Railway platform height

Railway platform height

The height of a railway platform varies between railway systems. The height can be expressed as two measurements "Train Platform Height" and "Train Floor Height", both from the top of the rail. There are a very wide number of standards for platform heights and train floor heights, far more than rail gauges. This infrequently described measure impacts both the loading gauge, which is the maximum size of train, and the structure gauge, the minimum size of tunnels and height of bridges.

Most mass transit, light rail, and a growing number of Bus Rapid Transit systems attempt to use the same height for platform and rolling stock floor, so that level entry is possible. This helps travelers with rolling luggage, baby strollers, and wheel chairs. Many train systems use a lower platform and steps on the train up to the trains main floor height.

Height categories

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

* Ultra Low Floor tram - 180 mm (7.1 inches)
* Low Floor tram - 300mm to 350 mm (11.8 to 13.8 inches)
* High floor tram - more than 600 mm (23.6 inches)
* Train - 800 mm to 1200 mm (31.5 to 47.2 inches)
* Standard North American passenger cars - 1295 mm (51 inches)

By country


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. 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.



In Canada only Montreal's Central Station has high level platforms at convert|48|in|cm|0 above top of rail. Most everywhere else the platforms are convert|8|in|cm|0 ATR.

Metro and Light Rail

The Montreal Metro, the Toronto subway and other systems have high level platforms. On the Toronto streetcar system "platforms" are at street level.


While older platforms were at lower levels, many 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. Ireland had some derogations from EU standards as its mainline rail systems (CIÉ / Irish Rail in the south and NITHC / Translink in the north) while connected to each other, are not connected to any other system.

The electric DART fleet has carriage floors at approximately this level, while the diesel fleet is typically one step (150-200mm) higher than the platform.

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

European Union

The European Union Commission issued a TSI (technical specification for interoperability) on May 30, 2002, that provides four standard platform heights for passenger steps on high-speed rail, presumably measured from the top of the rail. These standards are 550 mm and 760 mm for most Member States, with 915 mm for the UK, and 840 mm for the Netherlands

Full citation: [http://eur-lex.europa.eu/pri/en/oj/dat/2002/l_245/l_24520020912en04020506.pdf COMMISSION DECISION of 30 May 2002 concerning the technical specification for interoperability relating to the rolling stock subsystem of the trans-European high-speed rail system referred to in Article 6(1) of Directive 96/48/EC (notified under document number C(2002) 1952) (Text with EEA relevance) (2002/735/EC)] , Section 4.2.5 Passenger step "The passenger step for access to vehicles shall be optimised for the two platform heights of 550 mm and 760 mm that exist on the network, unless the trainset can only operate over a part of the network with asingle platform height."

Section 7.3.4. Passenger step (Section 4.2.5)— "Specific case for British lines: The passenger step for those trainsets intended to serve the British network shall be optimised for the 915 mm platform height on that system in accordance with Section 4.2.5.— Specific case for the lines of the Netherlands network: The passenger step for those trainsets intended to serve the Netherlands network shall be optimised for the 840 mm platform height on that system in accordance with Section 4.2.5."


EU Interoperable High-Speed Rolling Stock: Netherlands platform height is 840mm (above rails) as specified Official Journal of the European Communities, Excerpts from the (technical specification for interoperability) [http://eur-lex.europa.eu/pri/en/oj/dat/2002/l_245/l_24520020912en04020506.pdf TSI relating to high-speed rolling stock – Commission Decision 2002/735/EC] , 7.3.4. Passenger step. This is higher than the EU standards of 550 mm and760 mm specified in Section 4.2.5 of the same document. The UK also has its own standard (915 mm). See the European Union section above for the full language.


Typical Polish platform is 550 mm high. In some suburban areas (e.g. around Warsaw) platforms used by local traffic are higher (760-1060 mm)

United Kingdom

Heathrow Express: According to "Railway Infrastructure", by Institution of Civil Engineers, (2001), Heathrow Airport Ltd specified their platform height at 1100mm above rail level for the Heathrow Express rail service to and from Paddington Station.

London Underground (the Tube): According to a Google Groups thread, the Tube uses two floor height standards, one for big sub-surface trains, 3ft 3" (39 inches 990mm), and another for smaller deep-level trains, 2ft (24 inches 610mm), with matching platform heights. Apparently where the two different standard trains overlap and use the same platform, an in-between "compromise standard" also exists inferred to be 2ft 7.5" (31.5 inches 800mm) requiring all passengers to step up or down one step to the train. This is because level entry for some and an unacceptably big 15 inch step for others was unsatisfactory. Despite researching online official documents there is no reliable published source for these Tube standards.

EU Interoperable High-Speed Rolling Stock: UK heavy rail platform height is 915mm (above rails?) as specified Official Journal of the European Communities, Excerpts from the (technical specification for interoperability) [http://eur-lex.europa.eu/pri/en/oj/dat/2002/l_245/l_24520020912en04020506.pdf TSI relating to high-speed rolling stock – Commission Decision 2002/735/EC] , 7.3.4. Passenger step. This is higher than the EU standards of 550 mm and760 mm specified in Section 4.2.5 of the same document. The Netherlands also has its own standard (840 mm). See the European Union section above for the full language.


There are two standard heights of platforms in Russia, they are 200mm and 1100mm above rail heads. Low-level used primarily on lines with small passenger flow.

United States

Federal rules and regulations as well as local traditions vary. Tolerances are specified in Federal regulations related to the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), while NOT specifying height above the rail, in the [http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/cfr_2004/octqtr/pdf/49cfr38.73.pdf 49 CFR Part 37, Appendix A, §10.3.1(9)] and [http://www.fra.dot.gov/downloads/Research/commuterplatform.pdf DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION DISABILITY LAW GUIDANCE - FULL-LENGTH, LEVEL-BOARDING PLATFORMS IN NEW COMMUTER AND INTERCITY RAIL STATIONS (2005)] . Train [http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2006/06-1658.htm platform heights are being specified in recent changes to Sec 37.41 (2006)] , as described below.


There are substantial differences in platform height between eastern and western rail systems, intercity and commuter rail. Eastern US train stations serving the North East Corridor from Washington, D.C. to Boston, have platform height standard of convert|48|in|cm|0. Most intercity trains stations particularly in the western United States platforms use 8 inch high platforms, while [http://www.apta.com/government_affairs/safetea_lu/documents/apta_comments_ada_part_1_060731.pdf western US commuter rail systems use convert|25|in|cm|0 above top of rail platform heights] . Recent ADA regulatory changes to support platform level entry are forcing a change in western platform heights above top of rail from 8 or 25 inches (20 or 64 cm) to convert|15|in|cm|0 in western US train stations. Eastern platforms will remain at 48 inches.

Example of Changes

[http://www.railpac.org/2007/10/01/coast-rail-coordinating-council-meeting-report-3/ RailPac suggests in a report that changes to the 8" platform height standard are happening.] "Another problem is the proposal for the height of platforms for new stations. The Federal Department of Justice (DOJ) wants to have platforms 15 inches above the top of the rails. At this time, most are 8 inches high (except on the northeast corridor). The 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, Amtrak cannot use the new platforms at certain stations because the platforms do not match with the height of the railcars. If Amtrak uses those platforms, it is in danger of losing operating funds. The 15 inch height will cause problems with freight cars passing them. If this rule is in effect when the Coast Daylight is ready to run, it will greatly complicate the service.

At this time, there is a new platform at the Hanford station which was built with state money but the FRA will not allow trains to use that platform.

The CRCC decided to ask federal legislators to work on changing the rule of platform height, in order to allow more flexibility."

The changes described above are explained in [http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2006/06-1658.htm Federal Register: February 27, 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 U.S. would have floor heights of 48 inches above top of rail, while those in the western part of the U.S. would have floor heights of 15 inches 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

Transit Journal by American Public Transit Association, (1981), suggests that light rail platform heights have been standardized to "slightly over 3 feet." (914.4 mm) and is very similar to the UK 915 mm platform height standard. The New York Subway's R36 (1962 World Fair Specification) used on the 7 train from 1962 to 2003 has a floor height of 3 feet, 9 inches (45 inches 1143 mm) Above Top of Rail (ATR). It is inferred from newer cars that New York Subway (Division A) IRT trains and platforms are all 3 feet 9.5 inches (45.5 inches 1156 mm), while (Division B) BMT floor and platform height is very close to 44 7/8 inches (1140 mm). Boston MBTA Blue Line level entry floor heights is 41.5 inches (1054 mm) ATR. Boston's MBTA Green line tram (with steps) floor heights for the Boeing-Vertol is 34 inches (864 mm) ATR and Breda Type 8 low floor is 14 inches ATR and 35 inches ATR over the wheels. Philadelphia's SEPTA trains are 42.5 inches (1080 mm) ATR. In Washington, DC, WMATA Metrorail is 38.5 inches (978 mm) ATR. San Francisco BART floor height is estimated to be about 42 inches (about 1067mm). San Francisco Muni Metro tram (with steps) floor heights for the Boeing-Vertol is 34 inches (864 mm) ATR, and it is assumed the newer Breda cars are the same.

Platform and Rolling stock floor height

See also

* Berne gauge
* Railway station
* Railway station layout
* Railway platform
* Structure gauge

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