Railway platform height is the built height – above top of rail (ATR) – of passenger platforms at stations. A connected term is train floor height, which refers to the ATR height of the floor of rail vehicles. Worldwide, there are many, frequently incompatible, standards for platform heights and train floor heights. Where raised platforms are in use, train widths must also be compatible, in order to avoid both large gaps between platform and trains and mechanical interference liable to cause 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 facilitate 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 construction costs, the platforms at stations on many railway systems are of low height, making it necessary for passenger cars to be equipped with external steps or internal stairs allowing passengers access to and from car floor levels. When railways were first introduced in the 19th century, low platforms were widely used since 1880s, especially in rural areas, except in the United Kingdom. Over the years, once obsolete raised platforms have become far more widespread, and are almost universal for high-speed express routes and universal in cities on commuter and rapid transit lines. Raised platforms on the narrow gauge railways can prevent track gauge conversion to standard gauge or broad gauge.
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)
These are floor heights. The platforms can be much lower, overcome by onboard staircases.
Typical Algerian platforms are 550 mm (21.7 in) above rail.
The 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) SGR platforms are two standard heights of 300 mm (11.8 in) and 1,250 mm (49.2 in) above rail heads. The 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in) meter gauge platforms are 1100mm.
Afghan platforms will be 200 mm (7.9 in) above rail for 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 27⁄32 in) Russian gauge and 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) Indian gauge railways, and 300 mm (11.8 in) above rail for 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge railways.
China Railway platforms are classified into the following categories of "low" 380 mm (15.0 in), "medium" 550 mm (21.7 in), "high" 760 mm (29.9 in) and "ultra high" 1,250 mm (49.2 in) (latter 2 for most new and rebuilt platforms). Areas adjacent to broad gauge countries/regions, such as Xinjiang and Inner-Mongolia, are still equipped with low platforms. Under the concession period since late 2016, platforms on the southeastern corridor from Shenzhen to Ruili to be 1,250 mm (49.2 in) ATR, whereas the northern-, central-, and western-Chinese platforms to be 380 mm (15.0 in) ATR, are recommended.
Most CRH platforms are 1,250 millimetres (49.2 in) above top of rail, with the remainders being 760 millimetres (29.9 in).
Platforms on the MTR are 1,250 mm (49.213 in) above the rail for the Tung Chung Line and Airport Express, collectively known as the Airport Railway. The height of those on other lines (excluding Kowloon Southern Link and Shatin to Central Link) built by MTR is 1,100 mm (43.307 in) .
East Rail Line platforms are 42 in (1,066.8 mm) high. Since all the former KCR lines excluding light rail are built to the same specs, the platform height on the West Rail Line, Ma On Shan Line, as well as the MTR-built Kowloon Southern Link and Sha Tin to Central Link is also 3 feet 6 inches (1066.8 mm) high.
There are two standard heights of the platforms, 200 mm (7.9 in) and 760 mm (29.9 in) above rail heads.
Iranian platforms are 380 mm (15.0 in), 550 mm (21.7 in) and 760 mm (29.9 in). Like in China, areas adjacent to broad gauge countries/regions such as the eastern regions such as around Mashhad and Zahedan, still equipped low platforms.
- 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 Japan Railways 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 into 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.
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.
Korail adopted 550 mm (21.7 in) high platforms to operate KTX. Typically, older platforms are lower than 500 mm. For metro trains, higher platforms which height after 1,135 mm (44.7 in) are used. Nuriro trains are using mechanical steps to allow both type of platforms. Korail has a long-term plan to change platform standards to higher platforms; both EMU-250 and EMU-300 are designed to use higher platforms.
Taiwan high-speed rail platforms are 1,250 mm (49.2 in) above rail.
Initially, Taiwan Railways Administration platforms were 760 mm (29.9 in) tall and passengers must take two stair steps to enter the train. In 2001, the platforms were raised to 960 mm (37.8 in), cutting the steps needed to one. Between 2016 and 2020, platforms were again raised to 1,150 mm (45.3 in), and the unnecessary gap on trains were filled in.
Old railway platforms are usually less than 500mm (20in) in height. New platforms along double tracking projects, red line projects, and metro stations are built at 1100mm height.
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.
In late 2015, there are three standard heights of platforms, which include:
- 200 mm (7.9 in) for long-distance trains (originally locomotive-hauled step-fitted passenger carriages);
- 1,100 mm (43.3 in) for direct-current only commuter trains (step-less direct current commuter electric multiple units at a time when long-distance trains were not); and
- 550 mm (21.7 in) for shared platforms that could serve both with relatively little discomfort (roughly level with the steps on passenger carriages but not too low to board commuter trains).
In some urban areas, such as Moscow and St Petersburg, served only by local traffic, use 1,100 mm (43.3 in) platforms for direct-current electric multiple units. Elsewhere, 550 mm (21.7 in) - and even 200 mm (7.9 in) platforms are almost commonplace. In some cases, such as VR Sm4 of Finland, the floor of the train itself lowered to be nearly level to 550 mm (21.7 in) platforms. This makes level boarding feasible at some stations (and boarding less of a hassle at stations with the lowest 200 mm (7.9 in) platforms).
In Turkey, the standard platform height for commuter railways is 1,050 mm (41.3 in) and for mainline & high-speed railways it's 550 mm (21.7 in). But most of the platforms throughout the network are old and thus out of standard.
In Kazakhstan, only Astana Nurly Jol station and Russian Railway's Petropavlovsk station have 550 mm (21.7 in) platforms. Almost everywhere else, the platforms are 200 mm (7.9 in) above the rails.
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) .[note 3] 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.
The proposed 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 27⁄32 in) (Russian gauge) railways (e.g. Arctic Railway and Kosice-Vienna broad gauge line) and the proposed 7 ft 1⁄4 in (2,140 mm) (Brunel gauge) railways will be 200 mm (7.9 in) for Sweden and Norway, 200 mm (7.9 in) and 550 mm (21.7 in) for Poland and Slovakia, and 380 mm (15.0 in) for Germany and Austria.
Platforms for Eurotunnel Shuttle are 1,100 mm (43.3 in) above rails.
Belgium has been using mixed type of platform heights (due to the age of the network, and the different companies running it before 1923). As of 2017 the most common platform heights for small stop places and stations are low platform heights of 280 mm (11.0 in).
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.
In Finland, platforms 550 mm (21.7 in) above rail for the southern area, and platforms 200 mm (7.9 in) above rail for the northern area. The Finnish bi-level railcars have bottom steps 410 mm (16.1 in) above rail and entrance doors 1,970 mm (77.6 in) above bottom step, which mean 1,830 mm (72.0 in) clearance for 550 mm (21.7 in) platforms and 210 mm (8.3 in) vertical gap for 200 mm (7.9 in) platforms.
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) . 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.
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) .[clarification needed] 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).
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.
The 760 mm (29.9 in) platforms for the Namur-Luxembourg line (with 3kV DC electrification). The remainder of the network, the platforms are 380 mm (15.0 in) above rails.
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) . Dutch infrastructure maintainer ProRail has committed to upgrading all stations to 760 mm (29.9 in) platform height.
Typical Polish platform is 760 mm (29.9 in) high. In some urban/suburban areas (e.g. around Warsaw) platforms used by local traffic are lower or higher (550 to 1,060 mm or 21.7 to 41.7 in). All newly built platforms are 760 mm (29.9 in) high.
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 mm (28.7 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. The stations Sundbyberg and Knivsta have one platform each used by both commuter trains and regional mainline trains, which can cause uncomfortable steps, but is accepted. Sundbyberg has 730 mm and Knivsta has around 500 mm. Stockholm Central station has after the commuter trains moved to the "City" station, two high 730 mm platforms, now used for mainline trains. The Stockholm Metro and Saltsjöbanan have 1,125 mm (44.3 in), while tramways in general have a very low platform, often also used by buses which must allow boarding from places without platform.
High Speed 2 is being built with a platform height of 1,115 mm, which does not conform to the European Union technical standards for interoperability for high-speed rail (EU Directive 96/48/EC). This is to provide true step free access to trains at the new HS2 stations, which is not possible using European Standards or UK standard heights. HS2 trains will operate outside of the HS2 line using existing infrastructure, which will not be step free.  High Speed 1 has a platform height of 760 mm (29.9 in) on its international platforms. The Great Western Main Line, North London Line, Gospel Oak to Barking Line and Great Eastern Main Line platforms will be mixture of 760 mm (29.9 in) (for intercity trains) and 1,100 mm (43.3 in) (for London commuter trains).
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In Canada, only Montreal Central Station, Quebec's Gare du Palais and Ottawa station have high level platforms at 48 inches (1,219 mm) above top of rail. Almost everywhere else in the Via Rail network, the platforms are 8 inches (203 mm) above the rail.
Metro and light rail
The Montreal Metro, the Toronto subway and Scarborough Rapid Transit, Union Pearson Express, Trillium Line, Vancouver Skytrain, Calgary C-Train, Edmonton Light Rail Transit, and ION Light Rail have high level platforms.
On the Toronto streetcar system, most stops are in mixed traffic accessed from the road surface, without raised platforms. On streetcar lines that have been upgraded to LRTs in central lane reservations (St. Clair Avenue, Spadina Avenue, Queens Quay, the Queensway), and at isolated points elsewhere in the system, island medians in the roadway provide a raised platform. Roncesvalles Avenue has rebuilt to include raised bump-out platforms from the sidewalk, and a similar treatment is planned for King Street through downtown, following the success of the King Street Pilot. Passengers previously used stairs inside the older streetcars, which have since been replaced the Flexity Outlook series which is low floor and handicapped accessible. However, the raised platforms that do exist still do not provide level boarding, necessitating a wheelchair ramp for customers with wheeled mobility aids.
New and substantially renovated stations in the United States must comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires level boarding. Most intercity and commuter rail systems use either 48-inch (1,219 mm) high platforms level with car floors or 8-inch (203 mm) low platforms, while metro and light rail systems use a range of platform heights.
Intercity and commuter rail
Most commuter rail systems in the northeastern United States have standardized on 48-inch (1,219 mm) high platforms. This height was introduced in the 1960s on the Long Island Rail Road with the M1 railcars.:212 MBTA Commuter Rail, CTrail (Hartford Line and Shore Line East), Long Island Rail Road, Metro North Railroad, NJ Transit, and SEPTA Regional Rail all use this height for new and renovated stations, though low platforms remain at some older stations. Outside the Northeast, Metra Electric District, RTD, WES Commuter Rail, and SMART also use 48-inch platforms. MARC has high-level platforms at most Penn Line stations; low platforms are used on the Camden Line and Brunswick Line due to freight clearances, except at stations with passing tracks (Greenbelt or off freight routes (Baltimore-Camden, and Monocacy).
Amtrak intercity service uses high-level platforms on the Northeast Corridor, Keystone Corridor, Empire Corridor, and New Haven–Springfield Line; some stations on the lines have not been retrofitted with high platforms. High-level platforms are also present at a small number of stations on other lines, including Worcester, Roanoke, Raleigh, and several Downeaster stations. Virgin Trains USA service in Florida also uses high level platforms.
At some stations, a desired high-level platform is impractical due to wide freight trains or other practicalities. (Gauntlet tracks, which permit wide freights to pass full-length high-level platforms, have practical issue of their own.) At these locations, mini-high platforms are often used for accessibility. Mini-high platforms have a short length of high platform (long enough for one or two doors), with an accessible ramp to the longer low platform. The platform edge is usually hinged so that it can be flipped out of the way of passing freights.
Most other US commuter rail systems and other Amtrak stations have 8-inch (203 mm) low-level platforms to accommodate freight service, with mini-high platforms or portable lifts to reach the 25-inch (640 mm)-high floors of bilevel railcars. Coaster uses 22-inch (559 mm) platforms. Once electrified, new Caltrain trains will be equipped for both 22-and-50.5-inch (559 and 1,283 mm) platform heights in anticipation of sharing facilities with California High-Speed Rail trains.
Metro and light rail
Platform heights of metro systems vary by system and even by line: on the MBTA subway system, the Blue Line platforms are at 41.5 inches (1,054 mm) above top of rail (ATR), Orange Line platforms at 45 inches (1,143 mm) and Red Line platforms at 49 inches (1,245 mm). Bay Area Rapid Transit stations have platform heights of 39 inches (991 mm).
Most light rail systems have platforms around 12–14 inches (300–360 mm) ATR, allowing level boarding on low-floor light rail vehicles. Most new systems are built to this standard, and some older systems like VTA light rail have been converted. Several systems including MetroLink use higher platforms with level boarding. Several older light rail systems have high-floor vehicles but low platforms, with mini-high platforms or lifts for accessibility. Some like the MBTA Green Line are being converted to low-floor rolling stock, while some like Baltimore Light Rail have permanent mini-high platforms. Muni Metro has 34-inch (864 mm) high platforms in the subway and some surface stops, and mini-high platforms at other surface stops; the vehicles have movable steps to serve both high and low platforms.
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.
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 Sydney's 2000 Olympics, new and altered platforms were designed to match the Tangara trains, which are 3,000 mm (9 ft 10 1⁄8 in) wide, leaving a platform gap of about 80 mm (3 1⁄8 in) and a step height close to zero. This has become the standard for all subsequent platforms and trains in NSW.
Metro and light rail
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. The Gold Coast and Sydney light rail networks have low floor trams and platforms at all stops.
- The proposed 1,524 mm (5 ft) Russian gauge railways for northern China which will seamless link with Russia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan.
- The proposed 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) Indian gauge railways which will seamless link from the Indian subcontinent to the Russian Far East and the Russian Arctic, through Central Asia.
- 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.
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Platform height is measured between the track running surface and the platform surface along the perpendicular
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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
- BOStrab § 31 (1) "Haltestellen sollen Bahnsteige besitzen (...)."; § 31 (8) "Die Bahnsteigoberfläche soll nicht höher liegen als der Fahrzeugfußboden in seiner tiefsten Lage (...)."
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