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World’s greatest metro railways
History, design and operations

The World Metros series features the world's greatest metro railway systems systems, explains their history and describes current operations. Please write to the editor if you wish to contribute to the World Metro series.

Metros featured: Barcelona | Berlin | Guangzhou | Guatemala City | London | Madrid | Mexico City | New York City | Paris | Sao Paulo | Seoul | Singapore | Tokyo |

Barcelona Metro: On track to become
the world’s most user-friendly subway

In the 81 years since its opening, the Barcelona Metro has grown to a network of six lines, spanning 86 kilometers and serving 123 stations. Backed by enormous investment and vision on the part of its parent company, Ferrocarils Metropolitans de Barcelona (FCMB), the city transit authority (Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona, TMB) and the Catalan government, the system is poised for impressive growth. Various extensions and state of the art upgrades will provide Barcelona residents with one of the most expansive and sophisticated metros in the world by the end of this decade. More

Berlin U-Bahn: rebuilding after
100 years of turbulent history

28 February 2009: Berlin’s Untergrundbahn (or U-Bahn) is a vibrant part of the German capital’s cityscape and something of a paradise for modernists. Begun in 1896, its history closely follows that of Germany itself, with two world wars and the post-war division of the city affecting its development. Today the network carries 1.4m passengers each day across nine lines serving 170 stations in the city. More

Guangzhou Metro: From nought to
1.2 billion passengers in 20 years

24 October 2011: In the early 1990’s Guangzhou, China’s third-largest city, was becoming dysfunctional as economic and population growth was matched by pollution and gridlock growth. But the construction of the Guangzhou Metro has made the city one of the most mobility friendly metropolises in the world. More

TransMetro set to end chaotic
commuting in Guatemala City

16 June 2007: For Guatemala City’s commuters public transport is in a state of crisis, with daily rampant crimes committed against them inside and outside the city’s antiquated buses. Recklessness by bus drivers adds to the problem. But hopefully, things are set to change. More

London Underground carries
three million people every day

Heritage and modernisation are the watchwords for London’s tube network.  The world’s first underground railway, between Paddington and Farringdon Street was opened by the Metropolitan Railway in December 1863.  Today, London Underground carries three million passengers a day across 275 stations on its 253 mile network. More

Madrid Metro: A thoroughly
modern urban rail system

2 August 2011: Madrid has Europe’s fastest growing metro and urban rail systems. The size of the metro has doubled during the past fifteen years. Strong political leadership at city and regional level ensured a series of investment plans were funded and delivered. By mid-2011 the system had grown to 294 km of route on 12 lines with 296 stations and now is the sixth-longest metro railway in the world. More

Mexico City’s Metrobus system
perfect for cash-strapped cities

17 December 2009: A prestigious award has been conferred on Mexico City’s Metrobus new public transport system for its significant contribution to improving both air quality and generally making life easier for hard-pressed citizens. Bus journey times have been halved and carbon dioxide greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by 80,000 tons a year. More

Some 4.5 million people use the 100-year-old
New York City Subway every business day

Over the past 100 years, the New York City Subway has evolved and grown from a nine-mile line to a four-borough system consisting of 26 lines and 468 stations. Carried on upwards of 600 trains, more than 4.5 million people depend on it each business day to reach their destinations. More

Paris Métro: Icon of
city's chic and style

The Paris Métro has come to embody the iconic qualities of the French capital, with the distinctive art noveau stations of Hector Guimand considered to be the essence of that style. More recently, the system has become associated with introducing aromas at stations to counter odours and offering free massages to stressed passengers. Having opened the first line in 1900, most of the network was completed by the outset of war in 1939. Its 380 stations are served by 16 lines totalling 221km in length, which also serve the city’s six equally iconic rail termini. 1.3bn passenger journeys were made in 2004. More

Sao Paulo Metro offers cheap travel
but not all parts of the city are served

As Brazil’s economic capital and cultural hub, Sao Paulo is served by a metro rail network that is comprehensive and expansive by Brazilian standards, though somewhat undeveloped in comparison to comparable cities elsewhere in the world. Begun in 1968, it is one of the most recent major metropolitan systems of its size in the world and its 55 stations and 58km of track is relied upon by 2.5m passengers every day. More

Seoul Subway: One of the world’s
most advanced transport systems

31 March 2012: Seoul began building a metro network in 1971, with the first section of line opening in 1974. After a dramatic expansion in the 1990s it continued to grow significantly in the first decade of the new century though not without controversy. Unusually, the component parts of the metro and urban rail network are operated by a multiplicity of agencies and companies. More

Singapore is investing billions
to expand its metro rail system

30 July 2012: Singapore began building its Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system in the 1980s. Since the initial 6km section opened in 1987 the investment has continued as the population has grown and the network had reached 167km in 2011. New sections will open every year up to 2017 and the approved investment programme envisages a system of 275km before 2025. More

Tokyo Metro: The world’s cleanest
and most extensive subway system

The world’s largest, Tokyo’s Metro achieved considerable prominence in 1995 following the poison gas attack on the network by the religious cult Aum Shinrikyo. Tokyo’s dense public transport network is comparable to those in its sister global cities of London, New York and Paris, surpassing them in many regards. Its first line opened in 1927 during the capital’s rapid urbanisation and today operates 21 lines owned by two principal operating companies. In addition to the subway, a number of monorail, tram and private lines also serve the city. More

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