Commuter Railways Landscape: new statistics report shares global figures

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In 2006 and 2016, UITP published Landscape of regional and commuter railways in Europe, which confirmed the critical importance of regional and suburban railways in Europe. Being an international Association, UITP was keen to complement the study to provide an extensive and global picture of “commuter railway” systems.

Regional and suburban railways (RSR) are defined by their organisation and metrics, largely in the context of a European public transport environment. For instance, according to its definition, a railway system with an average distance of 1-25km between stations would be considered an RSR system. However, in many countries outside of Europe, for example in China, there are many urban metro systems that travel an average distance of 2-5km between stations. To present a truer picture of the non-urban railways systems on a global scale, UITP decided to shift the focus to “commuter railways” which are defined by the function of the railway system rather than the metrics.

Commuter railways is a term coined in North America and is rather self-explanatory: it means mass passenger rail services used on a daily basis by people living further away from the regular urban mass transit area and used mainly for the purposes of reaching their work or study location in a city centre area. Such mass-transit rail services operate between a (large) city centre and middle to outer suburbs and/or satellite towns. The concept therefore includes spatial and functional aspects.

The recent UITP Statistics Report, Commuter Railway Landscape, offers a unique global overview of commuter railway systems, presenting data and key characteristics of regional railway systems, as well as drawing comparisons with European systems. This Report represents the first data collection exercise done on commuter railway services outside of Europe.

The data shows that the total yearly ridership on commuter railways in systems outside of Europe is 26,582 million on a network spanning over some 148,800km and 17,300 stations, using a fleet of 90,000 railway cars. Indeed, quite a significant portion of our population makes daily use of commuter railway systems.

Japan makes the largest number of commuter rail journeys per capita by far: three times larger than the number of Swiss journeys per capita, which is the highest number in Europe. The yearly ridership number in Japan is so large, it makes up 59% of the total ridership in non-European countries.

Two supply indicators are considered: the fleet size per million population and the average distance between stops. When it comes to fleet size per million population, four countries out of the top five come from Eastern Asia and the Oceania region (among non-European countries). The average distance between stops was only slightly shorter outside of Europe.

Download a teaser of the Report here!

Interested in learning more about the global landscape of commuter railways? The full Report is available for free for all UITP Members on MyLibrary. For Non-members the Report is available for 600 euros.

How to order?

Send an e-mail to with complete name and address (+ VAT Number for EU). An invitation to pay will be sent to you. Delivery by E-mail on receipt of payment.

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