Railway platform

A railway platform is an area alongside a railway track providing convenient access to trains. Almost all stations have some form of platform, with larger stations having multiple platforms.

Platform at Rotterdam Centraal station, Netherlands
Station platforms at Arts et Métiers on Paris Métro Line 11

The world's longest station platform is at Hubbali Junction in India at 1,505 metres (4,938 ft).[1] The Appalachian Trail station in the United States, at the other extreme, has a platform which is only long enough for a single bench.[2]

Among some United States train conductors the word "platform" has entered usage as a verb meaning "to berth at a station", as in the announcement: "The last two cars of this train will not platform at East Rockaway".[3]

Height relative to trains

The most basic form of platform consists of an area at the same level as the track, usually resulting in a fairly large height difference between the platform and the train floor. This would often not be considered a true platform. The more traditional platform is elevated relative to the track but often lower than the train floor, although ideally they should be at the same level. Occasionally the platform is higher than the train floor, where a train with a low floor serves a station built for trains with a high floor, for example at the Dutch stations of the DB Regionalbahn Westfalen (see Enschede). On the London Underground some stations are served by both District line and Piccadilly line trains, and the Piccadilly trains have lower floors.

A tram stop is often in the middle of the street; usually it has as a platform a refuge area of a similar height to that of the sidewalk, e.g. 100 mm (4 in), and sometimes has no platform. The latter requires extra care by passengers and other traffic to avoid accidents. Both types of tram stops can be seen in the tram networks of Melbourne and Toronto. Sometimes a tram stop is served by ordinary trams with rather low floors and metro-like light rail vehicles with higher floors, and the tram stop has a dual-height platform. A railway station may be served by heavy-rail and light-rail vehicles with lower floors and have a dual- height platform, as on the RijnGouweLijn in the Netherlands.

In all cases the platform must accommodate the loading gauge and conform to the structure gauge of the system.

Types of platform

Oslo airport train station, Platform 0
This diagram illustrates different types of platform. Platform 1 is a "bay" platform, while platforms 2, 3 and 4 are "through" platforms. The platform accommodating 3 and 4 is an "island" platform

Platform types include the bay platform, side platform (also called through platform), split platform and island platform. A bay platform is one at which the track terminates, i.e. a dead-end or siding. Trains serving a bay platform must reverse in or out. A side platform is the more usual type, alongside tracks where the train arrives from one end and leaves towards the other. An island platform has through platforms on both sides; it may be indented on one or both ends, with bay platforms. To reach an island platform there may be a bridge, a tunnel, or a level crossing. A variant on the side platform is the spanish solution which has platforms on both sides of a single through track.

Modern station platforms can be constructed from a variety of materials such as glass-reinforced polymer, pre-cast concrete or expanded polystrene, depending on the underlying substructure.


Designated platforms or tracks
In US usage, this station would be described as having three platforms and four tracks (Tracks 1—4). In other English-speaking countries, it would be described as having four platforms (Platforms 1—4).

Most stations have their platforms numbered consecutively from 1; a few stations, including Cardiff Central, Haymarket, King's Cross, Stockport, and Gravesend (in the UK); and Lidcombe, Sydney (Australia), start from 0. At Bristol Temple Meads platforms 3 through to 12 are split along their length with odd numbered platforms facing north and east and even facing south and west, with a small signal halfway along the platform. Some, such as London Waterloo East, use letters instead of numbers (this is to distinguish the platforms from numbered ones in the adjoining Waterloo main-line station for staff who work at both stations); some, such as Paris-Gare de Lyon, use letters for one group of platforms but numbers for the other.

In the US, and also some European countries such as Sweden, a designated place where a train can arrive is referred to as a "track" (e.g. "The train is arriving on Track 5"). The term "platform" is also used in the US but refers to the structure rather than a designated place for a train arriving. Therefore, an island platform would be described as one platform with two tracks. In some cases, there are numbered tracks which are used only for through traffic and do not have platform access. In other English-speaking countries, "platform" can refer to both the structure or to a designated place for trains arriving (e.g. "The train is arriving at Platform 5"). Therefore, an island platform might have two numbered platforms.


Some of the station facilities are often located on the platforms. Where the platforms are not adjacent to a station building, often some form of shelter or waiting room is provided, and employee cabins may also be present. The weather protection offered varies greatly, from little more than a roof with open sides, to a closed room with heating or air-conditioning. There may be benches, lighting, ticket counters, drinking fountains, shops, trash boxes, and static timetables or dynamic displays with information about the next train.

There are often loudspeakers as part of a public address (PA) system. The PA system is often used where dynamic timetables or electronic displays are not present. A variety of information is presented, including destinations and times (for all trains, or only the more important long-distance trains), delays, cancellations, platform changes, changes in routes and destinations, the number of carriages in the train and the location of first class or luggage compartments, and supplementary fee or reservation requirements.


Some metro stations have platform screen doors between the platforms and the tracks. They provide more safety, and they allow the heating or air conditioning in the station to be separated from the ventilation in the tunnel, thus being more efficient and effective. They have been installed in most stations of the Singapore MRT and the Hong Kong MTR, and stations on the Jubilee Line Extension in London.

Platforms should be sloped upwards slightly towards the platform edge to prevent wheeled objects such as trolleys, prams and wheelchairs from rolling away and into the path of the train. Many platforms have a cavity underneath an overhanging edge so that people who may fall off the platform can seek shelter from incoming trains.

High-speed rail

A train passing at 240 km/h (150 mph) with induced airflow and debris that affect the videographer on the platform

In high-speed rail, passing trains are a significant safety problem as the safe distance from the platform edge increases with the speed of the passing train. A study done by the United States Department of Transportation in 1999 found that trains passing station platforms at speeds of 240 kilometres per hour (150 mph) can pose safety concerns to passengers on the platforms who are 2 metres (6.6 ft) away from the edge due to the aerodynamic effects created by pressure and induced airflow with speeds of 64 kilometres per hour (40 mph) to 95 kilometres per hour (59 mph) depending on the train body aerodynamic designs. Additionally, the airflow can cause debris to be blown out to the waiting passengers. If the passengers stand closer at 1 metre (3.3 ft), the risk increases with airflow that can reach speeds of 79 kilometres per hour (49 mph) to 116 kilometres per hour (72 mph).[4]

Platform barriers on the Berlin-Hamburg high speed line

In United Kingdom, a guideline for platform safety specifies that for the platforms with train passing speeds between 160 kilometres per hour (99 mph) and 200 kilometres per hour (120 mph), there should be a yellow-line buffer zone of 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) and other warning signs. If trains can pass at speeds higher than 200 kilometres per hour (120 mph), the platforms should be inaccessible to passengers unless there are waiting rooms or screened areas to provide protection.[5] The European Union has a regulation for platforms that are close to tracks with train passing speeds of 250 kilometres per hour (160 mph) or more should not be accessible to passengers unless there is a lower speed limit for trains that intend to stop at the station or there are barriers to limit access.[6][7]


A common marking at curved platforms on the London Underground.

Platforms usually have some form of warnings or measures to keep passengers away from the tracks. The simplest measure is markings near the edge of the platform to demarcate the distance back that passengers should remain. Often a special tiled surface is used as well as a painted line, to help blind people using a walking aid, and help in preventing wheelchairs from rolling too near the platform edge.

In the US, Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 regulations require a detectable warning strip 24 inches (61 cm) wide, consisting of truncated dome bumps in a visually-contrasting color, for the full length of the platform.[8]


Ideally platforms should be straight or slightly convex, so that the guard (if any) can see the whole train when preparing to close the doors. Platforms that have great curvature have blind spots that create a safety hazard. Mirrors or closed-circuit cameras may be used in these cases to view the whole platform. Also passenger carriages are straight, so doors will not always open directly onto a curved platform often a platform gap is present. Usually such platforms will have warning signs, possibly auditory, such as London Underground's famous phrase "Mind the gap".

There may be moveable gap filler sections within the platform, extending once the train has stopped and retracting after the doors have closed. The New York City Subway employs these at 14th Street–Union Square on the IRT Lexington Avenue Line and at Times Square on the 42nd Street Shuttle, and formerly at the South Ferry outer loop station on the IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line.

Notable examples

Longest railway platforms

Eastern end of longest platform in Kollam Junction in India. It is the world's third longest railway platform.
  1. Hubballi Junction, Karnataka, India: 1,505 metres (4,938 ft)[9]
  2. Gorakhpur Junction, Uttar Pradesh, India: 1,366.33 m (4,483 ft)[10]
  3. Kollam Junction, Kerala, India: 1,180.5 m (3,873 ft)[11][12][13][14]
  4. Kharagpur Junction, West Bengal, India: 1,072.5 m (3,519 ft)[15][16]
  5. State Street Subway, Chicago, Illinois, US, 1,067.1 m (3,501 ft)
  6. Chennai Egmore, Tamil Nadu, India: 925.22 m (3,035 ft)
  7. Pilibhit Junction, Uttar Pradesh India 900 m (2,953 ft)
  8. Auto Club Speedway station, Fontana, California, US: 2,675 ft (815 m)[17]
  9. Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, India: 802 m (2,631 ft)
  10. Cheriton Shuttle Terminal, Kent, United Kingdom: 791 m (2,595 ft) (longest in Europe)
  11. Bern, Bern, Switzerland: 785 m (2,575 ft)
  12. Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, India: 770 m (2,526 ft)
  13. East Perth, Perth, Western Australia: 770 m (2,526 ft) (longest in Australia)
  14. Dearborn Street subway, Chicago, Illinois, US 762 m (2,500 ft)
  15. Sonpur Junction, Sonepur, Bihar, India: 738 m (2,421 ft)[18]
  16. Nabadwip Dham, Nadia district, West Bengal, India 720 m (2,362 ft)
  17. Flinders Street railway station, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia: 708 m (2,323 ft)[19]
  18. Port Pirie (Mary Elie Street) railway station, South Australia: 701 m (2,300 ft)[20]
  19. Sittard railway station, Netherlands: 700 m (2,297 ft)
  20. 's-Hertogenbosch railway station, Netherlands: 699 m (2,293 ft)
  21. Nijmegen, Netherlands: 699 m (2,293 ft)

Greatest number of platforms

  1. Grand Central Terminal New York City, US: 44
  2. Gare du Nord, France: 35 (31 above ground level + 4 underground)
  3. Munich Central Station, Germany: 34 (32 above ground level + 2 underground)
  4. Chicago Union Station, US: 30
  5. Zhengzhou East, China: 30
  6. Central railway station Sydney, Australia: 28
  7. London Waterloo station, United Kingdom: 24[21] (plus 8 at Waterloo tube station)[22]
  8. Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal (Bang Sue Grand Central), Bangkok, Thailand: 24 (+2 MRT Blue Line, 12 platforms are currently inoperational.)
  9. Howrah, India : 23 (+4 for Kolkata Metro Line 2 (under construction))

See also

  • Berne gauge  Railway loading gauge considered the standard in most of Europe
  • Gauntlet track
  • Glossary of rail transport terms
  • Harrington Hump  Railway platform elevation method
  • Island platform  Railway platform placed between two railway tracks
  • Loading dock
  • Loading gauge  Maximum dimensions for railway vehicles and their loads
  • Mind the gap  Warning to train passengers boarding and disembarking
  • Platform gap  Space between a train car and the edge of the station platform
  • Platform gap filler  Movable platform edge extensions at subway or railway stations
  • Railway platform height  Vertical distance between top of the platform and top of the rail
  • Rail transport  Method of transportation
  • Side platform  Railway platform with tracks along only one edge
  • Spanish solution  Train station layout that uses both island and side platforms
  • Split platform  Railway station with a platform for each track, but on different levels
  • Structure gauge  Minimum height and width of railway infrastructure


  1. Gorakhpur gets world's largest railway platform The Times of India
  2. "MNR Stations APPALACHIAN TRAIL". as0.mta.info. Retrieved 2018-10-14.
  3. NY Times 18 May 1986
  4. Lee, Harvey Shui-Hong (December 1999). Assessment of Potential Aerodynamic Effects on Personnel and Equipment in Proximity to High-Speed Train Operations (PDF). United States Department of Transportation. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  5. Guidance on Interface between Station Platforms, Track and Trains (PDF) (2 ed.). Rail Safety and Standards Board Limited. March 2014. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  6. 2002/732/EC: Commission Decision of 30 May 2002 concerning the technical specification for interoperability relating to the infrastructure subsystem of the trans-European high-speed rail system referred to in Article 6(1) of Council Directive 96/48/EC (Official Journal L 245 ed.). The European Union. 9 December 2002. pp. 143–279. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  7. "Train Platform Locator". Indian Train. Retrieved 26 April 2021.
  8. 2010 ADA Standards, US Department of Justice, Sections 710.5, 810
  9. "World's longest railway platform in Hubballi in its final stage of construction". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 2022-09-13.
  10. Dinda, Archisman (October 9, 2013). "Uttar Pradesh gets world's longest railway platform". GulfNews.com. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
  11. "At a glance: Longest railway platforms in India". Railnewscenter. Archived from the original on 25 February 2015. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  12. "The Top 6 Longest Railway Platforms of India". Walk through India. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  13. Walsh, Ben (2 November 2014). "West Bengal: tea plantations and other Raj-era relics". The Independent.
  14. "Malayala Manorama Daily(Kollam Edition 22/02/2015)". Retrieved 2015-02-22.
  15. "Trivia". IRFCA. Retrieved 2012-01-21.
  16. "Indian Railway Facts". iloveindia. Retrieved 2012-01-21.
  17. SMA Rail Consulting (April 2016). "California Passenger Rail Network Schematics" (PDF). California Department of Transportation.
  18. "गोरखपुर से ट्रेन का सुचारू संचालन कल से" [All Trains from Gorakhpur Will Be On Track From Tomorrow] (in Hindi). 7 October 2013. Archived from the original on 2016-03-22.
  19. Melbourne Crime Tours – Go West Tours Melbourne Archived April 3, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  20. "News" Railway Gazette 18 August 1967 page 603
  21. "London Waterloo - Facilities, Shops and Parking Information". www.networkrail.co.uk. Retrieved 2022-10-16.
  22. "Waterloo Underground Station". Transport for London. Retrieved 2022-10-16.
  • "Emplacementstekeningen NS". www.sporenplan.nl (in Dutch). Schematic maps of all tracks, junctionsswitches and platforms in the Netherlands (point at an area and open detail map in a new window)
  • "Train Station Page". www.railway-technical.com. Railway Technical Web Pages. Platforms. Archived from the original on 2007-06-09. (UK-centric information)
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