Managing peak demand for passenger rail: A literature review

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - capacity, operations - crowding, land use - planning, ridership - demand, ridership - old people, organisation - management, mode - rail, mode - mass transit, literature review - literature review


transport planning, rail demand management, peak period, crowding, mass transit capacity


A review of the literature on the phenomenon of peak rail demand and its management.

Major cities in Australia are experiencing heavy demand growth for rail passenger transport, especially in the morning and afternoon peak periods during which radially-configured rail systems experience heavy commuter traffic catering to the standard workday.

Passenger rail systems customarily focus attention on meeting peak demand – through investment in infrastructure, rolling stock and provision of services. Allocating extensive resources for use during only a few hours each day is not efficient.

The paper looks at the literature on peak rail demand. Firstly, the phenomenon itself is described, along with the methods that might be used to track and measure demand levels. Secondly, common and potential peak spreading or shifting or demand management approaches, issues and ideas are reviewed – including: network planning responses, differential pricing, policy and strategy and passenger location-balancing strategies. The relationship between the standard working day and peak demand is also reviewed.