From OpenStreetMap Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Public-images-osm logo.svg route = tracks
08 tory railtrack ubt.jpeg
Railroad track as rail infrastructure. Not to be confused with route=train Edit this description in the wiki page. Edit this description in the data item.
Group: routes
Used on these elements
should not be used on nodesshould not be used on waysshould not be used on areasmay be used on relations
Useful combination
See also
Status: in use

Significantly in Germany, relations of this type are used to aggregate (combine) connected train tracks between two endpoints that are maintained as an operational unit into a single relation. There is a similar and much more widely used route=railway relation, which is used for larger infrastructure segments potentially stretching over several route=tracks relations. These relations are not widely used; use with discretion or not at all if that is the regional convention for you, as route=railway suffices for most of the world's rail aggregation in OSM.

For lines describing the travel of trains, usually for passenger services, use the tag route=train.


The ways (railway=rail, railway=disused, railway=abandoned or railway=razed) are collected in a relation with the following tags:

Key Value Comment Example (relation 1820444) Example (relation 1257824)
type route (mandatory) type=route type=route
route tracks (mandatory) route=tracks route=tracks
ref number (mandatory) ref=1732
name Track name Name of the track (recommended, if such a name exists) name=Hannöversche Südbahn name=Highland Main Line
operator company name Operator of the track
(e. g. DB Netz AG in Germany) (required, if known)
operator=DB Netz AG operator=Network Rail
from station name originating station (recommended) from=Hannover Hbf from=Perth
via station name important intermediate stations via=Elze; Kreiensen; Northeim (Han); Göttingen; Hann. Münden
to station name destination station (recommended) to=Kassel Hbf to=Inverness
wikipedia Wikipedia page Wikipedia page about this track (recommended) wikipedia=de:Hannöversche Südbahn wikipedia=en:Highland Main Line

All rails that are part of the track should be members of the relation. In contrast to train routes, the stations, platforms, and other non-track object should not be members. Removed tracks (railway=abandoned or railway=razed), that were once members of the track, should get the role „historic“.

Country specific

Relations of this sort are a minority of rail relations; there are "low thousands" of route=tracks, yet "tens of thousands" of route=railway. Routes tagged route=tracks seem to be found in Central/Northern Europe, Germany especially, because of how three relations, including the usually-extra of route=tracks are used to describe rail, rather than only "the other two," (route=railway and route=train), used much more frequently to group rail more simply (as using only two route relation types is simpler than three by including route=tracks relations).

There is also this thread in our community forum, which also expands consciousness of "how big is too big?" (of rail aggregation relations) and "what, exactly do and don't we aggregate?"

There is some sharpening up of focus (with better awareness) of how these topics (rail grouping among OSM data structures) interact. Germany uses tracks, many (most?) other regions use route=railway and route=train relations only (or largely so, with only rare "incursions" by route=tracks relations). With input from more countries / regions we better characterize this. If others in other countries / regions could additionally add below how things are tagged / aggregaged in your area, that can only help deepen the dialog.


In Germany route=tracks is used for VzG line numbers (four digit, unambiguous identification of a railway line), while route=railway is used to refer to timetabled route numbers (three digit, Kursbuchstrecke referring to a route of passenger services).

United States

In some countries like e.g. the USA route=tracks relations are not used, only route=railway relations are (as "collections of rail elements"). Moreover, a route=railway in North America (and most of the world?) does not imply or mean anything about passenger rail service on these collected members, as it does in Germany.

See also

  • route=railway - The route of a railway (e.g. the Channel Tunnel). Not to be confused with the route of a train service (see route=train).