In the single, circular line of Glasgow into the cobweb-like network that is London, underground train systems have been a cheap, dependable and convenient way of transport for a long time. The London Underground, also called “The Tube,” celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2013. Having stood the test of time that ranks it among the best metro systems in the world due to excellent quality management systems and platforms, what about others?
Copenhagen Metro includes a driver-less rail system that runs 24 hours per day. Sao Paulo Metro carries 3.3 million passengers every day on a reasonably small track of 74 km. With the lowest carbon impact on the planet for metro networks, Montreal has it. But what other systems rank among ‘the best’?
Praise for Hong Kong’s MTR gushes from every traveler who has ever set a toe inside the immaculately tidy, well-signposted, cheap, regular, convenient system that connects most corners of the city, from the crowded intestines of Wan Chai to the rural(ish) villages of Tai Po. There is free Wi-Fi in every channel, facilities like tactile flooring and braille plates for travellers with disabilities and public washrooms, stores, banks and takeaway food outlets within many channels or near their exits.
There is no timetable for commuters – trains only turn up every few moments, earlier during peak periods – and it is dead easy for visitors to obtain a ticket through the automated machines. It’s possibly the world’s handiest Airport Express service, with departures every 10 minutes or so. And then there is the Octopus card – maybe the world’s greatest transport payment system, which may also be utilised in convenience stores, restaurants and other areas. Cities such as Melbourne should yell with jealousy.
The website provides handy one-day itineraries for Hong Kong tourists eager to shop, eat or find the local culture. Often the walk from one concourse to another can be lengthy, some channels becoming ridiculously crowded during peak hours (hinting at TST, Causeway Bay here!). But that just gives more time to watch and wonder as this 211-kilometer, 150-station system deals easily with its 3.4 million passengers daily.
Seoul’s metro system has TVs, heated seats and mobile phone services. Operated by three different companies (two of these state-funded), the Seoul metro system carries almost 7 million passengers every day on nine lines. Along with being one of the only metro systems in the world with mobile phone Wi-Fi and service, many of the Seoul subway trains are outfitted with TVs and are climate controlled. We love the toasty, heated seats in the winter.
Many subway planners come to Korea and are really blown away from the technology that they have in place, expertly designed through thorough software testing and agile test management. Jung-whan Kim from Seoul Metro’s media group said that it’s a significant showpiece for Korea’s focus on IT. Considering how obsessed the town is with nightlife, the downside is the early closing time – about midnight on weekdays, a bit earlier on weekends.
The Singapore Mass Rapid transit (SMRT) is probably the quickest way to explore the city. Following an amalgamation of several transit-service-providers in 2000, after intensive agile and managed testing services, SMRT has risen to 600 million passengers each year. Some use it to seek refuge from the heat outside, lapping up the air-conditioned comfort. The machine has demerits for lack of EZ-Link ticket card machines in some stations. This has meant regular lengthy lines for travellers needing to top up or purchase a ticket.
The London Underground was the world’s first underground railway, opening in 1863. The London Tube was the world’s first underground subway, starting in 1863 and they have not done terribly much since. However, air-conditioned carriages been released, alongside intermittant Wi-Fi sign.
However, for history, for good underground busking and for something relatively cheap in a costly city, it’s difficult to beat. Despite all the grumbling, the Underground ferries over 1 billion journeys annually. Not bad for something that old.
Roughly 4.5 million people travel on the Paris metro daily. The City of Light’s subway is unusually dense, with 245 channels on 14 lines, in only 87 square km of town. Parisians, apparently, do not like to walk. With over 1.5 billion passengers per year, Paris Metro is from the top-five for busiest city-rail providers on the planet.
Although some points are lost for the Paris Metro as it does not having automatically opening doors. This hints at the typical age of the carriages and indicates a need to invest a bit on upgraded project and construction management systems.
A giant mural of Spanish flamenco artist Paco de Lucia are available in Madrid’s Paco de Lucia station on the Line 9 of the subway. At 294 km, Madrid has the sixth-longest subway system in the world. But in addition to that is another 386 km of suburban rail services.
All up, Madrid’s railway serves 1.5 billion passengers each year with 21 lines and 396 channels. Impressive, especially given that Madrid’s population is just 6.5 million. The underground stations are so enormous that they can hold public events, like the three-day exercise festival in May 2011, which brought 2,600 visitors. One station comprises a 200-square-meter archaeological museum. Madrid Metro has the most escalators of any system in the world, a whopping 1,656.