and rebuilt platforms).[citation needed]

Hong Kong[edit]

Platforms on the MTR are normally 1,100 mm (43.3 in) above the rail but may vary, especially on very curved platforms on the East Rail Line.[citation needed]


Iranian platforms are 380 mm (15.0 in), 550 mm (21.7 in) and 760 mm (29.9 in).[citation needed]

North Korea[edit]

North Korean platforms are standardized at 1,250 mm (49.2 in) only. In there, 1,250 mm (49.2 in) is the norm, lower-level platforms are already raised to this height.

South Korea[edit]

Typical Korail platforms are 550 mm (21.7 in) . Older platforms are lower than 500mm. All metro platforms are 1,150 mm (45.3 in) .[citation needed]


The Japanese National Railways (JNR) for many years used a triple-standard for its conventional (Cape gauge) lines:

  • 760 mm (29.9 in) for long-distance trains (originally step-fitted passenger cars pulled by steam engines);
  • 1,100 mm (43.3 in) for commuter trains (step-less electric multiple units at a time when long-distance trains were not); and
  • 920 mm (36.2 in) shared platforms that could serve both with relatively little discomfort (roughly level with the step on passenger carriages but not too low to board commuter trains).

However, increasing electrification and the phasing-out of locomotive traction in favor of multiple units has made the distinction a matter of historical, rather than practical relevance. Recently, at JR Group stations in urban centers such as Tokyo and Osaka, whose lines were the earliest to be electrified, 1,100 mm (43.3 in) is the norm and lower-level platforms are generally raised to this height during station improvements or refurbishment. Elsewhere, such as Hokkaido and the Tohoku/Hokuriku region of Honshu, 920 mm (36.2 in) – and even 760 mm (29.9 in) platforms are still commonplace. As this represents a potential obstacle when boarding modern commuter trains, workarounds such as a step built in to the floor of area-specific trainsets are often employed. Nevertheless, with accessibility becoming a greater concern as Japan's population ages, raising the level of the platform itself (in tandem with other improvements such as elevators and escalators) is seen as the most practical solution.

In at least one case, with the E721 series EMU used on JR East lines in the Tohoku region, the floor of the train itself is lowered to be nearly level to existing 920 mm (36.2 in) platforms. This makes level boarding feasible at many stations (and boarding less of a hassle at stations with the lowest 760 mm (29.9 in) platforms). However, this (along with a different standard of electrification) also makes through service southward to Tokyo impossible, and prevents them from running on certain through lines, such as the Senseki-Tohoku Line, since the Senseki Line portion uses the higher 1,100 mm (43.3 in) platforms (and DC electrification).

In contrast to the above standards, the standard gauge Shinkansen (Bullet Train) has, since its original inception, used only 1,250 mm (49.2 in) platforms. However, exceptions from this include the "Mini-Shinkansen" Yamagata Shinkansen and Akita Shinkansen lines, which use 1,100 mm (43.3 in) platforms to maintain compatibility with conventional JR trainsets. Hokkaido Shinkansen uses 200 mm (7.9 in) platforms for step-fitted E5/H5 series Shinkansen trainsets. The 1,250 mm (49.2 in) platforms have to be lowered to 550 mm (21.7 in) platform height is recently proposed. Similarly, the conventional lines in Hokkaido have to be lowered from 920 and 760 mm (36.2 and 29.9 in) platforms to 550 mm (21.7 in) platform height with track gauge conversion from 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) to 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge and loading gauge enlargement (matching to Shinkansen's loading gauge).

For standard gauge non-JR commuter railways, such as Kintetsu Line and Keisei Line, use 1,250 mm (49.2 in) platforms.


European Union high-speed rail[edit]

Application of the EU standard heights for new construction; Green = 550 mm, Pink = 760 mm, Yellow = both, dark gray = New builds in other heights than the EU standards

The European Union Commission issued a TSI (Technical Specifications for Interoperability) on 30 May 2002 (2002/735/EC) that sets out standard platform heights for passenger steps on high-speed rail. These standard heights are 550 and 760 mm (21.7 and 29.9 in) .[1][note 1] The 550 mm (21.7 in) for most member states, 760 mm (29.9 in) for Great Britain / Netherlands / Spain / Portugal, and 915 mm (36.0 in) for Ireland / Northern Ireland.


Belgium has been using mixed type of platform heights (due to the age of the network, and the different companies running it before 1923). Currently, the most common platform heights for small stop places and stations are low platform heights, under 280 mm (11.0 in) , however some major stations like Ottignies railway station are still equipped with Low platform heights.

There is nevertheless a plan to comply with the European TSI by raising all low platform heights to one of the European Standard Heights. Most stations will by then be equipped with 550 mm platforms, and direct current EMUs dedicated platforms will be upgraded in their final version to 760 mm. Some stations, or stopping points, already having 760 mm platform heights will keep the platforms at these heights.


Triple gauntlet track at Kaufungen, Germany. Wider mainline trains go down the centre; narrower trams switch either to the left, or right, to be closer to the relevant platform. Beyond the station, the rails return to single track.

Germany's EBO standard (Ordinance on the Construction and Operation of Railways) specifies an allowable range of 380 mm (15.0 in) to maximal 960 mm (37.8 in) .[3] This would not include light rail systems that follow the BOStrab standard (Ordinance on the Construction and Operation of Tramways) with newer metro lines to use low-floor trams which have a usual floor height of 300 to 350 mm (11.8 to 13.8 in) so that platforms are constructed as low as 300 mm in accordance with BOStrab that requires the platform height not to be higher than the floor height.[4]

The traditional platforms had a very diverse height as the nationwide railway network is a union of earlier railway operators. Prior to followed by the European TSI standard the EBO standard requires that new platform construction be at a regular height of 760 mm (29.9 in) .[3] The TSI standard of 550 mm (21.7 in) height, historically common in the East, is widely used on regional lines. Only the S-Bahn suburban rail systems had a higher platform height and these are standardized on 960 mm (37.8 in).[3]


While older platforms on the Dublin and Kingstown Railway were at lower levels, all platforms are now 915mm above rail and all new platforms are being built at that level. Amongst other work, there is an ongoing program of platform renewal. Both Irish railway companies (Irish Rail in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland Railways in Northern Ireland) have had some derogations from EU standards as their mainline rail systems, while connected to each other, are not connected to any other system.

The electric DART fleet has carriage floors at 1,067 mm (42.0 in) above top of rail creating a step of 152 mm (6.0 in) , while the diesel fleet is typically one step (150 to 200 mm or 5.9 to 7.9 in) higher than the platform.

On Dublin's Luas tram system, platforms are approximately 280 mm (11 in) above rail. Tram floors are at the same height, but have internal steps over the bogies.


European Commission decision 2002/735/EC which concerns trans-European interoperability for high-speed rail specifies that rolling stock be built for operational suitability platform height of 840 mm (33.1 in) .[1] Dutch infrastructure maintainer ProRail has committed to upgrading all stations to 760 mm (29.9 in) platform height.[5][6]


Typical Polish platform is 550 mm (21.7 in) high, as in France, Denmark, Austria, Switzerland and Czech Republic. In some urban/suburban areas (e.g. around Warsaw) platforms used by local traffic are higher (760 to 1,060 mm or 29.9 to 41.7 in).


While older Spanish platforms are lower than the rest of Europe, many platforms are now 680 mm above rail. Following track gauge conversion from Iberian gauge to standard gauge, platforms to be raised to 1,250 mm (49.2 in) for new regional trainsets.


Sweden has generally 380 to 580 mm (15.0 to 22.8 in) platforms for mainline trains. Stockholm Commuter Rail has almost always its own platforms at 730 to 1,150 mm (28.7 to 45.3 in) height which allows stepless trains of type X60. The Arlanda Express service has 1,150 mm (45.3 in) platform height with floor at platform level. They have their own platforms and trains, which are incompatible with mainline platforms and trains, even if the Arlanda Express goes on a mainline. Also, Swedish mainline trains are incompatible with Dutch 760 mm (29.9 in) platforms, and Dutch trains are incompatible with Swedish 380 mm (15.0 in) platforms, even if the standard gauge lines connected with both countries.

United Kingdom[edit]

The standard height for platforms is 915 mm with a margin of +0,-25 mm.[1][7] On the Heathrow Express the platform height is specified at 1,100 mm (43.3 in) .[8]

High Speed 2 is expected to be built to dimensions conforming to the European Union technical standards for interoperability for high-speed rail (EU Directive 96/48/EC)[9] i.e. either 550 mm and 760 mm;[1] High Speed 1 has a platform height of 760 mm (29.9 in) on its international platforms.[10]

North America[edit]


Inter-city trains[edit]

In Canada, only Montreal's Central Station and Quebec's Gare du Palais have high level platforms at 48 inches (1,219 mm) above top of rail. Almost everywhere else, the platforms are 8 inches (203 mm) above the rail.

Metro and light rail[edit]

The Montreal Metro, the Toronto subway and Scarborough Rapid Transit, Vancouver Skytrain, Calgary C-Train, and Edmonton Light Rail Transit have high level platforms.

On the Toronto streetcar system, most stops are without raised platforms, but there are a number of low-level platforms on streetcar lines that have been upgraded to LRTs in central lane reservations (St. Clair Avenue, Spadina Avenue, Queens Quay, the Queensway), on Roncesvalles Avenue, and at isolated points elsewhere in the system, usually at larger transfer points involving island medians in the roadway. Passengers must use stairs inside the older streetcars still common on the network, but newer streetcars (the Flexity Outlook series) are low floor and handicapped accessible.

United States[edit]

Gauntlet track on Conrail Shared Assets Operation Lehigh Line at New Jersey Transit's Raritan Valley Line Union NJ Transit Station. Freight trains run on the outer track so as to clear the platform

Federal rules and regulations as well as local traditions vary. Tolerances are specified in Federal regulations related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), while NOT specifying height above the rail, in the 49 CFR Part 37, Appendix A, §10.3.1(9) and DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION DISABILITY LAW GUIDANCE – FULL-LENGTH, LEVEL-BOARDING PLATFORMS IN NEW COMMUTER AND INTERCITY RAIL STATIONS (2005)[dead link]. Train platform heights are being specified in recent changes to Sec 37.41 (2006), as described below.

US inter-city trains[edit]

There are substantial differences in platform height between eastern and southern/western rail systems, intercity and commuter rail. Eastern US rail stations serving the Northeast Corridor from Washington DC to Boston, have a platform height standard of 48 inches (1,219 mm) above top of rail. Most intercity stations, particularly in the southern/western United States, use 8-inch-high (203 mm) platforms, while southern/western US commuter rail systems use 25 inches (635 mm) above top of rail platform heights[dead link]. Recent[when?] proposed ADA regulatory changes to support platform level entry forcing a change in southern/western platform heights above top of rail from 8 or 25 in (203 or 635 mm) to 15 inches (381 mm) were canceled.[citation needed]

Problems with height changes[edit]

RailPac suggests in a report that changes to the 8 and 25 in (203 and 635 mm) platform height standard are happening.[11] Another problem is the proposal for the height of platforms for new stations. The US Federal Department of Justice (DOJ) wants to have platforms 15 inches (381 mm) above the top of the rails. At this time,[when?] most are 8 inches (203 mm) high (except on the Northeast Corridor). As of 2007 the US DOJ is still in the process of creating the proposal, but the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is treating it like an existing rule.

Some of the effects of this include the problem of a single height platform when multiple types of railcars (with different platform heights) use a station. Right now,[when?] Amtrak cannot use the new platforms at certain stations because the platforms do not match with the floor height of the railcars. If Amtrak uses those platforms, it is in danger of losing operating funds. The 15-inch (381 mm) height would cause problems with freight cars passing them. If this rule is in effect when the refurbished Coast Starlight is ready in 2008, it will greatly complicate the service. As of 2014, there is a new platform at the Hanford (Amtrak station) which was built with California state money, but the FRA will not allow trains to use that platform.[12]

The Coast Rail Coordinating Council decided to ask federal legislators to work on changing the rule of platform height, in order to allow more flexibility.[12]

The changes described above[where?] are explained in Federal Register: 27 February 2006 (Volume 71, Number 38) page 9764, Commuter and Intercity Rail Station Platform Accessibility, "Amtrak cars serving the area in which the commuter system will be operated. This means that cars in the eastern part of the US would have floor heights of 48 inches (1,219 mm) above top of rail, while those in the southern/western part of the US would have floor heights of 15 inches (380 mm) above top of rail. The purpose of this proposal is to prevent situations—some of which the Department has encountered—in which Amtrak and commuter rail cars with different floor heights use the same station platforms, complicating the provision of level entry boarding."

Metro and light rail[edit]

In 1981, the Transit Journal published by the American Public Transit Association suggested that light rail platform heights have been standardized to "slightly over 3 feet." (914 mm) and is very similar to the UK 915 mm (36.0 in) platform height standard.[citation needed] The New York City Subway's R36 WF order, used on the 7 service from 1962 to 2003, had a floor height of 45 inches (1,143 mm) Above Top of Rail (ATR). It inferred with newer cars that New York City Subway A Division (IRT) trains and platforms are all 45.5 inches (1,156 mm), while B Division (BMT/IND) floor and platform height is very close to 44.875 inches (1,140 mm).[citation needed] However, since the height of some platforms visibly varies by several cm across short distances, these numbers must be understood as approximations.

Boston's MBTA Blue Line level entry floor height is 41.5 inches (1,054 mm) ATR. Boston's MBTA Green Line streetcar floor height (with steps) for its obsolete Boeing-Vertol model was 34 inches (860 mm) ATR, while the newer Breda Type 8 low floor model is 14 inches (356 mm) ATR and 35 inches (889 mm) ATR over the wheels. Philadelphia's SEPTA trains are 42.5 inches (1,080 mm) ATR. In Washington DC, WMATA Metrorail is 38.5 inches (980 mm) ATR. San Francisco BART floor height is estimated to be about 42 inches (1,067 mm). San Francisco Muni Metro streetcar floor height (with steps) for its obsolete Boeing-Vertol model was 34 inches (864 mm) ATR, and it is assumed the newer Breda cars are the same.[needs update]


There are two standard heights of platforms in Russia; they are 200 and 1,100 mm (7.9 and 43.3 in) above rail heads. 1,100 mm (43.3 in) high platforms are gradually changing to 550 mm (21.7 in) platform height. 200 mm (7.9 in) platforms are used primarily on lines with either small passenger flow or using double-decker trains.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In reference to EU documentation on interoperability of trans-national high-speed rail (see EU Directive 96/48/EC) platform height is measured from the top of the running surface of the rail.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d 2002/735/EC, sections 7.3.4 and 4.2.5
  2. ^ "Commission Recommendation of 21 March 2001 on the basic parameters of the trans-European high-speed rail system referred to in Article 5(3)(b) of Directive 96/48/EC". eur-lex.europa.eu. European Union. 21 March 2001. section 6.1. Retrieved 7 March 2013. Platform height is measured between the track running surface and the platform surface along the perpendicular 
  3. ^ a b c "Eisenbahn-Bau- und Betriebsordnung (EBO)" (PDF) (in German). Bundesministeriums der Justiz / juris GmbH. Section 13: Bahnsteige, Rampen. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 13.1 : Bei Neubauten oder umfassenden Umbauten von Personenbahnsteigen sollen in der Regel die Bahnsteigkanten auf eine Höhe von 0,76 m über Schienenoberkante gelegt werden; Höhen von unter 0,38 m und über 0,96 m sind unzulässig. Bahnsteige, an denen ausschließlich Stadtschnellbahnen halten, sollen auf eine Höhe von 0,96 m über Schienenoberkante gelegt werden. In Gleisbogen ist auf die Überhöhung Rücksicht zu nehmen 
  4. ^ BOStrab § 31 (1) "Haltestellen sollen Bahnsteige besitzen (...)."; § 31 (8) "Die Bahnsteigoberfläche soll nicht höher liegen als der Fahrzeugfußboden in seiner tiefsten Lage (...)."
  5. ^ "Network Statement 2010 Combined Network based on the Railways Act" (PDF). www.prorail.nl. Prorail. 12 December 2008 (22 January 2009). Retrieved 7 March 2013.  Check date values in: |date= (help)[dead link][not in citation given]
  6. ^ "ProRail invests 450 million euros in accessibility". www.prorail.nl (Press release). Prorail. 13 October 2009. [dead link]
  7. ^ Ellis' British Railway Engineering Encyclopaedia. Iain Ellis. 2006. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  8. ^ Institution of Mechanical Engineers (Great Britain). Railway Division, Institution of Civil Engineers (Great Britain) (2001). Railway infrastructure, Issue 3. John Wiley and Sons. 3.1.2 Specification of the System, p.19. 
  9. ^ Department for Transport (11 March 2010). High Speed Rail – Command Paper (PDF). The Stationery Office. section 8.4, p.127. ISBN 978-0-10-178272-2. 
  10. ^ "HS1 Network Statement" (PDF). www.highspeed1.com. 17 August 2009. section "Track Gauge & Structure Gauge", page 14. Retrieved 7 March 2013. [dead link]
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ a b Coast Rail Coordinating Council meeting report | RailPAC


External links[edit]