1. Transport
  2. Metros
November 9, 2015

Most of the world's busiest metros are in Asia

By Barbara Speed

The Tube’s pretty busy, right? Sometimes you can’t even sit down on a seat. That one time, when you accidentally travelled during peak rush hour, you had to wait for two trains to pass before you could even get on. At least it left you with a great story. Your friends love hearing that one. 

Except, as it turns out, London’s commutes are far from the busiest. New analysis from UITP, the international association of public transport, has produced a list of the ten busiest metro networks in the world, and London isn’t even on it. In fact, most of the top ten aren’t even in Europe:

We actually tried to work this out for ourselves a couple of months ago, and came to roughly the same conclusions, but with the top ten in a slightly different order:

Beijing Subway – 3.4bn
Tokyo Subway* – 3.2bn
Shanghai Metro – 2.8bn
Seoul Subway** – 2.6bn
Moscow Metro – 2.5bn
Guangzhou Metro – 2.3bn
New York City Subway – 1.8bn
Hong Kong MTR – 1.7bn
Mexico City Metro – 1.6bn
Paris Métro – 1.5bn

In these new stats, Tokyo has leapfrogged back into first place, thanks to a 10 per cent increase of passengers since 2012.  

Of course, this measure of “busy” doesn’t take network size into account. Tokyo has the most passenger trips per year, yes, but it also has a huge, sprawling network, which – depending on which bits you include in your definition is at least the fourth largest network in the world by length, and the fifth largest by number of stations. Beijing and Shanghai come in the top five on both metrics, too. 

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One surprising result here is New York. It, too, comes in the top five in terms of stations and length of network, but drops to seventh in terms of passenger numbers. This means it’s practically empty compared to the packed networks in Shanghai, Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing. 

The report also contains some fun metro trivia: 

  • 160m metro journeys are now taken every day. This is a 7.9 per cent increase since 2012. 
  • Nearly half of all metro journeys are taken in Asia.
  • Two thirds of the world’s networks are in Asia or Europe. 

You can thank us after the pub quiz. 


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