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150 years of the Tube & top metro stations

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8 January 2013 by Alex Stewart

On 9th January 1863 the London underground came into service. 150 years later and the network is an iconic part of the city. The Metropolitan Railway, covering just six kilometres and operating between Paddington Station and Farringdon via Kings Cross, opened on this day, with the general public admitted a day later. Within months 26,000 passengers a day used the service.

London was the first city in the world to have an underground train system. These days, all around the world there are iconic transport systems that both carry commuters and beguile visitors. Below we compile some facts and figures about the original underground system and round up 5 of the most extraordinary stations elsewhere in the world.

The London Underground in numbers




London Underground1 tube station that doesn't contain any of the letters from the word 'mackerel' (St John's Wood)

2 tube stations with all five vowels in their names (Mansion House, South Ealing)

3rd largest metro system in the world after Beijing and Shanghai

3rd busiest metro system in Europe after Moscow and Paris with 1.2 billion users a year

5 the equivalent number of times each tube train circles the world during an average year (114,500 miles)

11.5 days the time the average Londoner spends commuting each year, including 5.2 whole days underground in tunnels

17.25 miles the longest tube tunnel (East Finchley to Morden via Bank on the Northern Line)

20.5mph ave tube speed (60mph top speed on Metropolitan line)

45% of the system is underground

192ft deepest station - Hampstead  - half the height of the Centrepoint building

221ft deepest line (Northern Line, at Holly Bush Hill, Hampstead)

270 stations, along 250 miles of track

426 escalators, the shortest (Stratford) just 4.1m and the longest (Angel) 60m

1908 the year the Tube's world famous logo first appeared

4,134 tube carriages used to carry passengers around the city

London Underground tube mouse500,000 the number of mice estimated to live in the tunnels

5 extraordinary stations around the world

Although underground systems are primarily designed to move commuters and city residents around, the stations they use are often far more than just functional spaces. The London Underground boasts Art Deco examples at Boston Manor, mosaics by pop artist Eduardo Paolozzi at Tottenham Court Road and sleek, contemporary design at Canary Wharf for instance, whilst the following stations worldwide are worthy of a visit in their own right if you're in town to see more traditional sights.

Stockholm Subway

Stockholm subway station

Described as the longest art gallery in the world, the 100 stations along the Stockholm Subway in Sweden are all universally interesting. Those on the Blue Line have exposed bedrock and cavernous designs complete with cave paintings that reinforce the idea of being underground, whilst carefully placed lights, stylish paint jobs, sculptures and installations elsewhere make the network a must-see for visitors.

Moscow Metro

Moscow Metro station

One of the world's most beautiful subway systems. Almost 7,000,000 people ride the subway in Moscow every day, along 190-miles of tunnels. Some stations are nondescript whilst others are opulent, ornate works of art influenced by classical design. The Komsomolskaya Metro Station in Moscow is a great example; built in the 1930s it's a stunning gem whose theme is the gateway to Moscow and the rest of Russia, and showcases the patriotic history and inspiring future of the country.

Munich U-Bahn

Munich subway station

The Munich Transport System in Germany consists of S-Bahn (Suburban trains), U-Bahn (subway),  streetcars and bus lines that connect the city. Opened in 1972, the stations began as minimalistic spaces then developed into architecturally interesting places with works of art and great swathes of colour.

Washington Metro

Washington subway, USA

Iconic and visually progressive, the 100-mile long Washington subway, first opened in 1976, includes 28 stations, most of which are the work of architect Harry Weese. Stations comprise massive concrete caverns with an egg-box texture. Walls are way out of reach and there are no pillars. The whole thing is bathed in indirect light. The stations are also all almost universally deep, upto 200ft below the surface

Shanghai Bund Tunnel

Shanghai Bund Tunnel, China

In Shanghai, the 647m tunnel connecting East Nanjin Road on the Bund and Pudong near the Oriental Pearl TV Tower descends below the Huangpu River. Travel its length for a psychedelic ride in a glass pod, through stretches of flashing, strobing lights in keeping with the city's obsession with neon.

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