Passenger Train Variations.

A series of pages which look at different types of passenger trains
as defined by the type of service they are designed to provide.

Long Distance InterCity Trains looks at trains which are designed for InterCity express journeys with journey times usually in excess of 45 minutes and possibly lasting for many hours. This includes super-fast very high speed trains and tilting trains.

Medium Distance Trains looks at different types of trains that provide medium distance services, typically with journey times of between 30 and 90 minutes in duration, but sometimes longer too.

Short Distance Trains looks at trains designed for journeys of anything from less than a minute up to about 45 minutes within urban areas and their close hinterland. These trains could be operated by either a mainline railway company or a city-specific regional transport authority. Included within this remit are Automated 'Driverless' Metro Systems and Trams, Streetcars and Light Rail Vehicles; however to avoid making a very large page the latter two topics have their own dedicated pages.

"Walk-through" Trains looks at the need to be able to walk from carriage to carriage along an entire train's length, this being an aspect of train design where practical day-to-day passenger requirements are often compromised.

On-train Refreshment Facilities, Double-Deck Trains, & Taking Bicycles On Trains looks at three specific aspects of railway operation which transcends all the other categories as described above.


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"Walk-through" Trains

Passengers like and WANT the ability to walk through ALL the carriages on their trains.

Unfortunately not all train operators appreciate this (or, dare I say, even care that this is a passenger-friendly feature) even though there are distinct commercial benefits to them too.

Train dividing so that different portions can go to different places. See caption for picture information.
'Walk-through' means having open connections between the carriages. This is fairly standard on longer distance trains and many shorter distance trains offer this too. Many modern urban & suburban trains feature full width inter-carriage connections so that passengers may not even realise that they are walking from carriage to carriage. This is a new S-Bahn train in Germany.

There are many advantages from using 'walk-through' trains, including:-

  • The ability to walk through the entire length of a train helps ‘balance' the passenger load as passengers in crowded carriages can walk through to carriages which are less crowded - and possibly have some empty seats.
  • Passengers who wish to travel in the mobile-phone free ‘quiet' carriage (or vice versa) are able to relocate along the train (if there is such a carriage on the train).
  • The ability to walk through the entire length of a train means that passengers can choose to arrive at their destination in the part of the train which will be nearest to the ‘correct' part of the station platform for the exit.
  • The ability to walk through the entire train can be financially advantageous to the train operating company as it allows both the refreshment trolley and a ticket inspector to service the complete train.
  • Some train designs feature full width inter-carriage connections; as well as providing 'walk-through' features by eliminating the carriage 'ends' the extra space increases the trains' overall passenger capacity.

There is an extra significance to the 'walk-through' feature when the train is formed of the 'multiple-unit' type of train. This is because an unfortunate passenger un-friendly feature of some 'multiple-units' trains is that whilst they are usually designed to allow passengers to freely walk from one carriage to another within the individual unit the train ends do not allow passengers to pass between the units when two or more are operating as one train.

  • On trains which will divide en-route (see below for explanation) the passengers in the 'wrong' unit risk going to the wrong destination - or at a station en route will have to jump out of the train and run along the platform to be able to rejoin it in the correct unit for their destination.
  • For trains which offer buffet facilities then without the ability to walk from unit to unit then only passengers travelling within the unit with the buffet counter will be able to reach the buffet. Passengers in the other parts of the train will not be served. The alternative option would be to offer multiple buffet facilities with each serving just that individual unit (ie: a small portion of the entire train) - but surely the extra staffing costs would weigh against this?

See caption for picture information.
As the 'next train' describer suggests, the next train will be reformed whilst en route.
See caption for picture information.
The process takes about a minute - one train has come in...
Train now divided into two so that different portions can go to different places.
... but it will be leaving for two different destinations.
See caption for picture information.
The view through the join. On the left can be seen part of the cab interior (including half a speedometer!) plus, through the window, the yellow front end of the next unit.

Some trains 'divide' en route and serve multiple destinations.

On many busy railway routes it is usual for several smaller 'multiple-unit' trains to be joined together so that they effectively become one long entity. This is more economic for the train operators because it allows them to balance train lengths according to passenger demand and availability of the individual train 'units'; and on sections of track which feature a high number of trains it increases passenger capacity because the principal constraint to passenger capacity is the number of trains that can travel along a section of track (ie: on a very busy route the signalling systems may allow a train every two minutes and a 12 carriage train can carry more passengers than a 4 carriage train).

Sometimes however these 'several unit' multiple-unit trains are reformed at intermediate stations, although it is usually complete train units which are added / removed - and not individual carriages.

Usually trains are split in this way because it allows the provision of through services to several routes where the traffic levels do not justify the longer trains needed on busier sections of track. On the return journey the individual train units will re-couple with similar train units from the other destination(s) to form a longer train again. Given a choice most passengers prefer this arrangement to the alternative of using shorter shuttle trains to serve the quieter routes with passengers having to change trains to continue their journey. This is because it saves them the hassle involved in making their connection - especially as the connecting train is frequently on a different platform which to reach will involve them in a (hopefully short) walk including having to negotiate steps (and / or ramps) to cross the railway tracks via a footbridge / underpass.

Naturally where trains are reformed en route it is important that passengers travel in the 'correct' carriages - otherwise they risk arriving at the 'wrong' destination.

However, passengers do not always join the train at the 'correct' carriages - for instance when they only just arrive on the platform in time and must either board the train at the nearest doorway or miss the train completely. Also some passengers prefer to board the train first and only then walk through it to where they need to be.

Ideally the above two scenarios should not present any problem but they will if the train is composed of units of the type that features ends which prevent passengers from being able to walk through the entire train's length, irrespective of whether it is 4, 8, or 12 carriages long.

Incredibly whilst the "walk-through" feature is something that passengers expressly do want at least one London based train operator has actually tried to justify denying passengers this facility by saying that they do not want passengers to be able to walk through the entire train because they would then walk to the 'correct' carriage that will be near the station platform exit for their destination (or the front of the train for the London terminal station) and therefore the rest of the train would be emptier.

Apart from the self-inflicted issues such as extra costs involved in duplication of on-train catering facilities (if provided) and impossibility for a ticket inspector to service the complete train, this train operator seems to have forgotten that they are providing a service to 'customers' - and in a service economy it is the fee paying customer's desires that should come first and not the service provider's. (Maybe if meeting the passengers' needs is too much trouble the passengers should find it "too much trouble" to use the companies' 'products' [ie: passenger transport facilities] - the nearby roads are much improved nowadays).


The GOOD and the BAD of train "end" designs.

It is all well and good designing trains with 'fancy front ends' but when several units join up to become one train then they often form a barrier as impenetrable as the former Berlin wall.

The GOOD. These type of train fronts lets passengers walk between the units when coupled together and operating as one train.

See caption for picture information. See caption for picture information.
Class 377 "Electrostar" electric multiple unit train showing its front end corridor connection. Two "Electrostar" electric multiple unit trains using their corridor connections to provide a safe walkway between the two units.
See caption for picture information. See caption for picture information.
Class 159 diesel multiple unit train showing its front end corridor connection. Class 450 "Desiro" electric multiple unit train showing its front end corridor connection.



The BAD. These type of train fronts do not let passengers walk between the units when coupled together and operating as one train.

Class 175 train front Class 175 middle 2 joined.

Woe betide anyone in the 'wrong' section of these trains if they are going to be reformed en route.

Voyager train front. Voyager middle 2 joined.

NB. The trains seen here are all 'modern' trains as built for the privatised railcos.

Class 357 electrostar - essentially the same bodyshell as the class 170 diesel Turbostar trains which operate in many parts of Britain. First Great Eastern Desiro front end resting next to buffer stops.
Top: Class 175 diesel multiple unit front end & two units coupled;

Middle: Class 220 Virgin Voyager diesel multiple unit front end & two units coupled;

Lower left: These trains operate in many parts of Britain - either as the class 170 diesel "Turbostar" trains or (as seen here) the class 357 electric "Electrostar" trains, being essentially the same trains as the class 377 "Electrostar" trains seen further up on this page but with different propulsion systems and used by a different train operating company. (Turbostars are diesel whilst Electrostars are either 25,000v ac overhead wire or 750v dc third rail - or for a few trains, both electric systems!)

Lower right: Class 360 electric "Desiro" train showing its lack of front end corridor connection - this also being essentially the same type of train as the class 450 "Desiro" seen further up on this page but with different fronts, propulsion system and used by a different train operating company.

An excellent design for a modern "Multiple-Unit" train.

A train comprising of two Class 309 units (in 'Jaffa Cake' and 'Network SouthEast' liveries) at London Liverpool Street Station. Same train, showing cab and inter-unit gangway.
Class 309 'Clacton' trains. Built in the early 1960's for express services to London (Liverpool Street) when the line to Clacton On Sea was electrified.

Why? Because despite being from the 1960's...

All the seats line up with the large, deep 'easy to see through' windows.
They have opening windows - whilst air-conditioning may be nice experience has shown that if it fails then without windows which can be opened the carriage could become unbearably hot.
Both classes of passenger have option of either 'open' or 'compartment' seating.
The refreshment carriage (yes, carriage) includes a proper seating area for the consumption of foods bought at the counter.
It is possible to walk through whole train whether it is 2 or 10 carriages long, this applies to both passengers and staff, such as the steward with the refreshment trolley or the revenue control 'ticket inspector'.

OK, so the seat back videos and computerised interactive display systems used on some modern trains were not even invented then, and more modern trains include wheelchair-friendly facilities, telephones, powered doors etc,. but these older trains offer a basic level of passenger friendly design that is far in advance of most of their modern contemporaries. Especially the sliding door commuter trains that have now replaced them on the London - Clacton service for which these trains spent most of their working lives.



Direct links to other Passenger Train Variations pages.

Easy access for all! About Railways Transport Integration - making it all mesh together as one seamless entity. Its high time we stopped polluting our cities - we have the technology, but not the willpower
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About light rail - modern trams and streetcars.
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The bus gets a stylish makeover.
Railway electrification. Ideas to make roads safer.
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Does speed kill - or is it only inappropriate speed that kills (too fast / slow)?
Different types of passenger train as defined by the type of service they provide.
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