What is the Oldest Metro System in the World?

We have all seen those famous subways in movies and TV shows, but how old are they? Read on to discover what is the oldest metro.

What is the Oldest Metro System in the World?

Nowadays just about every densely-packed city in the world has a subway or transit system, from the gleaming new trains and stations in some Asian cities to the historically preserved stations in Europe. But what is the oldest metro system in the world?

The oldest metro system in the world is the London “tube,” which opened its first line in 1863 using steam locomotives.

We all know about some of the most famous transit systems, but did you know that there are over 200 transit systems in the world? Read on for information on the oldest metro systems, as well as some stats about the newest transit systems.

What is the Oldest Metro System in the World?

The first metropolitan transit system opened in London, England, on January 10, 1863.

At the time, it utilized wooden carriages pulled by steam engines, and was known as the Metropolitan Railway.

The first line of the Metropolitan railway ran northwest from central London to what is now the Middlesex suburbs and connected with railway stations at Paddington, Euston, and King’s Cross, which are still in use today.

In 1884, the District Railway completed the Circle Line in London in conjunction with the Metropolitan Railway. Both railways continued to expand, and were joined by other railway systems, including the Waterloo ; City Railway, the Central London Railway, and the Great Northern and City Railway, creating a transit system.

Electric train cars were introduced in the London metro in 1890 on the City and South London Railway.

Today, the London metro (known as “the Tube”) is the second largest metro system in the world, with 402 kilometers of track and 272 stations.

What is the Second Oldest Metro System in the World?

Aside from the Istanbul Tunnel, which opened in 1875 and transports passengers only 573 meters, the second oldest metro system is the Chicago “el.” Known as the “el” because large portions of it are above ground, this transit system opened on June 6th, 1892. (Yes, this is older than the most well-known transit system in the US–the New York Subway–which opened in 1904.)

Today, the Chicago system is the third busiest in the U.S., with over 600,000 riders weekly. The New York Subway and the Washington, D.C. metro are the two busiest U.S. transit systems.

Many of the oldest subway systems in the world were developed in the late 19th century, along with developments in electric trains.

Here is a chart of the 10 oldest subway systems in the world:

Subway System Country Year Opened
London Tube England 1863
Istanbul Tunnel Turkey 1875
Chicago "L" USA 1892
Glasgow Circular Underground Scotland 1896
Budapest Metro Hungary 1896
Paris Metropolitain France 1900
Berlin U-Bahn Germany 1902
NYC Subway USA 1904
Philadelphia SEPTA USA 1907

How Did They Build the London Tube?

In order to build the London Underground, engineers used the "cut and cover" method of digging tunnels. This meant they cut a large trench in the street, built in the underground tunnel with bricks, and then used the dug-out material to cover the tunnel and fill in the hole.

This means that the oldest subway lines in the world (in London and elsewhere) are very close to the surface of the road--you can even hear the trains rumbling past from above.

What is the Longest Metro in the World?

Nowadays, metro systems can span hundreds of miles of track. The longest metro system is China’s Shanghai Metro. This system is 434 kilometers long, and includes the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, which is a glass tunnel with projected light art along its walls.

What Metro System has the Most Stations?

It may not be the longest, but the New York City Subway has the largest number of stations, with 424 and counting (472 if you count connecting stations separately).

The busiest subway station in NYC is the Times Square-42nd St. station, at which you can transfer to the N,Q,R,W,S,1,2,3,7,A,C and E subway lines. In some years, a whopping 65 million riders may pass through this station alone.

What Metro System has the Most Lines?

The NYC subway also has the most lines of any system in the world, with 24 lines running day and night, every single day of the year.

What is the Busiest Metro in the World?

There are two metros in the world that are at the top of the busiest metro list. The Seoul Metropolitan Subway had the largest number of riders in 2019, clocking in at 2.9 billion trips in one year. (Yes, billion.)

The Seoul Subway is also known as being one of the cleanest and most efficient subway systems, with WiFi and TV screens on trains, along with heated seats.

Second place for busiest system is the Shanghai Metro, which carried 2.8 billion riders in 2020. Remember this is also the longest subway.

Both of these subway systems are expanding, so in future years ridership may top 3 billion rides per year on some of these busy systems.

Third place goes to the Tokyo Metro, which had 2.7 billion passengers in 2019. For comparison, the London Tube carries around 1.35 billion riders per year.

What is the Fastest Metro in the World?

You can take the Shanghai Maglev train from Shanghai's Pudong International Airport to the Longyang metro station at a whopping 286 miles per hour.  That means it takes only around 7.5 minutes to travel approximately 20 miles into the city center. This is one of the fastest trains in the world today.

This train uses Maglev technology, which stands for “Magnetic Levitation.” The train actually “floats” above the track using powerful magnets, rather than using metal wheels against a metal track, which is one of the reasons it is so fast.


The London metro may be the oldest subway system in the world, yet it is still going strong and making London run even over 150 years later. The world saw the development of metropolitan transit systems explode in the late 1800s, leading the way to today’s supertrains moving people in metro areas.