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When talking about traveling by rail, are the following phrase and sentence correct?

  1. travel by commuter rail
  2. The incident happened on commuter rail.

I also wonder what's the difference between commuter rail, commuter rail line and commuter track with regard to a means of transport. Thank you so much.

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    Commuter train. It's the train that is special to commuters, not the railway line. Dec 22, 2023 at 9:12
  • And to extend @KateBunting’s remark, commuter track has no meaning. Dec 22, 2023 at 10:09

2 Answers 2

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"Commuter rail" is a phrase, and an example of "synecdoche" (or is it metonymy?) The word "rail" stands in for "tracks, stations, trains, and infrastructure" to refer to the whole system of trains for carrying commuters to a central city.

If you are talking about a specific instance you would use train, "Peter travelled on the 7:45 commuter train" If you are talking about the system you might use "rail", but you'd probably prefer "use commuter rail" to "travel by ..."

Similarly, in the case of a specific incident, you'd talk about "train": The incident happened on a commuter train". Whether "commuter rail" is possible depends on the type of incident.

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  • Thank you. By the way, when I talk about somebody working in the railway industry in general, what should I say? Is it "He works on the railways"?
    – Ken Adams
    Dec 24, 2023 at 4:32
  • Thats fine, but rather generic. Is he a driver or a guard or signalman? Does he do track maintenance, or sell tickets?
    – James K
    Dec 24, 2023 at 6:41
  • I actually came across that sentence in a dictionary and that was my guess of its meaning. Maybe the question should be: What's the meaning of "work on the railways"?
    – Ken Adams
    Dec 24, 2023 at 7:50
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    Of course there's nothing wrong with being generic. "work on the railways" probably means driver/guard/repair" In the same way that "works in an office" is pretty generic, but it is still good English.
    – James K
    Dec 24, 2023 at 11:12
  • Got it. I had another question in reply to swmcdonnell's post, but nobody seems to have picked up on that. Would you mind helping me work it out?
    – Ken Adams
    Dec 25, 2023 at 2:28
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There are two broad types of rail: freight (moves things) and commuter (moves people).

I think you're missing:

Commuter train refers to the machine that rides on the rails and gets you from Point A to Point B.

Here's my take on the others:

Commuter rail describes the method of travel as being by railroad in a train that carries passengers, not freight.

Commuter rail line refers to a specific route on the railroad that the commuter train takes.

Commuter track typically refers to the place in the station (Track Number) where you board your commuter train.

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  • 2
    freight and passenger, not commuter. That is a sub-type of passenger rail...
    – Lambie
    Dec 22, 2023 at 18:14
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    As Lambie says. A commuter is somebody who regularly takes a particular train, usually to get to work and back. Not all passengers are commuters.
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 22, 2023 at 18:25
  • Thank you. Also, could you tell me the difference between "railway line" and "rail line"?
    – Ken Adams
    Dec 24, 2023 at 3:46
  • And is rail station/timetable correct? If so, I honestly can't see the difference between rail and railway when they act as adjectives.
    – Ken Adams
    Dec 24, 2023 at 3:51
  • To add more information to my comment before last, I also find "railway" similar to "rail line" and "railway line". They all seem to refer to a route.
    – Ken Adams
    Dec 24, 2023 at 4:40

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