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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.
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 will 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 of course trains that are something in between regional and inter-city, like the Oresundtrain (between Copenhagen and 3 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.
|Country||Railway company||Name||English / 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||城际铁路||"Inter-city railway". Starting with C. Runs exclusively inside a region with top speed about 140 – 200 km/h.|
|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, Transilien||Train Express Régional in most French regions, Transilien and RER for Île-de-France|
|Germany||DB||Regionalbahn||"Regional train". This category is used for trains calling at every stop in the country. Previously they were named Nahverkehrszug and even before Personenzug.|
|Germany||DB||S-Bahn||"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.|
|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), RegionalExpress||Regionalbunn ("Regional train") is used for trains calling at nearly every stop, unlike RegionalExpress|
|Netherlands||NS and others||Sprinter (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"|
|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 more||Regionaltåg (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 others||Regionalzug (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.|
- "Public Transportation: Bus, Rail, Ridesharing, Paratransit Services, and Transit Security" (PDF). Transportation Research Record. Transportation Research Board. 1433: 81–112. 1994.