Top subway systems around the world

Underground, above ground, most major metros have mass rapid transport systems. Subways, Metro’s, Undergrounds… they’re known by many names, but they do one thing, and one thing well. Get people to and from their destinations with minimal fuss and not much money. In fact, it is safe to say you can judge the success of a city by the calibre of its subway.

In many cities around the world, subways are the primary form of transportation. They’ve been around since the beginning of the 19th century and their use has spread to almost all major metropolitan areas around the world.

We need to remind ourselves that the car to person ratio is growing exponentially. For the executive traveller, driving a car or even hailing a cab to catch a business meeting or office deadline has become tiring and inconvenient. With the rising price of gas, driving is quickly turning into a pastime for the rich and famous and many companies simply won’t sanction the expense.

As a cheap, reliable and a convenient mode of transport, MRTs have stood the test of time for decades.

From the single, circular line of Glasgow to the cobweb-like network that is London, underground train systems of the world’s major cities have come almost to represent and reflect the local character of entire cultures.

Speaking to a few regular executive travellers who chose to take the subway for the sake of convenience, we got a first-hand idea of what it’s like.

Huang Shan, a business executive says, “The Hong Kong MTR is by far the best out there. But, points to NYC for running 24/7.”

Tarun Anand, business traveller, gives us a bit of trivia about the Paris metro. “Paris Metro has 16 lines, not 14. The 3bis and 7bis lines are distinct from the lines 3 and 7, and might be the shortest subway lines in the world.” There are subway buffs everywhere.

Mrinalini Rao travels back and forth between Bangalore and New York. She says, “I’m not sure why the New York metro is considered one of the best. Yes, it’s very practical and works well, but it’s filthy. I’ve never seen anyone cleaning it. Don’t even get me started with the rude and impatient people at the information booth.” There’s good and there’s bad.

But hospitality isn’t the objective of a subway system, delivering you quickly from point A to point B is.

Here’s a round up of the top subway systems that made it to our list.

The Tube, London
LondonThe London subway system is as much a part of the city as the iconic double-decker buses. The trains are just a lot faster.

Commonly referred to as The Tube, London’s underground network is the oldest in the world, as well as the longest, with 400 kilometres of track. It’s also one of the most travelled with over one billion passengers recorded in 2007. This network is linked to London’s other rail that includes the Docklands Light Railway, which gives passengers a scenic view of the Thames.

The London Tube was the world’s first underground metro, operating since1863. Considering that the system has been running for close to 150 years, it’s doing quite well.

MRT, Singapore


Singapore Mass Rapid Transit won the Metro Rail Awards in 2010, taking home prizes for Most Energy Efficient, Most Technologically Innovative and Best Metro in Asia-Pacific.

The underground system is a complicated network of mazes, which is used by over 600 million passengers a year.People hop on to the subway for some air-conditioned comfort to escape the notorious Singapore heat.

Métro, Paris

ParisAt 110 years old, Paris’ metro has 214 kilometres of tracks with the most closely spaced stations in the world and the largest underground station, Chatelet les Halles. During the initial development of the Paris Métro, the tracks were dug at street level in the open air and covered over later.

With more than 1.5 billion passengers a year, Paris Metro is in the top-five busiest city-rail services in the world. The Paris Metro does lose some points for not having automatically opening doors. This hints at the average age of the carriages and suggests a need to spend a little on upgrades.

The Paris Metro train halls are decorated in a style defined at the metro opening in 1900. The spirit of this aesthetic has generally been respected in the various renovations since then. A handful of station entrances have entirely original architecture (Saint-Lazare) and a number are integrated into residential or stand-alone buildings (Pelleport).

Oedo, Tokyo

You’ve got to love a city that has women-only carriages on its subway trains. Sure, there Tokyo fware stations where men in white gloves nudge you onto the train, especially during rush hour. That aside, the Tokyo Metro is a sensible option for making your way around the city.

In fact, one can reach many shops, malls, restaurants, and commercial buildings without ever surfacing. Tokyo’s newest Oedo line has stations with beautiful art installations.
One major problem that commuters face though is that the subway has a tendency to stop halfway along their route when closing time arrives. People who are stranded face an expensive taxi ride home or have to wait for the first morning train.

Tunnelbana, Stockholm

StockholmAround 90 of the city’s 100 subway stations have been given a dazzling makeover by over 150 artists, over the last 55 years.

They have transformed the city’s subway into a gigantic, kaleidoscopic art exhibition.The results are spellbinding, transforming the subterranean transport system into a world of colour and visual stimulation.

The Stockholm subway system is widely regarded as the most beautiful in Europe.It has transformed into the world’s longest art exhibition, measuring 110 kilometres.

The Subway, New York

The New York Subway system is as ubiquitous and iconic as the Statue of Liberty. Over New York100 years old, it offers 375 kilometres of coverage across the city, express services that run on separate tracks from local trains and it runs 24-hours a day, every day of the year.
Crowds aside, the extensive New York City subway system has to be among the world’s best. In general, the system is easy to navigate with its colour-coded and letter-or-number-named lines. Below ground, there are entertaining street performers, period tile work, funky art installations, and occasionally, newspaper and candy stands.

In the city that never sleeps, the subway is definitely quicker than taking a cab.

MTR / Subway, Hong Kong

Hong KongApproximately 90% of all travel in Hong Kong is done via mass transit. And the Mass Transit Railway (MTR), also knows as the Hong Kong Subway, is responsible for most of it.

The system takes seven million passengers a day through its 175-kilometre long network, with trains that are known to always run on time. They also have a good safety record, using platform screen doors to keep riders off the tracks when the trains aren’t at the station.

One of its most unique features is the Octopus Card. Users can fill this card with a dollar limit that they can charge against their transit fares, fast food, parking metres, and anything in a convenience store. Another bonus. MTR offers 3G network coverage for phones and computers. That means riders can make video calls and watch video streams on their commute, even underground.

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