Metros: Keeping pace with 21st century cities

Metro systems around the world, UITP, May 2014

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Metros in numbers

148 cities around the world have a metro system, adding up to nearly 540 metro lines, 9,000 stations and 11,000 kilometres of line infrastructure. Two-thirds of these systems are located in Asia and Europe, while Eurasia, Latin America and North America have roughly 10% each. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region currently accounts for 4% of the world’s metro systems. Together, the world’s metro systems carry 150 million passengers per day, moving the rough equivalent of Bangladesh’s entire population, the 8th most populous country in the world.

Keeping pace with 21st century cities

Refurbishment programmes are critical to maintaining the safety and performance of metro systems. With close to 3.3 billion passenger trips per year, Tokyo boasts the busiest network in the world. As Asia’s oldest system, it’s a good illustration of the specific challenges faced by mature networks when it comes to increasing capacity and adapting installations and services to modern lifestyle standards.

Tokyo’s situation is not unique: one third of the world’s metros are 40 years old – among them, 7 of the 10 world’s busiest networks in the world (see chart below). The 40-year landmark is significant as it marks the end of the lifecycle for certain key equipment, and thus heralds the need to plan and finance major refurbishment projects.

These are expensive improvement projects that can potentially affect service during the period the works take place, and with little public visibility when compared to the opening of new extensions, they are less appealing to decision-makers responsible for financing.

Yet these rejuvenation programmes are essential for the safety and performance – and they actually constitute a unique opportunity to revamp the image of the company, improve service and customer satisfaction and increase the capacity of existing lines. This will be the focus of the upcoming Metro Division Seminar Metros in the long run.

In London, the world’s oldest system, the successful upgrade of the Jubilee and Victoria Lines has brought much needed extra capacity, and further refurbishment programmes are underway to boost peak capacity in the network on the Northern (20% peak capacity increase), District (24%) Circle, Hammersmith & City (65%), and Metropolitan (27%) Lines.
Gareth Powell, Director of Strategy & Service Development at London Underground, will present London’s experience and discuss key elements to consider for upgrade and refurbishment programmes at the Berlin Seminar, during the session MORE FOR LESS - Gaining capacity without digging.

Ranking of the 10 busiest metro networks

Ranking of the 10 busiest metro networks

Source: UITP World Metro Figures Report 2013 (Figures from 2012)

The above map 'Metros around the world' was designed according to the following criteria:

A metro is an urban guided transport system, mostly on rails, running on an exclusive right-of-way without any interference from other traffic or level crossings and mostly with some degree of drive automation and train protection. These design features allow high capacity trains to run with short headways and high commercial speed. Metros are therefore suitable for the carriage of high passenger flows.
Besides the above criteria, lines included in the above statistics run with trains composed of minimum two cars and with a total capacity of at least 100 passengers. Suburban railways (such as the Paris RER, the Berlin S-Bahn and the Kuala Lumpur International Airport express line) are not included. Systems that are based on light rail, monorail or magnetic levitation technology are included if they meet all other criteria. Suspended systems are not included.

  • Find out more about the Berlin Seminar 'Metros in the long run'
  • CONTACT: Miryam Hernández, miryam.hernandez(at)

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