The US state of Minnesota has started its first commuter rail service, Northstar.

The 40-mile rail line that connects Big Lake and downtown Minneapolis has stops at Fridley, Coon Rapids, Anoka, Elk River and Big Lake and offers five trips from each side.

The $317m project, which has been under planning and development for over 12 years, also serves part of the Northstar Corridor between Minneapolis and St Cloud.

Each train on the line will feature a locomotive and four passenger cars, with each passenger car accommodating around 140 people.

The stations will feature park-and-ride facilities and platforms and will have cameras, emergency telephones, enclosed shelters and heating.

The railway has been designed and built by the state Department of Transportation, owned by the Met Council and managed by Metro Transit.

Metro Transit said that by 2014, the state will have six transitways totalling 115 miles in length.