The 2012 International Subway Awards

Subway trains are integral to metropolitan areas across the globe. The question is: which countries are doing it right? The following subway lines best exemplify the qualities that define high-quality public transportation, from cleanliness and organization to expediency and safety.

Fastest: Guangzhou, China
In 2005, this metropolis introduced the world’s fastest subway car, capable of traveling up to 120 kilometers per hour. Even at its regular speed of 80 kilometers per hour, Guangzhou’s cars still dwarf the average European metro lines, which typically move at speeds of 40 to 60 kilometers per hour.

Biggest Reach: London
The London Underground – or “Tube”, as locals refer to it – has been in place for more than 150 years. In that time, the network has expanded to 11 lines and 270 different stations. According to LIFE Travel, nearly 3 million Londoners and tourists ride the Tube each day.

Most Reliable: Copenhagen
The subway system in Denmark’s capital city was first installed in 2002. Four years later, Copenhagen’s metro line boasted a reliability rate that fell between 98 and 99 percent – no small feat, as any subway passenger can attest. Copenhagen’s subway also overlaps with the S-train, a line that transports riders across Denmark.

Safest: Dubai
In 2009, the largest city in United Arab Emirates launched its double-line subway system. The following year, Dubai Metro boasted an unprecedented statistic: for every million passengers, less than two faced any sort of crime while aboard the trains – and virtually all of the offenses were related to pick-pocketing. The Metro’s vast security system is comprised of more than 3,000 cameras to keep tabs on every track, tunnel and station.

Easiest to Navigate: Paris
You don’t need to speak fluent French to get around the Parisian underground system, says European travel guru Rick Steves, who calls it ‘Europe’s best subway. A helpful, multilingual plan du quartier (‘neighborhood map’) is available at nearly every Métro station. For added convenience, passengers can use the same ticket to ride the subway, Réseau Express Régional (commuter train) and bus lines.

Coolest Architecture: Stockholm
The Swedish capital’s subway system (known to locals as tunnelbana) features 100 stations, and nearly every one boasts a distinct art installation designed to create a cavern-like atmosphere. Standout displays include the ‘T-Centralen’ station, with a ceiling mural that showcases the city’s subterranean geological features, and ‘Solna Centrum’ station, where the rocky walls are coated in a cool red hue.

Cleanest: Hong Kong
The Hong Kong MTR is often touted as simply one of the world’s best subway systems, and cleanliness is usually one of the primary reasons. Thanks to a strict ‘no food or drink’ policy in paid areas, blogger Rob Basko says the stations are so clean that “you’ll want to lick the floor”. In addition, the cars are well-ventilated in order to reduce stale air.

Most Tech-Savvy: Seoul
South Korea is one of the most technologically advanced nations on the planet, and this is apparent in any of the 328 subway stations found in the country’s capital city. Some of the neat features include LED screens, free wi-fi access for passengers and ‘helper robots’ to ease congestion and guide people where they need to go. In addition, most hub stations feature a network of stores and eateries.

Tell us about your experiences (good or bad) using a foreign metro line!

By Brad Nehring