U.S. Track Classification Quick Reference

U.S. Track Class Regulations Per 49 CFR 213, 49 CFR 213

The Federal Railroad Administration has defined a system of classification for railroad track quality. These are defined as specific track classifications, ranging in value from 1 to 9. The classification of a track dictates specific construction details, including tolerance requirements for the geometrical measurements of the track. These tolerances also determine the speed limits for both freight and passenger trains, and the ability to run passenger trains.

  • The lowest class is referred to as excepted track. Only freight trains are allowed to operate on this type of track, up to speeds of 10 mph. Other restrictions apply to trains carrying hazardous material.
  • Class 1 - Class 3 track allows operation of freight and passenger trains with various restricted speeds (see Maximum Speed Limit table).
  • Class 4 track is the most common for regular commuter and passenger railroads allowing the typical full speed of the train.
  • Class 5 track is less common, allowing higher speeds. It is expected that as demand for track speed increases, Class 5 track will become more common.
  • Class 6 track is for freight trains and passenger trains travelling up to 110 mph. This is the classification level necessary for the higher-speed trains currently planned for future service.
  • Class 7 limits all trains to 125 mph. Most of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor is Class 7 track (used on the Amtrak Acela Train).
  • Class 8 track is very limited, a few segments exist in the Northeast Corridor.
  • Class 9 track limits all trains to 200 mph. There is no Class 9 track currently in the USA.

The table below has been combined from 49 CFR 213.9, 49 CFR 213.307

FRA Track Classification - Maximum Speed Limits

Track ClassificationFreightPassengerSection
Excepted Track10 mphNot Allowed49 CFR 213.4
Class 1 Track 10 mph15 mph49 CFR 213.9
Class 2 Track 25 mph30 mph49 CFR 213.9
Class 3 Track 40 mph60 mph49 CFR 213.9
Class 4 Track 60 mph80 mph49 CFR 213.9
Class 5 Track 80 mph90 mph49 CFR 213.9
Class 6 Track 110 mph110 mph49 CFR 213.307
Class 7 Track 125 mph125 mph49 CFR 213.307
Class 8 Track 160 mph160 mph49 CFR 213.307
Class 9 Track 200 mph200 mph49 CFR 213.307

Equipment Classification

Tier 1 - railroad passenger equipment operating at speeds not exceeding 125 miles per hour. 49 CFR 238.201
Tier 2 - railroad passenger equipment operating at speeds exceeding 125 mph but not exceeding 150 mph.49 CFR 238.401