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Bilevel car

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Bilevel car

The bilevel car (North American English) or double-decker coach (British English) is a type of rail car that has two levels of passenger accommodation, as opposed to one, increasing passenger capacity (in example cases of up to 57% per car).[1] In some countries such vehicles are commonly referred to as dostos, derived from the German Doppelstockwagen.

The use of double-decker carriages, where feasible, can resolve capacity problems on a railway, avoiding other options which have an associated infrastructure cost such as longer trains (which require longer station platforms), more trains per hour (which the signalling or safety requirements may not allow) or adding extra tracks besides the existing line.

Bilevel trains are claimed to be more energy efficient,[2] and may have a lower operating cost per passenger.[3]

The height of the cars can limit their use, especially in countries with low loading gauges. In some countries such as the UK new lines are built to a larger than standard gauge to allow the use of double-deck trains in future.[4] The high passenger capacity can create flow and problems at train stations when much larger numbers of passengers try to board or disembark at the same time.[1]

Typical design

The double-deck design usually includes lowering the bottom floor to below the top level of the wheels, closer to the rails, and then adding an upper floor above. Such a design will fit under more bridges, tunnels and power wires (structure gauge). For cost and safety, this design also minimizes car height (loading gauge) and lowers the centre of gravity.

Depending on train station platform heights, three designs can be used for entry - high platforms require use of a "split level" car design, where the doors are located on a middle level, with access into the upper or lower level branching off - with stairs or ramps going both up and down (sometimes this configuration includes a section of seating at the middle level in the entry section, with double levels only in part of the lengths of the car).[1] For low train station platforms, a "two floor" design with level entry onto the lower floor is used. Occasionally a third, very tall "two floors over-wheel" design is used. This is a traditional single floor car "with a second story" design with, when using low platform, requires steps up to a traditional floor height and then internal stairs up to the upper floor.

Platform height and floor height issues

There are four important height measurements above the railhead: platform height, traditional floor height, downstairs floor height and upstairs floor height. Platform height determines the level entry height for wheeled objects, such as luggage, strollers, wheelchairs and bicycles. Platform height is ideally standardized across all stations the train serves. Traditional rail car floor height matters for end doors connecting to existing single floor rail cars. Downstairs or lowest floor height is primarily determined by the thickness of the beams connecting the span between the wheels and bogies (trucks) of a rail car. The upstairs floor or highest floor height is above the lowest floor and must fit under bridges and tunnels. Level entry floor height must match the platform height. Hopefully either the traditional or downstairs floor height already matches the platform height. Despite the name "bilevel" or "double-decker", for maximum compatibility the rail car will have up to four different floor heights. High platform design (Using outside steps to avoid having a level entry from the platform) is troublesome.

Common high platform design

Most high platform trains have level entry over the bogie with stairs inside the car for the upstairs and downstairs double-decker floors. These cars are designed for high platform rail line, such as all the existing stations with a standardized high platform and the rolling stock end doors that connect to any traditional single floor car and even roof line aerodynamics. There are three floor heights (upstairs, downstairs, and platform levels) in these "split level" cars. The entry level floor area has to be big enough to hold wheel chairs, children push-carts, and even wheeled luggage. This high platform "split level" double-decker design is the preferred design in urban and commuter applications, and can be designed to matched to any rail platform height. Car roof lines lengthwise are sloped at each end (not flat) for aerodynamic connection to single level cars and the space is unused. Bombardier commuter cars are 15 ft 11 in (4,850 mm) high.

Common low platform design

Most low platform double-decker trains have level entry onto the lower level of the car, allowing wheelchair access. There are two floor heights (upstairs and downstairs) in these "bilevel" cars. There is a staircase between floors inside the car. Connecting doors between cars are either at the (higher) upper floor or at an intermediate level over the bogies. In the former case, connecting directly to a single level car causes drag and connecting door problems.

In the western USA, cars are of the upper-level-connection type. They use low platform stations, because the traditional single floor trains all had exterior entry steps to maximize flexibility (emergency and temporary stops) and minimize infrastructure costs. There are no examples of two floor platforms, so there are no platform doors on the upper floor. Car roof lines lengthwise are flat for connecting doors to the upstairs of bi-level cars. A Bombardier Amtrak Superliner car is 16 feet 2 inches (4,930 mm) tall.

Uncommon very tall design

There are several very tall bilevel cars (e.g. Colorado Rail has 19 feet 9.5 inches (6.033 m) or 6033 mm). They typically are described as a traditional rail car with a second story. Most of these cars serve low platforms so they have exterior steps up to the traditional "over-wheel" floor height e.g. US 51 in (1,300 mm). End doors connect at the traditional height of existing rolling stock. Some cars have upstairs end doors as well. Upstairs and downstairs connect by interior stairs. These cars can fit the most able people, but lack level entry. Some cars are self-propelled Multiple Units so using traditional floor heights appears fixed. In towed cars it is possible to lower the downstairs floor between the wheels/bogies so that level entry is possible with more than 500 mm (19.7 in) of added headroom and interior steps from that floor to the traditional floor.



In 2005, EMFER rolling stock factory, Trenes de Buenos Aires (TBA (Trains of Buenos Aires), National Institute of Industrial Technology and the Argentine National Government subscribed to a framework agreement to start the national designing and construction of bi-level electric trains. This was decided due to the overwhelming and increasing amount of passengers using the 1676mm gauge urban D F Sarmiento Railway, serving the centre and east of Greater Buenos Aires. The first prototype was released in 2005, but mass-production only started in mid 2008. From then and up to December 2012, only five units have been produced, because of budgetary problems and the extinction of the TBA enterprise, which left production on hold. Since 2011, the trains have a new aerodynamic front along with some improvements in the driving cab and minor cosmetic changes.

In 2010, EMFER and TBA (Trains of Buenos Aires) presented non-engined double-decker coaches for a 100 km diesel interurban link between Buenos Aires and Mercedes city. Attending to different technical needs, the new coaches have only two simple non-automatic doors in the ends (instead of the two electric double doors in the middle) and were designed for low platforms. They also have greater passenger capacity and more comfortable seats, among other facilities including WiFi and TV.


In 1964, Tulloch Limited built the first double-decker trailer cars for use in Sydney. They ran with single deck electric motor cars. After the success of the trailers, Tulloch made one eight-car experiment double decker multiple unit in 1968. These were the first fully double deck Electric Multiple Unit passenger trains in the world.

From 1972, more double decker multiple units were constructed by Comeng and Goninan. These are now known as the S sets and are the most frequently seen trains on the network. All CityRail electric commuter trains in Sydney are now double deck. They all have two doors per side per carriage, with a vestibule at each end at platform height. The Sydney double deck commuter trains are 14 ft 4.5 in (4,382 mm) high.

The Public Transport Corporation in Melbourne ordered a prototype Double Deck Development and Demonstration train in 1991, a modification of the successful T & G sets (Tangara) design. It suffered frequent breakdowns and spent long periods out of use. It was finally withdrawn in 2002 and scrapped in 2006.


Several passenger rail operators use bilevel passenger cars in their fleets: GO Transit, West Coast Express, and Agence métropolitaine de transport (AMT) use bi-level cars for commuter services. The rail tour company Rocky Mountaineer as uses double deck carriages.

All rolling stock for both GO Transit and West Coast Express are bilevel designs produced by Bombardier Transportation. AMT operates a fleet of bilevel passenger rail cars produced in 1969 by Canadian Vickers for the Canadian Pacific Railway's "Town Car" service; CPR's commuter rail operations in Montreal were discontinued in the late 1970s and these bilevel cars were sold to AMT. This rolling stock is scheduled to be replaced in AMT service by tri-level cars being produced by Bombardier Transportation.

Older bilevel cars used in Canada are not low floor designs and are therefore not wheelchair accessible. New bilevel cars such as the ones produced by Bombardier Transportation are wheelchair accessible, allowing operators of those cars to offer spaces for wheelchair passengers.

Canada's national intercity passenger railway, VIA Rail Canada, does not currently operate any bilevel cars in its rolling stock fleet although during the late 1980s and early 1990s it had examined purchasing Superliner II equipment; this did not occur as the company endured a significant budget cut in 1990 and opted to instead rebuild the former Canadian Pacific Railway stainless steel passenger car fleet produced by the Budd Company.

Ontario Northland's intercity passenger train Polar Bear Express operates a domed car that has two levels, however, this car is not technically considered a bilevel passenger rail car.


In Finland, VR began operating double-decker day cars in 1998. The cars are Finnish design, and have been manufactured by Transtech in Kajaani. The cars have two entries on the lower section in the middle, as the modern Finnish platforms are on 550 mm height.[5] The sections at the both ends of the car are on mid-level. VR introduced the first double-decker sleeping cars on 1 February 2006. The two-bed cabins on the upper deck have toilets and showers while cabins on the lower deck use shared ones. Double-decker control cars are to be introduced during late 2013 and restaurant cars in early 2014.

The double-decker cars are designed for higher speeds than ordinary passenger wagons - up to 200 km/h, but they were later given speed restrictions on driving into tunnels. They are very often operated as all-double-decker InterCity trains (called IC²) with at seat power supplies for laptops and wireless LAN internet connection.


The Chemin de Fer de l'État in France ran voitures à 2 étages double-deck suburban coaches from 1933. Its successor, the SNCF, has been running VB2N double-decker coaches since 1975; VB2N were introduced from 1975 as a replacement of the État cars.

Since the late 1980s, SNCF has been running double-deck RER trains. SNCF runs double-deck TGV cars on heavily used high-speed services, such as on the Paris-Lyon-Marseille line. Many suburban rail, regional rail and high-speed services are operated by double-deck DMUs, EMU, coaches and TGV. The French loading gauge dictates that the double-deck cars have a maximum height of 4.20 m (13 ft 9.4 in).

Hong Kong

MTR and formerly KCRC operate double-decker carriages with the KTT train sets. These cars were manufactured in Japan by Kinki Sharyo .


In India, the Flying Ranee, a passenger Train between Surat and Mumbai Central on the Western Railway Track uses double-deck cars, since 1970. Double Decker coaches was the part of Howrah-Dhanbad Black Diamond Express for many years during mid 1980's. 2 Coaches were there right at the middle of the entire train. But those coaches were withdrawn later for some unknown reason.

Indian Railways introduced its first air-conditioned double deck train in 2011 on the Howrah – Dhanbad Double Decker Express between Howrah station in West Bengal and Dhanbad Junction in Jharkand.[6] which were Subsequently followed by Delhi Sarai Rohilla - Jaipur, Ahmedabad - Mumbai, Chennai Central - Bangalore[7] and Bhopal Habibganj - Indore.


In the seventies, with the rise of mass commuting to the big cities the Ferrovie dello Stato have found themselves having to quickly increase the capacity of their services with Carrozze Due Piani Tipo 1979 (see it:Carrozza Due Piani). Today, using double-decker coaches also private railway companies Ferrovie Nord Milano and Ferrovie del Sud Est. The types of double-decker train is circulating today in Italy are: Vivalto, TAF, TSR.


In Japan, double-decker trains are used either to show better scenery, or to increase seat capacity. In Tokyo area commuter trains, double-decker cars are generally used as Green Cars, a type of reserved-seating-only cars with better accommodations than the regular commuter cars.

The first Japanese double-decker train appeared in 1904. It was Type 5 train of Osaka City Tram. Sightseeing trains that feature double-decker carriages include the JR Shikoku 5000 series, Keihan 8000 series, JR Central 371 series, and Odakyu 20000 series RSE. The first JNR/JR double-decker trains were 200 series Shinkansen and 100 series Shinkansen, for Shinkansen lines.

JR East introduced the 215 series double-deck EMUs for Home Liner services in 1992. JR East also introduced E1 Series Shinkansen and E4 Series Shinkansen for its Shinkansen Lines; the trains are doubled decked to increase their capacities. This includes JR West 285 series EMUs for Sunrise Izumo/Sunrise Seto and JR East E26 series cars for Cassiopeia services.


In 2012, a prototype double-decker rail carriage was made at the TVZ Tver Carriage Building Factory for the RZD Russian Railways company. This prototype carriage is a sleeping car with four-berth compartments and a total capacity of 64 passengers. Russian Railways ordered double-decker sleeper carriages from Transmashholding for the Adler-Moscow train service. As of August 2012 they were expected to be delivered in time for the 2014 winter Olympics in Sochi.[8] RZD offers low platforms for Moscow-Adler route.


SJ AB operates 43 double-decker EMUs built by Alstom and designated class X40. The EMU comes in a two-coach version and a three-coach version. The trains are mainly used in regional trains in the areas around lake Mälaren and in the trains between Gävle and Linköping. It has a maximum speed of 200 km/h (120 mph) and is equipped with wireless internet.

Between 1966 and 1990 SJ used DMUs of class Y3 with double-decker end cars and normal cars in between. Due to the to distinct humps on the endcars it was nicknamed "the camel".


Double-decker commuter trains are used by the Zürich S-Bahn. Two types of trains are used, an older type consisting of an electric locomotive with double-decker cars, and Electric Multiple Units where the motors are on board the car. From 2010 onwards, a third type – the Stadler KISS – is scheduled to enter service.

The Swiss Federal Railways also operate the IC 2000 double-decker passenger coaches in most of Switzerland.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, due to the small loading gauge, the railway system cannot accommodate double-deck trains. A modest attempt at double decking was made in 1948 on the Southern Railway with the two trains of the Bulleid 4DD class. Although innovative, with stepped compartments, where the bottoms of the upper seats are above the heads of the people on the lower level, but the feet of the people above are not, see,[9] the loading gauge severely restricted their use and they were removed from service in 1971.

Double-decker trams were common in British cities prior to the dismantling of the networks between the 1930s and 1960s.

United States

Bilevel passenger rail cars used in the United States are manufactured by Bombardier, Kawasaki, Colorado Railcar, IC 2000, and several others, with the former two having produced the majority of the high platform "split level" commuter rail cars in use in the northeastern states.

Colorado Railcar produces bilevel DMUs and IC 2000 produces bilevel EMUs; in both cases these multiple units are self-propelled cars much like subway cars. Colorado Railcar cars measure (19 ft 9.5 in or 6,033 mm) in height and have steps that enter to a lower deck that is (51 in or 1,300 mm) above the rail. The IC 2000 cars are strictly a low platform design.

Other designs, including rolling stock made by Colorado Railcar, Budd, Pullman-Standard, Bombardier and others have an entrance on the lower deck rather than an intermediate level. Amtrak Superliners are double-decker cars of this variety, with the entrance a step or so up from the lowest station platform level, or at the level of slightly higher platforms, and allow passage from car to car at upper-deck level.

Northeastern United States

Most passenger rail lines in the northeastern states have a loading gauge that can only accommodate cars less than 14 ft 6 in (4,420 mm) in height; this is due to structure gauge restrictions (i.e. bridges, tunnels, etc.) that are too low.

Exceptions in this region include bilevel passenger rail cars that run on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), New Jersey Transit (NJ Transit), and Boston's MBTA Commuter Rail (MBTA), all of which were built to unique designs to clear specific structure gauge problems on those systems.[10][11] LIRR and MBTA's were built by Kawasaki Rail Car, Inc., NJ Transit's were built by Bombardier Transportation.[12][13]

The bilevel passenger rail cars used by LIRR and NJ Transit are based on a 1930s Pullman sleeping car design built for the Pennsylvania Railroad that was termed a "Duplex Sleeper". This design provided 24 roomettes on two levels with the lower level being depressed between the trucks. This idea was copied in 1947 for the LIRR and made use of a standard P-70 that was electrified. Current bilevel passenger cars on the LIRR continue to have the entire center sill lowered to the minimum level between the trucks, providing a depressed floor on that level with the upper level being stacked on top between the trucks. At each end, a common floor is located at normal height over the trucks. All LIRR bilevel passenger rail cars have only two wide quarter-point doors on each side for high level platforms. In contrast, the bilevel cars used by NJ Transit have four doors on each side, two quarter-point doors at high level platform height and two in the normal 51 in (1,300 mm) vestibular position, with stairs to reach low level platforms. Bilevel passenger rail cars used by MBTA were produced by Kawasaki Rail Car, Inc. and have a similar configuration to those used by the LIRR and NJ Transit but differ in that they only have 51 in (1,300 mm) vestibular side-loading doors.


Due to the typically-generous clearances on California railroads, bilevel cars are common in the state. The California Department of Transportation owns 88 California Cars, which are based on the Superliner body shell, but with high-density interiors suitable for corridor trains. These cars, along with 39 owned directly by Amtrak, are dedicated to state-subsidized Amtrak California routes including the San Joaquin, Capitol Corridor and Pacific Surfliner routes.[14]


Bilevel passenger rail cars used by Metra commuter rail in Chicago are known as "gallery cars" (see below) as there is an open space between the two sides of the upper deck, allowing ticket collectors to check tickets on both levels from the bottom level. Chicago does not have the loading gauge problems that affect passenger rail lines in most northeastern states; consequently all Metra commuter rail rolling stock are bilevel passenger rail cars. Furthermore, most of Amtrak's intercity passenger trains operating to points west of Chicago use Superliner bilevel passenger rail cars.

Other countries

In the Netherlands, there are three types of double-deck trains, DDM-1 carriage based trains, the DD-AR and the VIRM (Regiorunner). The VIRM, is an example from the Netherlands, of High platform (split level) double-decker cars. It is one step up from the station platform to the entrance, and from there seven steps upstairs or four steps downstairs.

In Spain several lines of Cercanías (Renfe's commuter rail service) use double-deck trains.

In Germany Bombardier's double-deck rail cars are also used extensively on suburban trains by the DB. The same rail cars serve some of the routes on the Israel Railways network, hauled by diesel locomotives and include electric generators housed in the control car.

In Iran, the Tehran-Hashtgerd suburban commuter line is served with electric push-pull hauled trainsets with double-decker carriages manufactured by Wagon Pars in Iran.

In Hong Kong, the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation uses double-deck cars, named "Ktt", on its cross-boundary route between Kowloon and Guangzhou. In January to May 1998 the "Ktt" cars were used to serve between the Hung Hom and Lo Wu stations. The "Ktt" cars have lower bottom floor than the ordinary single-deck cars serving on the same pair of tracks.

In China, Changchun Railway Vehicles offers a double deck coach.

See: Double Deck Train in China

Gallery cars

Because of the two levels being separate on most cars, there is a physical limitation on the conductor, as it is difficult for him or her to verify, collect payment and sell tickets to such a large concentration of passengers in one car on each level, owing to the sometimes short distance between stops.

A solution came in the form of the design of the "gallery" car, which features upper levels, which are "mezzanines" or "balconies" running along both sides of the car, with an open area between them.[15] Some gallery cars have up to four separate galleries (one on each side, times two for access from each end).[15]

This enables the conductor(s) walking along on the lower level to easily reach up and punch or validate tickets of the passengers seated on the mezzanine level. Passengers can place their tickets in clips along a lengthwise panel, located slightly above the conductor's head and within easy reach. The conductor can then quickly check tickets and move to the next car.

Another advantage of bilevel gallery cars is the relatively low first step of the vestibule entrance to the car, which is 14 58 inches (371 mm) above the head of the rail. The advantage of this is that commuter rail operators do not have to spend funds on building high-level platforms; a low-level platform is all that is necessary, at a far lower cost. This can be a major disadvantage as well, as many commuter rail systems prefer high-level platforms as they can decrease loading and unloading times substantially, and greatly improve access to trains for the disabled.

Such cars are used by Metra in and around Chicago, by Caltrain along the west side of San Francisco Bay, by Montreal's Agence métropolitaine de transport, by Virginia Railway Express in Northern Virginia, by Nashville's Music City Star and by MARC Train in Maryland. They provide high capacity (155 to 169 passengers each). Chicago's commuter rail system is currently receiving new versions of these cars. Caltrain, the San Francisco peninsula commuter rail service, has recently overhauled its fleet.

See also


External links

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