If freight service has increased the structure gauge, and the rail line needs to minimize "per car" maintenance and staffing costs double deckers can pay for themselves more quickly than buying single floor cars of equal capacity. Wheelchair accessibility laws encourage level entry solutions frequently provided by double decker rail cars. Profitability is encouraging double decker rail cars adaption before many alternatives.
Bombardier and Kawasaki manufactured most of the High platform "split level" commuter rail cars in the North East United states.
Colorado Railcar make DMU and IC2000, of Switzerland, make EMU, where the Multiple Units are self-propelled cars, much like subway cars. Colorado Railcar cars are very tall (19' 9.5" or 6033mm) cars for low platforms with steps entry to a normal (51" 1295mm) floor and an upstairs. The IC2000 cars are strictly low platform design.
In 1964, Tulloch Limited built the first double decker trailer cars for use in Sydney. They ran with single deck electric motor cars. The first prototype double deck motor car was built by Comeng in 1969 and production versions entered service in 1972. 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. Well-known examples of these trains are the Tangara and Millennium trains. The Sydney double deck commuter trains are 14'-4.5" or 4380 mm high.
The Public Transport Corporation in Melbourne ordered a prototype Double Deck Development and Demonstration train in 1991. It suffered frequent breakdowns and spent long periods out of use. It was finally withdrawn in 2002 and scrapped in 2006.
Other designs, including rolling stock made by Colorado Railcar Manufacturing, Budd, Pullman-Standard, Bombardier and others, have the 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.
The northeastern US can accommodate split level (double deck) cars only if they are no higher than . These double deckers run on the Long Island Rail Road: : and on New Jersey Transit: : (contact Bombardier Transportation: ) due to the size of the loading gauge (i.e. bridges, tunnels, etc. are too low). The designs found on the Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit are based on a 1930s Pullman Sleeping Car design for the Pennsylvania Railroad called a Duplex Sleeper. This design provided 24 Roomettes on two levels with the lower level depressed between the trucks. This idea was copied in 1947 for the Long Island Rail Road, making use of a standard P-70 that was electrified. The new cars have the entire center sill lowered to the minimum level between the trucks, providing a depressed floor on that level. The upper level is stacked on top between the trucks. At each end, the a common floor is located in the normal position, with four doors on each side, two of which can be reached only at high level platforms, while the other two are in the normal Vestibular position, with stairs to reach low level platforms. Similarly the structure gauge of the Mount Royal Tunnel limits the height to 14'-6" or 4420 mm
The double deck cars operated by Chicago's Metra regional rail service are known as "gallery cars" 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 most eastern USA cities (although ex-Metra cars operate on MARC in Baltimore, Maryland), so all Chicago's commuter rail rolling stock is full size bi-level, and many of Amtrak's Superliner trains to the western USA originate from Chicago.
The first bi-level gallery cars were introduced by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy railroad in 1950.
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. Many suburban, regional 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 4200 mm or 13'-9.35".
In Japan, double decker trains are used either to show better scenery, or to increase seat capacity.
The first double decker heavy rail train, Kintetsu 近鉄10000系電車, appeared as late as 1958. The series, nicknamed ビスタカー, became popular trains used for limited express services. Its successors are still used by Kintetsu. The idea of Vista Car is said to come from Vista Dome Car in United States. The first double decker high-speed rail in the world was JNR 100 Series Shinkansen used from 1986. The train was purely introduced to improve its luxury. As such, the first floor of the train was a dining car.
A similar kind of trains are largely single decker trains with vehicle cockpit domes on the "second floor", to allow the better front view. This kind of trains include パノラマカー by Meitetsu, Romancecars by Odakyū, and フジサン特急 by Fujikyū. Its origin is said to be ETR 300 Settebello in Italy.
The first Japanese double decker trains built to increase its capacity were 国鉄211系電車 and 国鉄113系電車, both by JR East, 1989. These trains were Green Cars (Japanese for first class cars), needing more seats than standing spaces. JR East also introduced double deckers with normal class seats, namely 国鉄415系電車 for Jōban Line, 1991, and JR東日本215系電車 for ホームライナー, 1992. JR East continues to use double deckers, including E217 Series for Sōbu Line (Rapid) and Yokosuka Line, E231 Series for Tōkaidō Main Line, Utsunomiya Line (Tōhoku Main Line), Takasaki Line, and Shōnan-Shinjuku Line, and E531 Series for Jōban Line.
In Japan, however, double decker commuter trains are relatively fewer than those used in Europe or North America. This is because Japanese commuter trains can be much more crowded than Western counterparts. Therefore, they generally need more standing spaces than seats. Also, Japanese train cars are 20 m long or less, and it is technologically difficult or inefficient to have more than 2 doors on each side of double deckers that size. Japanese crowded trains, however, generally need 4, 5, or 6 doors on each side to make smooth boarding and alighting.
JR East also introduced E1 Series and E4 Series for its Shinkansen Lines. Unlike 100 Series in the past, these trains, nicknamed Max, all consist of double decker cars, and are purely made to increase their capacities. In that sense, these trains are similar to TGV Duplex in France. There are also some double decker sleeping cars made to increase their beds or compartments, like CityNightLine trains in Europe. This includes JR West JR西日本285系電車 for Sunrise Izumo/Sunrise Seto and JR East JR東日本E26系客車 for Cassiopeia.
SJ AB operates 43 double decker EMUs of class X40. The EMU comes in a two-coach version and a three-coach version. The trains are mainly used in the areas around lake Mälaren and in the trains between Gävle and Linköping.
Double Deckered commuter trains are used in the Zürich area. Two types of trains are used, an older type consisting of an electric locomotive with double decker cars, and Electric Multiple Units (DMU or EMU) where the motors are on-board the car. The SBB-CFF-FFS also operates the IC 2000 double decker passenger coaches in most of Switzerland.
In the Netherlands, there are two types of double-deck trains, the DDM and the DD-IRM, also called Regiorunner: see Trains in the Netherlands. The DD-IRM, 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. Bombardier's double-deck rail cars in Germany are also used extensively on suburban trains by the DB. The same rail cars serve many of the routes on the Israel Railways network.
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.
The ingenious solution came in the form of the design of the "gallery" car, which featured upper levels, which were really mezzanines running along both sides of the car, with an open area between the mezzanines, hence the term "gallery". This enabled the conductor(s) walking along on the lower level to easily reach up and punch/validate tickets of the passengers seated on the mezzanine level.
Passengers would simply place their tickets in clips along a lengthwise panel, located slightly above the conductor's head and within easy reach. The conductor would then quickly check tickets and move to the next car.
An example is the cars provided and leased in the U.S. by Midwest Transportation & Development Corporation of Chicago. They are of a design proven in service and steadily refined since their introduction in the 1950s. These cars, known as "bilevel gallery cars", are among the most successful designs developed, and are currently in daily use in Chicago, San Francisco, and Montreal (Agence métropolitaine de transport). They provide high capacity (155 to 169 passengers each) and use standard, off-the-shelf components, without relying on proprietary, expensive and hard-to-get replacement parts. Chicago's commuter rail system Metra is currently receiving new versions of these cars and Caltrain, the San Francisco area commuter rail authority, has recently overhauled its fleet.
Another advantage of bilevel gallery cars is the relatively low first step of the vestibule entrance to the car, which is 14 5/8" (371 mm) above the head of the rail. The advantage of this is that commuter rail operators do not have to spend scarce 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 and increase loading and unloading times substantially, and greatly improve access to trains for the disabled. Also, older (70's era) bi-level cars are notoriously uncomfortable, and tend to be disliked by rail agencies that operate them alongside newer equipment.
|platform height||entry||end doors||description||ascii art|
|high||level entry||traditional||Traditional single floor high platform level entry car and traditional end doors to connect cars.|| |
|low||step entry||traditional||Traditional single floor low platform entry with steps to high floor car and traditional end doors to connect cars.||6_______6 |
|high||level entry||traditional||High platform level entry car with double decker "over rails" and traditional end doors to connect cars. A "split level". e.g. Bombardier NJ transit cars|| |
6_/---_6oo ___/ oo
|low||level entry||traditional||Low platform level entry car with double decker "over rails" and traditional end doors to connect cars. A "split level". e.g. Bombardier Bilevel cars for Montreal AMT and Toronto GO Transit|| |
|low||level entry||high||Low platform level entry car with double decker "over rails" and high end doors to connect cars. e.g Bombardier Bilevel for Amtrak Superliner|| |
|low||steps entry||traditional and optional high||Very tall car traditional low platform entry up steps to "over wheels" high floor car, traditional end doors to connect cars, and even higher double deck. Upstairs/high end doors are optional. e.g. Colorado Rails DMU for Florida Tri-Rail|| |
9___________9 6_____/_____6oo[|] [|]oo
|low||steps entry||traditional and optional high||Very tall car low platform level entry to low floor and inside stair case to double decker "over wheels" and traditional end doors to connect cars. Upstairs/high end doors are optional. A very tall "split level" with low level entry.|| |
9___________9 6__/ __6oo_/oo
|Ascii art symbol||description|
_ and -
|floors (lower and higher)|
|traditional end door|
|high end door|
|>||steps to platform|