Busy platform scene on New York Subway — Getty Images

Top 10 facts about subway systems

Fun facts

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Which is the busiest metro system in the world? Where is the oldest underground system? What’s a museum train? Which is the only metro to have made it onto Unesco’s Heritage list? Find out here!

There are around 180 subway systems across 178 cities and 56 countries in the world, with more being planned every year. From the grand old networks of London and Paris to the sleek, shiny subways of China, India and Japan, it’s one of the most popular methods of mass urban transport. Here’s a bunch of facts you might not know.

1: The New York City Subway has the most stations

Subway gates in New York City — ShutterstockA grand total of 424 stations make up the New York City Subway — Shutterstock

Perhaps not by being the oldest or the busiest, but the New York City Subway still makes it into the metro hall of fame — if there ever were such a thing. This local system has 424 stations and station complexes, far exceeding the number of stations elsewhere.

2: Where are the world’s northernmost and southernmost metro systems?

Portrait shot of Helsinki metro platform — Getty ImagesThe Helsinki Metro is the northernmost underground transit system in the world — Getty Images

You can find the world’s most northerly metro in Helsinki, Finland. Its Mellunmäki Metro station is the northernmost station and terminus and it was opened in 1989.

On the other hand, Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, is home to the southernmost underground station, the Plaza de los Virreyes — Eva Perón, which opened in 1986.

3: Moscow’s metro runs a museum train

The Moscow Metro has a reputation for being among the prettiest in the world, and it might not come as a surprise that it runs a special museum train.

The Aquarelle train operates a regular route using the Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya line, but it’s easily recognizable from the other underground trains. Its exterior has been painted in floral patterns and its inside turned into an ersatz museum, taking the whole commuting experience to another level.

4: London has the oldest underground line in the world

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The world’s first underground opened in 1863 in London. Initially, it comprised a mere seven stations, connecting Paddington and Farringdon Street in Central London. Now, in more than 150 years of existence, it has grown into a network of 11 lines, 272 stations, and 253 miles (407 kilometers) of track.

The first tracks were built using a cut-and-cover method, digging out a trench just below the surface and covering it with a roof strong enough to hold the city on top of it. The widely-spread name “the Tube” comes from a method used later for construction, creating circular tunnels deeper in the ground.

5: The world’s deepest underground station is in Kyiv

Escalators at Arsenalna metro station — ShutterstockIf you ever travel to or from Arsenalna station, be sure to factor in some escalator time(!) — Shutterstock

At 105.5 meters beneath the city of Kyiv lies the deepest station in the world — Arsenalna. It can take up to five minutes of going down several escalators to get to the station platform.

6: In Prague, colors are important

Malostranská station wall embellishment — Getty ImagesThe colors on the Prague A-line walls signify something different at each station — Getty Images

The striking station designs on the A-line of the Prague Metro are there for a reason. The inverted-Dalek walls are color-coded to represent their surroundings.

For example, at Hradčanská, closest to Prague Castle, the gold color symbolizes history and glory. Malostranská’s green is for the royal gardens that surround it, and the brown of Muzeum is for the fortifications that were there previously.

Staroměstská and its red echo the executions that took place on the Old Town Square during the Bohemian Estates Uprising, the purple of Flora symbolizes the grapes of the historic vineyards, and at Náměstí Míru (Peace Square), you’ll see blue, the color of peace.

7: Shanghai has the busiest metro system

With almost 2.8 billion journeys made on it annually, The Shanghai Metro tops the world’s statistics on the busiest subways. In fact, all of the top five are in Asia: three in China, as well as Tokyo and Seoul.

8: Can you beat the fastest time taken to travel to all the London underground stations?

 

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In 2015, Andy James and Steve Wilson set a world record for the fastest time taken to travel to all the London Tube stations. It took them exactly 15 hours, 45 minutes, and 38 seconds to get around them all. Good luck…!

9: Budapest’s metro is the only one in Unesco

Train at platform on Budapest Metro — Getty ImagesThe Budapest Metro is the second-oldest subway system in the world — Getty Images

The Budapest Metro is among the most attractive and most venerable — its Line 1 being a Unesco World Heritage Site. It was built back in 1896 as part of the city’s millennial anniversary, making it the oldest in continental Europe and the second oldest in the world, predated only by the London Underground.

10: Paris’s Châtelet-Les Halles is the most complex station

 

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Châtelet-Les Halles in Paris is among the largest and most complex underground stations in the world. It connects three train lines and five metro lines and platforms separated by up to 800 meters. To reduce its complexity (or perhaps increase it?), it’s split into three sectors — Forum, Rivoli, and Seine — transporting over 750,000 people every weekday.

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