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A subway or metro (short for subway , subway or metropolitan ) is usually an underground, rail-bound means of transport for urban public transport (ÖPNV, urban transport ).

The term is used for the entire system, a subway route and line and colloquially also for the individual vehicle (subway railcar , subway train ). While the »U« is actually an abbreviation for underground , many underground trains also have sections on the surface, in the cut , on a railway embankment or elevated as an elevated railway . For this reason, the U is sometimes interpreted as "independent" in the German-speaking world - after all, these are rail transport systems that are designed to be independent, free of intersections and independent of other urban transport systems.


The term most used internationally outside of German usage is Metro . This is likely to go back to the terms Metropolitan Railway in London (today Metropolitan Line ) and Chemin de fer métropolitain , Métro for short , in Paris . This name has also become common in Spain and Italy. Russian, Polish and Hungarian also use the short form of this expression. Underground or Tube (London) are also used , in Scandinavian countries also T-Bana ( Tunnelbana ) or T-bane ( Oslo T-bane ). The subways in Manila , Singapore and Taipei are called MRT for Mass Rapid Transit , while in Hong Kong the abbreviation MTR is used for Mass Transit Railway . The term subway is common in North America ; in some largely aboveground systems also rapid transit . A few networks in North America are also called Metro or Metrorail , for example in Washington, DC , Los Angeles and Miami or in French-speaking Montreal . Abbreviations such as "BART" (San Francisco and surrounding area) or "MARTA" (Atlanta) are also used in everyday language. Finally, in Buenos Aires the subways are called Subte (from Subterráneo ). However, "Metro" is not always a generic term, but is protected as a trademark for underground operators , especially in Spain and France .

Definition and demarcation

First subway in Germany: A I train with side power supply in Berlin's Schlesisches Tor station , 1902
Example of a subway with overhead contact line instead of a lateral conductor rail : M2 train of the Milan metro
Station Santa Eulalia of Barcelona Metro , the overall direction is outdoors as overhead conductor rail running

The International Association for Public Transport (UITP) defines a metro as follows: “Metro railways are an urban , electrically operated passenger transport system that can be flexibly integrated into the respective local transport network, offers its service at high speed and high capacity and is independent of any other system Traffic and road users moved on their own tunnel, level or bridge routes ”. In contrast, there are trams, the main characteristics of which, according to the UITP publications, are being guided (mostly by rail lines) and a very high level of adaptability.

According to German ( § 4 para. 2 Personenbeförderungsgesetz ) and Austrian ( tram Regulation - StrabVO) are right subways, however, trams , if they mainly for passenger transport in the transport any mountain or cable cars are used and. The umbrella term tram is defined as a special type of railway that adapts to the nature of road traffic and has a special track body . A subway is therefore considered to be a tram in the legal sense, although, in contrast to this, it not only has a special, but in fact one that is completely independent of road traffic . It is operated in accordance with the ordinance on the construction and operation of trams (BOStrab).

The Association of German Transport Companies (VDV) defines an underground as a rail-bound and, based on the UITP, as a means of mass transport that is completely separate from individual transport and that forms a closed system . Their routes can be in tunnels, on embankments and elevated routes or in open terrain. In this case, independent also means that a subway usually does not have any level crossings with other means of rail transport and no level crossings. In the case of subways, the traction current is supplied via a conductor rail or an overhead line arranged on the side of the track .

There are underground networks according to the VDV definition in Germany in the cities of Berlin , Hamburg , Munich and Nuremberg , in Austria in Vienna and in Switzerland in Lausanne . None of these subway networks run exclusively underground.

In Frankfurt am Main there is a light rail system that is officially known as the U-Bahn. Since the independence of the route network is only given by the fact that all road crossings are signposted with St. Andrew's crosses and formally represent level crossings, although there are only limited level crossings in a few places, the designation as subway is incorrect in this case. The same applies to the urban / underground trains in Hanover, Cologne, Bonn, Stuttgart and in the Ruhr area. The Ruhr area cities Bochum and Herne have almost a real subway line with the U35 tram line, as the U35 runs completely straight and, with the exception of the above-ground section along Universitätsstraße through Querenburg, in a completely intersection-free tunnel through Bochum and Herne. The above-ground section in Querenburg runs completely on its own track body and has only three level crossings with road traffic, at which the U35 always has free travel thanks to priority switching.

At the same time, the VDV conceptually differentiates the underground from the tram and the light rail , which at least in parts can have a route on public roads, in the area of ​​which the road traffic regulations must be observed. The demarcation from the S-Bahn in Germany results primarily from its legal position as a full- line railway or railway , which, for example, can also have level crossings with other means of transport. In other countries, the boundaries between subways and railways are often fluid and are not differentiated legally. The demarcation here is more based on operational cohesion or the owner function, since subways - unlike railroads - are mostly in municipal ownership.

A subway has at least the following characteristics: It is operated without a level crossing with other means of transport, runs in a tight timetable - cycle sequence in urban areas and is electrically driven and controlled.

There are also subway-like systems for transporting goods only, such as the subways used to carry mail in some cities. Mine railways and casemate railways have some similarities with underground railways, but in contrast to these, they are not primarily used for passenger transport .


Technical preconditions and milestones

starting point

The underground station Great Portland Street is located on the first underground rapid transit route London (Paddington Farringdon)

The subway as a means of transport, as it is used in numerous cities today, is the result of a long development that lasted through the entire second half of the 19th century. In the beginning there were plans for the inner-city, underground connection between long-distance railway terminus or other traffic junctions - a task that today would be more of an S-Bahn . Such plans existed in Vienna as early as 1844 . The first realizations took place from 1863 with the Metropolitan Railway in London and 1869 in Athens with the Athens & Piraeus Railway Company . For the construction of tunnels for subways under high buildings, i.e. in cities, the development of a technology was necessary in which the tunnel vault does not give way during construction. This could no longer be guaranteed by the pure wooden structures used to support the tunnel up to that point . Iron as a support material was first used in a pioneering project for the construction of the Naenser Tunnel .

Breakthrough thanks to electrical operation

Train with electric locomotive from Siemens , 1879

The London tunnel route was driven by trains hauled by steam locomotives, which was not a permanently acceptable solution and therefore, apart from the Vienna light rail , was not imitated in other cities. An important breakthrough in the development of underground urban transport was therefore the use of electric motors in rail transport. In Germany, the Berlin entrepreneur Werner Siemens did important pioneering work in this area . At the Berlin trade fair in 1879, Siemens presented an electric locomotive ; In 1881 he opened the world's first electric tram in Berlin-Lichterfelde . For decades, however, concerns and bureaucracy prevented Siemens from building an electric high-speed rail network in Berlin, while the electric operation of the Tube with electric locomotives from the Manchester company Mather & Platt began as early as 1890 in London , which was the most important prerequisite for the triumph of the new means of transport .

Elevated and subway

The second, initially unanswered, fundamental decision in the early years was the question of the layout of the high-speed rail lines: the London Underground mainly operated in tunnels . Projects in other European cities and in North America preferred the route on iron viaducts as an elevated railway . The majority of the metro lines built before the First World War were ultimately built as elevated trains - the construction costs were well below those of a tunnel line, and especially in the districts of the lower class it was not seen as necessary to have to take the consequences of urban development into account. After the World War, however, the tide turned; new routes have now been built almost exclusively in the tunnel. In North America, especially in New York , entire elevated railway lines were dismantled and replaced by tunnels. Instead of the elevated railway , the subway became the standard solution.

The first subways in London

gauge train of the Great Western Railway on three- rail track of the Metropolitan main line in London

The Metropolitan Railway, which opened in London on January 10, 1863, is generally considered to be the world's first underground railway . Initially, however, it was still a steam- powered railway. It was intended as a connection between the mainline stations Paddington , King's Cross , St Pancras and Euston , all of which were relatively far outside the city center, and the City of London .

The first electric subway that meets today's expectations was the City and South London Railway (now Northern Line ), opened in London on November 4, 1890 . It led from Stockwell to King William Street . Thus, London triggered an underground boom, because at the same time many other European metropolises were also looking for ways to solve their inner-city traffic problems. It was believed that the subway concept could solve all of these problems.

Early underground and elevated railways in Europe

The first electric subway on mainland Europe opened in Budapest in 1896
Train made up of two-axle railcars and sidecars from Métro Paris at Bastille station , 1903

The first electric Metropolitan Britain outside London was completely above ground as elevated train circulating Liverpool overhead , which as well as the Athens metro was opened as a link between the city center and the sea port on February 4 1,893th The elevated railway in Liverpool received a one-time tunnel station during an expansion in December 1896. However, the entire line was closed on December 30, 1956. In addition to the first underground railway for passenger transport operated by the Athens & Piraeus Railway Company on mainland Europe, there was another in Istanbul . 1875 was Tünel - funicular opened in the European part of the city.

The first electric underground and regular service metro on mainland Europe was opened on May 2, 1896 in Pest , the eastern part of Budapest . This line, now known as the Millennium U-Bahn , was created on the initiative of the inventor Werner von Siemens and was originally planned for Berlin. However, since the local authorities could not come to an agreement there, Siemens had the Budapest subway built as a demonstration object for other European subway routes. Before that, however, Siemens competitor AEG had built an underground test track with a 295 m long and 3.15 m high tunnel on its Berlin factory site in 1895. AEG also initiated a second 454 m long underground tunnel for rehearsals and presentations, the Spreetunnel . From 1895 onwards, a consortium of companies installed it under the Spree between the former using a tunneling shield , a process that was used as early as 1870 in the construction of the London Tower Metropolitan, the world's first deeply leveled metro to cross under the Thames Berlin suburbs Stralau and Treptow built and completed in 1899. Since the AEG did not receive a permit to build a metro for Berlin, a subway did not go through this single-track tube as planned, but from December 1899 a regular tram operated by the Berliner Ostbahnen GmbH .

In the same year as the Hungarian Földalatti, the Glasgow Subway went into operation as the fourth express train. The line was first used as a cable car from December 14, 1896 and electrified in 1935. Something similar happened with the Viennese steam light rail, opened in 1898 , from which the Viennese electric light rail developed in 1925 .

In 1900 Paris followed with the Métropolitain (which was electrically operated from the start) . In just a few years, a network of numerous lines was built here. Even today, the Paris metro system carries a large part of the traffic flows in the French capital.

The single- rail suspension system Eugen Langen , better known today as the Wuppertal suspension railway , opened in 1901 in the neighboring West German cities of Barmen and Elberfeld , was a special form of elevated railway: the trains do not run on rails, but hang below them. The viaduct construction turned out to be more complex than with a conventional elevated railway, because the support frames have to reach over the trains. The suspension railway is the first light rail in what is now Germany's federal territory.

Railcars of the Berlin U-Bahn series A3 and A2 at the Olympia-Stadion U-Bahn station , 1973

After long discussions, a regular metro line was finally opened in Berlin on February 15, 1902 between Stralauer Thor - Potsdamer Platz (old train station) and the Zoological Garden . Werner von Siemens, however, did not live to see his late victory over the Berlin building bureaucracy; he had died in 1892. The electrical overhead and underground railway operated by Siemens & Halske mostly ran on a viaduct. However, later expansions through the city center and wealthy residential areas were built underground. The term U-Bahn also comes from Berlin , it was introduced in 1929 after the Deutsche Reichsbahn (1920–1945) had introduced the catchy S-Bahn abbreviation for its urban, ring and suburban railways .

In 1904 the Athens – Pireás line, which was previously used by steam-hauled trains and was built in 1869, was electrified for what was later to become the Athens subway and used exclusively for local transport.

But Siemens had not only put forward his idea of ​​an electric rapid transit system in Berlin and Budapest; he had also planned a network for the Hanseatic city of Hamburg . Their first route was opened to the public exactly ten years after Berlin on February 15, 1912. The company was called Hamburger Hochbahn AG , as most of the routes were built on viaducts and dams.

After the same difficulties with the Spanish authorities as in other European cities, the first metro lines were opened in Madrid (1919) and Barcelona (1924).

The pioneering companies in America

The early North American metro networks (here: Chicago Elevated ) initially emerged as elevated railways
New York City Subway's 125th Street Station in Manhattanville

But the first subway networks were not only flourishing in Europe, the idea of ​​the independent high-speed train gradually gained acceptance in North America as well . The first system, a purely elevated railway, opened in Chicago in 1892 as Chicago & South Side Rapid Transit , with electrification following three years later. The second system went into operation in Boston in 1897 . The first stretch of the tunnel was used for tram traffic, as it was rediscovered 70 years later (as the “Stadtbahn”) in numerous cities. The residents of Boston are very proud of this relatively early opening date to this day, as it was not until 1904 that the most famous American city, New York , opened a subway called the “ Subway ”. The last of the old east coast metropolises, Philadelphia , followed in 1907.

In 1913, the subway line went into operation in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which today bears the letter ' A '. This first South American subway is still operated today with trains from the early days. Buenos Aires now has six lines in operation with a total length of more than 40 kilometers.

Underground railways for freight transport

Goods subway in Chicago, 1904

There were no limits to the creativity of the designers. After electrical operation and the growing experience in tunneling encouraged many cities to plan subway networks, it made sense to use the new technology for inner-city freight transport as well. The two systems implemented, however, were not so much further developments of conventional freight transport on the railroad as they were of pneumatic tube technology .

The world's first pneumatic tube system, the Pneumatic Despatch Railway , went into operation in London in 1859. Subsequently, such underground networks emerged in a few dozen European and some non-European cities. In 1940 the Berlin network was around 400 kilometers long and served 79 post and telegraph offices. The mail items were transported in sealed capsules, using compressed air to drive them. The capacity of these plants was low. In Berlin letters were allowed to weigh a maximum of 20 grams, in Munich 100 grams, and the network in New York could at least carry small parcels. For the inner-city distribution of heavy goods underground, it was necessary to fall back on wheel-rail technology , and the underground railways for passenger transport had created the basis for this.

In Chicago, the construction of such an underground network began in 1899, the Chicago Tunnel Company Railroad , which was completed in 1906 and had tunnel routes under almost every street in the city center. The network reached a maximum length of 97 kilometers, with 149 locomotives and 3,000 freight wagons , freight and coal were transported from rail freight yards to department stores, offices and warehouses in the city center, and ash was carried away from there. The emergence of truck traffic and the switch from coal to gas heating caused sales to collapse in the 1940s, and the operator had to file for bankruptcy in 1956 . The network was shut down in 1959. However, the tunnels are still used today for laying power and telephone lines.

Based on the system in Chicago, the London Post Office Railway (also Mail Rail ) was built in London in 1927 . This small subway network served eight post offices. The tunnels are up to 21 meters below street level. The 10.5-kilometer route ran from the mail sorting office at Paddington Station in a west-east direction to the district post office in the eastern part of Whitechapel. As five of the affiliated post offices closed over time, the facility was shut down in 2003. Further examples are the Post-U-Bahn in Munich from 1910 to 1988 (450 meters) and the one in Zurich from 1938 to 1981.

Also casemates tracks and pit trains can be designated as goods-U-webs, and this may also be used for transporting people.

Subway construction between the world wars

"Palace of the Working Class" - Kievskaya Metro Station in Moscow

With the beginning of the First World War, the first phase of underground construction in the metropolises of the western world ended. The essential system questions were answered. The subway had prevailed against the elevated railway. The vehicles of the oldest systems had proven to be too small, and people were moving to larger tunnel profiles and trains with larger capacities. The escalator was developed ready for practical use and enabled large numbers of passengers to be transported between underground underground stations and the surface of the earth. The underground system was fully developed in all essential areas and has been used largely unchanged to this day.

Between the two world wars, only three networks went into operation in Europe: one in 1919 in the Spanish capital Madrid and a little later, in 1924, one in Barcelona . The third network was created in Moscow . The first underground rapid transit railway went into operation there in 1935. A commission of experts had previously been sent to Berlin to assess the system and gain experience. Moscow is best known for its very low-lying and magnificently decorated train stations. The then Soviet leader Stalin wanted the subway stations to be seen as "palaces of the working class".

The networks that existed before the World War were further expanded, in some cases as completely new systems incompatible with the older lines, in order to enable the use of larger vehicles.

The first Asian subway went into operation in the Japanese capital Tokyo in 1927. The Ginza Line between Asakusa and Ueno was the first section of the local subway. In 1933 the Japanese metropolis Osaka followed with the Midosuji line.

The development of the post-war period

Mass motorization and transport policy

During and after the Second World War , underground construction stagnated almost everywhere. After 1945, the number of motor vehicles increased rapidly in the cities of the western world , and growing prosperity ensured mass motorization .

In order to cope with the increasing road traffic as a result, it was considered modern in many cities to shut down the local tram networks, since the trams were viewed as a considerable hindrance to motorized individual traffic. As a result, all trams disappeared from the cityscape in London, Paris, West Berlin and Hamburg, among others.

Construction work in the area of ​​the subway networks also largely came to a standstill. In many metropolises, such as Paris, not a single new route was opened for decades. Exceptions were partly politically motivated, such as in West Berlin , which wanted to become independent from the Deutsche Reichsbahn and its S-Bahn network , or in Moscow , which was developed into the representative capital of the Soviet Union, which had become a world power.

Underground tram and light rail

A light rail (here: Hanover ) uses not only tunnels but also extended tram routes
Underground tram stop in Stuttgart , 2005
Railcar in the Waterloo station of the Charleroi light rail

In places where there was still no subway, the idea often came up of moving tram routes underground in sections in order to create more space for road traffic on the surface, to accelerate public transport and to handle it more smoothly, as well as the remaining tram network in the medium term to be able to give up. This solution was mainly used in German-speaking countries (Cologne, Stuttgart, Frankfurt am Main) and Belgium.

There are two different basic concepts to be distinguished. In the simpler variant, a section of the tram route is laid underground, but otherwise operated as before, as in Boston in 1897 . In these systems, known as underground trams , there are, for example, underground track triangles and very tight curve radii.

The more elaborate light rail concept , on the other hand, provides for tunnels in the inner city areas, which in terms of curve radii, freedom from intersections and train protection are partly identical to the systems of classic underground trains, but which use existing tram routes in the outskirts. The basic idea was that a completed tunnel section could be integrated immediately into the existing tram network, instead of being a foreign body in the transport network like a short "classic" underground route for many years.

However, this short-term advantage was bought at the cost of certain disadvantages, including the intersections (in some cases even shared lane use) with road traffic and the associated susceptibility to interference.

The first tram tunnels were opened in Vienna and Stuttgart in 1966, and other cities were added in quick succession ( Essen 1967, Frankfurt and Cologne 1968, Brussels 1969, Bielefeld 1971, Antwerp , Hanover and Bonn 1975, Bochum 1979, Düsseldorf 1981, Charleroi and Dortmund 1983 , Zurich 1986, Duisburg , 1992).

Medium-sized western German cities such as Kassel and Ludwigshafen also built underground tram stations.

Some cities, such as Cologne or Stuttgart, which initially relied on the cheaper solution of the underground tram, subsequently changed their plans and developed them into a (more efficient) light rail operation.

Some light rail networks tend to develop in the direction of metro standards as they expand. There has been a “real” subway line in Frankfurt am Main since 1980. In Essen, Bochum and Dortmund there are light rail lines that have almost no crossings with road traffic. In Brussels, two light rail tunnels were converted to bus-track operation after they had reached a reasonable length and have been operated with metro vehicles ever since.

New installations of "classic" subway networks

New technologies in the subway: rubber-tire train of the MP 73 series of the Paris Métro

The light rail concept was only able to establish itself in North America in the 1980s ( light rail , also Metrorail), whereby in most cases tunnels were dispensed with. Most of the new high-speed rail networks outside of Europe were therefore built as a classic metro system, for example in Cleveland , Montreal , Toronto and Nagoya .

In the 1950s, the so-called Métro sur pneumatiques (subway on rubber tires) was introduced. This was tested for the first time from 1954 on a test route of the Paris Métro , where a first line was equipped with it in 1959 . This system, which still maintains the wheel-rail technology, is particularly characterized by good braking and starting values. Among other things, around half of the metro lines in Paris, the networks in Marseille, Lyon, Lille, Montréal, Mexico City, Santiago de Chile and Sapporo (Sapporo Metro ) use rubber-tyred trains today . When Subway Lausanne , the pneumatic tires was with their higher precisely because of the steep gradients of the track friction values used.

Unusual is from Leitschienenbahnen existing network of Japanese city of Sapporo . First in Canada , later also in Japan and China, lines were built whose vehicles run with linear drives .

Two new metro networks were also built in Germany, the first in Munich . Originally, an underground tram network was also planned in the Bavarian capital. But later the concept was revised and rescheduled to a full subway. The opening, initially planned for 1974, was brought forward to 1971 due to the 1972 Olympic Games .

The fourth and youngest German underground network went into operation in 1972 in Nuremberg . A light rail network was originally planned there as well. A special feature was that the subway vehicles from Munich and Nuremberg were originally identical and therefore basically interchangeable, so the two cities could help each other out in the event of bottlenecks. With the procurement of new generations of vehicles, the modernization of train control technology and the partially automatic operation, compatibility no longer exists. Since June 15, 2008, the first fully automatic underground system in Germany has been running on the U 3 in Nuremberg - on the joint section with the U 2 until the end of 2009 with its conventionally controlled trains in mixed operation, since then the U2 has also been running fully automatically.

Metros based on the Soviet model

With the help of Soviet partnership agreements, a new metro network was created in Prague, among other places
Departure display of the Moscow Metro, the last train left three minutes and 23 seconds ago

Since the 1960s, numerous new subway companies have been founded in the Soviet Union and other Comecon countries. New metro cities were, for example, Leningrad (1955), Kiev (1960), Tbilisi (1966), Baku (1967), Prague (1974), Kharkiv (1975), Tashkent (1977), Yerevan (1981), Minsk (1984), Nizhny Novgorod (1985), Samara (1987), Dnipropetrovsk (1995), Warsaw (1995), Sofia (1998), Kazan (2005) and Almaty (2011). In Budapest , two modern lines were built in addition to the line opened in 1896, the first section opened in 1970. There are also underground trams , for example the Metrotram Volgograd or the Metrotram Krywyj Rih .

The technical basics, the vehicles and even the network concept were relatively uniform. In most cities, a secant network with three lines was designed. Line tunnels and train stations are sometimes very deep below street level, while long escalators connect the street and the platform. The distance between individual stations is greater than in the other European networks of the same period, which increases the average speed, but still requires trams, trolleybuses or omnibus lines to develop the districts. Unlike in western cities, however, there were no large cities in socialist Europe that did without their trams.

The digital stopwatches at the front end of the platform are also typical of metros based on the Soviet model . These matrix displays show in minutes and seconds the time that has passed since the departure of the last train and reset to zero as soon as the next train leaves. As a result, passengers can, provided they know the clock sequence valid at the respective time of day and the operation is on time, estimate when the next possibility is available.

Current trends

New buildings and extensions

Mexico City Metro Rubber Tire Train

Created new metro networks and are planned in the industrialized countries of East Asia, and also in mega-cities of the so-called emerging countries such as the Mexico City Metro , Metrô São Paulo , Metrô Rio de Janeiro , Cairo Metro , Tehran Metro , Delhi Metro , Metro Caracas and Bangkok Metro .

Since the late 1980s, the number of new openings has decreased, especially due to the high construction costs for tunnel sections. On other continents, existing networks are being expanded, but hardly any new ones are being built. The Spanish capital Madrid and the CIS countries are an exception , although in the latter, due to the financial shortage since the 1980s, work is still being carried out on unfinished networks, such as the Chelyabinsk metro or the Donetsk metro . This is why the railway industry has geared itself towards the construction of more cost-effective “light metros”, while conventionally designed underground railways (“heavy metros”) are currently in little demand.

The first subway, the Sydney Metro , has also been operating in Australia since 2019 . It takes over some suburban railway lines, but is to run in the city center through a new tunnel route and thus relieve the previous city center routes.

VAL metros

Taipei Metro's Val 256 trains

After France was already regarded as an innovation location for subways with its rubber-wheel drive in the 1950s, a highly automated rail system was tested and successfully implemented in the 1980s with the VAL system ( Véhicule automatique léger ). With numerous standardized components, it is more cost-effective to build than subways with a conventional concept. The new Métro Lille was the first to be built using this system, in a metropolitan area with only about one million inhabitants. This showed that even medium-sized cities can operate a profitable and efficient subway network. Other places followed this concept, for example with the Métro Toulouse from 1993, the MRT (Taipei) since 1996, the Métro Rennes since 2002 and the Metropolitana di Torino since 2006.

VAL metros are also used for internal passenger transport at several major airports, for example in Atlanta , Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle ( CDGVAL ), Paris-Orly ( Orlyval ) and Chicago .

Low-floor metros

Urbos 2 low-floor train of the Seville Metro

U-Bahn and light rail vehicles were traditionally designed as high-floor transport systems, where elevated platforms enable barrier-free access to a high-floor vehicle. This was necessary in the past - and therefore designed in this way in all four German subway networks, Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Nuremberg - because it was technically not possible to accommodate engines and electrical systems in a low-floor vehicle. While trams were usually not designed to be barrier-free and did not require any complex structures at the stops, it quickly became apparent that the price for barrier-free operation is very high, as the construction of above-ground stations is also a major cost factor. Because elevated platforms are not feasible in many places due to urban planning conditions, it was often necessary to lay sections of the route in tunnels where this would otherwise not be necessary due to the volume of traffic.

In the 1990s, the first low-floor vehicles came onto the market, which also enable barrier-free entry into trams. Since then, cities have also decided to set up a new metro network, including the Spanish cities of Seville , Málaga and Granada . For this purpose, low-floor vehicles with a total length of more than 80 m are built, which may not be used in mixed operation with road traffic.

Routing and operation

Elevator at the Berlin underground station Alexanderplatz
Route map of the metro in Madrid

While in the cities of birth of the underground, London and Paris , the first lines were built underground from the start, in other cities these were often built as elevated railways on viaducts before tunnels were increasingly added to the course, such as in Liverpool , Chicago , Berlin , Hamburg , Vienna and New York . This was mainly due to the fact that the designers had no experience of tunneling under difficult conditions. But even today there are cities that, because of the muddy subsoil, have only a few, but very expensive to build subways. The problem is the static buoyancy of the hollow, air-filled tunnels. There is also a risk of streets and buildings sinking. This is why there are few underground lines in cities with high groundwater levels like Glasgow , Amsterdam and Saint Petersburg . The underground construction is in rocky ground such. B. in Stockholm, however, relatively easy to implement.

The main advantage of the underground is the independence of the route by moving it to another level. By avoiding both intersections with roads and with rails running on roads, disruptions to operations can be reduced to a minimum. In this way, as is now often the case, fully automatic operation is possible. There are now fully automatic metro routes in Paris , Lyon , Rennes , Lausanne and Copenhagen . The first attempts with fully automatic operation in Germany were made in Berlin , Hamburg and Frankfurt am Main . The first fully automatic subway in Germany in normal operation was the U3 in Nuremberg , which opened on June 14, 2008. It ran - unique in the world - until 2009 on a section of the route in mixed operation with conventional trains. Since the beginning of 2010, line U2 has also been switched to fully automatic operation, so there is currently no mixed operation.

U-Bahn trains are usually characterized by a dense cycle sequence. However, the time advantage is lost on short stretches of low-lying stations on the way to the underground train station. Likewise, people with disabilities, especially older systems, are often difficult to use or not at all possible. The underground stations are only gradually being equipped with elevators for the disabled . The Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe have drawn up a calculation that the installation of an elevator costs roughly the same as the renovation of a complete train station. The Nuremberg subway is one of the few systems that can now be reached completely barrier-free. In general, an elevator has always been planned for new buildings since the late 1980s.

After the S-Bahn, the underground trains are the most efficient mode of transport in the urban transport network. 35,000 to 40,000 passengers per hour can be transported in each direction (S-Bahn: 40,000 to 50,000; for comparison, cars with an assumed occupancy rate of 1.3: 2,500 people per hour and lane).

A power rail of the Amsterdam Metro, the power rails painted from below

In order to reduce the tunnel cross-section, the energy is often supplied by a power rail located between or next to the rails . On the other hand, in some subway systems, especially in southern Europe, the trains have pantographs on the roof. There are also numerous special forms, all kinds of power systems and supply options. In some cities, for example, a second busbar is used to prevent stray current corrosion . There are also different versions of the busbars themselves. The most widespread way is to paint the pantograph from below. In the case of the Berlin Kleinprofil, in London and in many Japanese networks this happens from above, which, however, represents a greater security risk. The routes built in Budapest after the Second World War are an example of busbars painted from above, which are nevertheless largely covered.

In the meantime, a range of 600 to 900 volts DC has become established for the operating voltage , regardless of whether the power is supplied via busbars or overhead lines. In Berlin, for example, they drive with a voltage of 750 volts, in all cities of the former Soviet Union with 825 volts. The fact that the electrical voltage of subway systems is generally somewhat higher than that of trams could be due to historical reasons, as the subway systems introduced later than the trams were each able to access a more sophisticated standard of power supply and electric motor technology.

Route network

Historical network formation

There are various types of networks in the numerous underground systems around the world. The first metro networks consisted of radius lines that ended in the city center, or diameter lines that crossed them. In contrast, the ring networks , for example, were mostly created on ring roads running in the same direction. The ring radial network is a further development. The secant networks are very typical for metro systems in cities in formerly real socialist countries such as Kiev or Prague . These network types are still being planned and built despite the collapse of the Soviet Union. Meshed networks are usually created under an existing road network, such as in New York or Paris . Understandably, some route networks deviate from these ideal types presented below or are mixed types.

Network structure and line purity

In contrast to the subway, S-Bahn lines can often be easily linked to form new lines because they mostly run above ground

A characteristic of numerous subway networks is a pure line operation, which means that a subway route is served exclusively by one line. The main reason for this is that pure line operation causes less effort in terms of technical security than a route with two branches. In contrast to the S-Bahn or tram, subway networks are therefore usually designed in such a way that the transition of a vehicle between routes between two different lines in normal passenger operation is generally not or only when using track connections that are not intended for passenger operation (e.g. B. sweeping tracks ) is possible. The purity of the lines means that the routing of a subway line remains in place for a long time and only changes when the route is extended later. Reconnecting branches, such as in the case of suburban trains or trams, usually involves extensive structural changes in the subway network. On this point, S-Bahn and trams allow more flexibility.

However, smaller subway systems in particular are not consistently straight-line. These are mostly routes that split into two branches out of town, such as in Stockholm , Copenhagen , Brussels , Munich or Bilbao . As a rule, the cycles of the branch lines are superimposed by means of timetable coordination and thus allow a closer train sequence on the jointly served section. This is mostly based on the knowledge that the dense cycle sequence required in the inner city is inappropriately high for the routes to be served outside the inner city. Here the advantages of a branched network and correspondingly higher passenger numbers outweigh the disadvantages of the increased technical security. However, even in New York and London, very large networks are not operated on a single line.


The London “MIND THE GAP” is intended to draw attention to the gap between the train and the platform

In principle, the same safety devices are necessary for underground trains as for all rail vehicles with passenger transport. Compared to the railways, however, the areas of risk are shifted. In the case of railways, the main risks are when traveling at high speeds on an open track. On the other hand, the dangerous moments in the underground are far more in the "platform situation", whereby the mass rush at peak times with its intensive passenger changes plays a role. The predominant implementation in tunnels means that standing still on the "open" route becomes a special risk area due to the tight confinement of the tunnel, especially if the train poses additional hazards such as fire in operating facilities. The narrow tube tunnels in London, in which it is not possible to exit a train at the sides, are particularly tricky. In addition, subways and their stations, with their easy accessibility and the temporally and spatially short stopping distances in metropolitan areas, offer much more than the railroad a field for criminal processes, especially in times with low passenger traffic, both on the platforms and in the vehicles.

Doors and passenger change

Platform screen doors in Singapore

Since the opening of the London Underground as the first underground rapid transit system, many measures have been introduced to ensure the highest possible level of safety for passengers. In addition to the departure announcement, the standard of today's subway system also includes a departure signal that is also understandable for foreign passengers. Visual departure signals, which are particularly intended for the deaf, have only been retrofitted for a few years, while in other places they have already been available from the beginning.

A fatal accident in Munich and a very similar incident with an injured person in Nuremberg have led to greater attention being paid to the sensitivity of the door locking mechanism. The drivers had not noticed people trapped in the doors. The technical facilities that were supposed to prevent shutdown in such situations did not respond either. For example, the door edge of the Munich subway is now being fitted with a pressure-sensitive sensor on new trains, and old trains have been retrofitted. Likewise, the newly delivered DT3 trains in Nuremberg will be delivered with correspondingly sensitive rubber door seals and the types DT2 and DT1 trains that are already in service (with the exception of the DT1, which will soon be retired) will be retrofitted with the same rubber door seals and with visual door closing warnings .

Another safety risk is the gap between the train and the platform, which in some cases is up to fifty centimeters wide; this is especially the case with platforms that are tightly curved. Not insurmountable in itself, the risk arises from the time pressure when getting on and off as well as the confusion when there is a large number of passengers. Solutions for this are, for example, the famous "Mind the Gap" in London, which is illustrated by announcements and lettering on the platform floor through to billboards with the words "The Gap kills!" An alternative is the installation of additional sliding steps, such as those available on the DT3 trains in Nuremberg.

Dangerous situations can also result from the presence of a person on the tracks . They force the driver to apply the brakes quickly, which in certain circumstances can no longer prevent an accident. In order to counter this, platform screen doors were installed mainly in Asian cities and, since 1999, also on new lines of the London Underground . These open synchronously with the train doors and can thus prevent unintentional "falling onto the tracks" in front of the train. Alternatively, electronic sensor systems have been installed on the driverless trains at the elevated railway stations in Copenhagen, which are supposed to automatically recognize dangerous situations and, if necessary, trigger emergency braking. In Nuremberg, microwave barriers were installed on the lines intended for driverless operation (U2 and U3). These are located under the edge of the platform and on the opposite wall and are intended to detect objects and people from 20 to 30 centimeters tall falling into the track area and to initiate emergency braking of approaching driverless trains. There were considerable delays in implementing the system. On June 14, 2008, the U 3 began official passenger operations.

The tram construction and operating regulations for underground trains in Germany state in Section 31:

(4) As far as operational conditions require, stops must be marked with
  1. Facilities for information and handling of passengers,
  2. Systems for monitoring the change of passengers,
  3. Emergency call facilities,
  4. Fire extinguishing systems, fire water supply,
  5. Means and facilities for first aid.
(7) The horizontal distance between the platform edge and the vehicle floor or steps must be as small as possible; in the worst case, it must not exceed 25 centimeters in the middle of the door.
(8) The heights of platform surfaces, vehicle floors and vehicle steps must be coordinated so that passengers can get on and off easily. The platform surface should not be higher than the vehicle floor in its lowest position; it must be slip-resistant.
(9) At the platform boundaries, the risk of people falling must be prevented. Platform edges must be clearly visible.

Protection against destruction and threats

Video surveillance is becoming standard on subways

Due to the need to save money and rationalization measures by many transport companies, there are now for the most part neither the train attendants nor the station attendants who handled the trains at the stations and carried out general supervision. Their function was largely taken over by surveillance with cameras. For the general safety of the passengers, for example, safety telephones were installed in Berlin and Hamburg, which enable a direct voice connection to the control and information center. In London, every stop is continuously manned by several employees who coordinate operations, make announcements and dispatch the trains.

Due to the scratching and graffiti that have become fashionable in the last few decades , the vehicles are in some cases hardly recognizable (see also: Bahnfrevel ). In many metro cities, constant camera surveillance is also installed in the vehicles to ensure that passengers feel safe. Special foils are also used on the windows to prevent graffiti and scratching, as well as a "worm pattern" on the seat upholstery, on which graffiti is difficult to notice and therefore makes it unattractive to attach it. In addition, there are the emergency brakes for the passenger, which have been taken over by the railways, to which an emergency call, i.e. a direct voice connection to the driver, is usually linked. The emergency brakes in modern subway trains are usually only active for the first ten seconds after the journey, after which the emergency brake is triggered only results in a voice connection to the vehicle driver.

Risk reduction in the tunnel

In order to counter dangerous situations in the tunnel, additional emergency exits have been built in between the stations of several underground trains and graphical references to the best "escape direction" have been attached to the tunnel walls. The tram construction and operating regulations (BOStrab) applicable to underground trains in Germany stipulate in Section 30: " Emergency exits leading to the open must be available in the tunnel and be laid out in such a way that the escape route to the next platform, emergency exit or to the tunnel mouth is no more than 300 m long. Emergency exits must also be available at the ends of the tunnel if the next emergency exit or the next platform is more than 100 m away. "

After a fire in the Deutsche Oper underground station in Berlin, some tunnel stations in Germany that previously only had an exit on one side were provided with another exit or an emergency exit on the opposite side.

Suicide attempts

A large proportion of accidents on subways are deliberate. The easy accessibility of underground stations and route tunnels and the relatively high speed of a train entering the station are repeatedly exploited for attempted suicide . Contrary to popular belief that rail suicide is a "safe" method of suicide, more than half of all subway suicide attempts are non-fatal. However, a suicide attempt on the splint usually results in the most serious and permanent injuries, in most cases disability due to severed limbs such as arms or legs.

Suicide on the rails is one of those suicide methods that (beyond one's own relatives) have very significant consequences for bystanders. Rail suicide on a railway line outside of built-up areas usually results in severe trauma for the train driver . For the rescue workers, too, “collecting” widely scattered body parts goes far beyond what is normally expected of them. In the case of suicide in an inner-city subway station, what has been described applies to an even larger group of people, because waiting passengers also become direct eyewitnesses of the suicide.

Reports in the media about suicide attempts on the subway often lead to acts of imitation ( Werther effect ). In Vienna, therefore, as early as the 1980s, on the basis of a voluntary agreement between the transport companies and the media, reporting on suicide attempts was dispensed with, and the number of attempted suicides in the subway then fell by 50 percent. In the meantime, this model is being successfully practiced in several German cities (Munich, Hamburg).


One of the long escalators in Moscow

There are a good 140 subway systems around the world. All have developed differently, even if some parallels can be recognized regionally. Some stagnate at their opening state, others develop rapidly.

The longest subway network since the end of December 2017 was the Shanghai metro network, which opened in 1995, with a length of 637 kilometers and 16 (end of 2009: 11) lines. On April 29th, line 13 was opened for the 2010 Expo , which begins on May 1st . The Beijing subway is the second longest network with 552 kilometers (as of December 2015). What used to be the longest metro network of the London Underground is now in third place in 2018 with 408 kilometers and twelve lines, some of which have multiple branches. This is followed by the New York City Subway with a length of 398 kilometers. There are 26 lines there, including express lines. Other large networks are located in Moscow (317.5 km), Tokyo (316 km), Madrid (294 km), Seoul (286 km) and Paris (220 km). The largest German network, that of the Berlin subway (144 km), is in 12th place on the world rankings. (However, the 332 km long S-Bahn network is not counted, while in Tokyo all systems count.)

As of December 26, 2015, Beijing's subway network was the longest in the world. Two years later, in December 2017, it was again exceeded in length by Shanghai. Both Shanghai and Beijing are continuing to expand their subway networks.

Particularly low-lying underground stations were built in the former socialist countries during the Cold War , also to serve as protective bunkers in the event of a possible nuclear war . The Budapest metro line M 2 is up to sixty meters below the surface. Parts of the metro networks in Moscow and Saint Petersburg are even lower . The current depth record holder is currently the subway station Arsenalna of the Kiev Metro, which opened in 1960, with a height of 105.5 m. Immediately afterwards follows the St. Petersburg station Admiralteiskaya, which opened in 2011, on line 5 with 102 m. Previously, the Komendantskij Prospekt station, which opened in 2005, was the second deepest underground station on the same line at a depth of 75 m. In western states, underground stations were mostly installed deeper than average for archaeological (Athens, Rome) or geological (Oslo, Washington) reasons. In Frankfurt am Main, the Dom / Römer underground station is 22 m deep due to an underground car park above it. In Rome, because of the Roman find layer (10 to 20 m thick), several stations were set up in the center at a depth of 30 m. Washington's Forest Glen station is 60 m deep and has no escalators that lead to the surface, only elevators. The new line 9 of the Barcelona Metro , which has been operational since 2014, will have several stations at a depth of up to 90 m, making it the deepest underground line in the world.

The Park Pobedy (Victory Park) metro station in Moscow also has the four longest uninterrupted escalators in the world, each 126 meters in length (for a 63 m difference in height). The world's longest multi-section escalators are located in Washington DC's Wheaton subway station . They are 155 meters long.

In terms of passenger numbers, the Tokyo subway is the most frequented subway in the world with 3.17 billion passengers transported annually (2008). The dark blue trains of the Russian capital Moscow are used around 2.39 billion times a year (2009). The Seoul Metro is in third place with 2.05 billion in 2009. It is followed by the New York City Subway with 1.58 billion (2009), the Paris Metro with 1.53 billion (2013), Beijing with 1.46 billion (2009), Mexico City with 1.41 billion (2009), the Hong Kong MTR with 1.32 billion (2009), the Shanghai Metro with 1.3 billion (2009) and the last metro with more than one billion passengers carried the London Underground with 1.09 billion passengers in 2008. The The Vienna U-Bahn carried around 510 million passengers in 2009 and was thus just ahead of the Berlin U-Bahn, which carried around 509 million passengers in 2009 (both in Vienna and Berlin without taking the S-Bahn into account). This placed the two cities in 22nd and 23rd place. In 2008, the Berlin S-Bahn had 387 million passengers. Adding up the subway and S-Bahn would bring Berlin with 896 million to Sao Paulo and ahead of Osaka and St. Petersburg in 12th place. It should be noted, however, that the method of counting is not uniform worldwide. In Germany, U-Bahn and S-Bahn are shown separately, added up in Paris and even counted twice when changing between different systems in Tokyo.

The yellow Chicago 'L' line is the fastest subway line in the world . It covers 8.1 kilometers from Dempster to Howard in six and a half minutes. The record is jeopardized, however, should intermediate stops be inserted along the route.

A New York R44 subway car set a speed record in 1972 at 141.2 km / h . It was found that the car was still accelerating towards the end of the test track, so that the test had to be terminated prematurely without having reached the maximum possible speed.

Vienna is considered to be the city with the most subway plans in the world . Plans from 1844 are even reported. In contrast, the first section of the Warsaw subway was only opened in 1995, although the first plans date back to 1925. Another record-breaking time span between planning and opening is emerging in New York: The subway under Manhattan's 2nd Avenue has been firmly planned since 1929 and, as things stand, should be completed between 2015 and 2020.

The underground in Glasgow has existed since 1896. However, it has never been expanded since then and thus holds the record for the longest unchanged underground network.

The Dubai Metro is likely to set the record for the shortest construction time of a longer subway : the 52.1 kilometer long driverless red line (but only 4.7 kilometers in the tunnel) was opened in September 2009 after a construction period of only 42 months . In addition, the route is the second longest single metro route in the world, albeit predominantly above ground.

The longest completely underground underground line in Germany is 31.8 kilometers and 40 stations on the U7 line of the Berlin underground , the longest route in Germany is the U1 line of the underground at 55.8 kilometers Hamburg . The route of line 9 of the Barcelona Metro has been the longest purely underground route in the world since 2014, the year it opened, with 47.2 kilometers and 50 stations.

In Germany, the U3 line between Frankfurt am Main-Südbahnhof and Oberursel - Hohemark im Taunus manages a difference in altitude of 204 meters and thus holds the record in Germany. The international record is held by Line 1 of the Tehran subway with more than 480 meters, which is entirely underground.


The Munich underground station Georg-Brauchle-Ring, designed by Franz Ackermann

As already mentioned under Records relating to the Moscow Metro , there are subways that are specially designed for cultural reasons.

In Munich , for example, the Königsplatz (art) and Tierpark (animal world) stops in particular. At the Königsplatz stop (art center) there are not only echoes of paintings, but also of sculptures that can be admired in the form of copies in showcases on the platform.

In Vienna, on the other hand, relics discovered during construction were incorporated into the design of the underground stations. The Virgil Chapel, presumably from the 13th century, can be found in the Stephansplatz U1 station right in the heart of the city. A remnant of the original Vienna city wall can also be discovered in the Stubentor U3 station . A lot of other stations, especially on the U3 line, are artistically designed.

It is noteworthy that although the design of the Moscow Metro is world-famous, other cities in the former Soviet Union are absolutely unknown in this regard. The fact that it was forbidden to take photos in these metros before the fall of the Wall probably contributed to the lack of knowledge.

Back then, the Soviet Union designed the central stations in many cities, for example in Leningrad and Minsk, as well as in Moscow as artistic palaces.

In Tashkent ( Uzbekistan ) you will find a bus stop whose ceiling is supported by pillars that are modeled on the wooden pillars of the Uzbek older Islamic temples. There is also a stop dedicated to space travel , in deep midnight blue as the basic tone.

The artist Martin Kippenberger set up the fictional global underground network Metro-Net from 1993 .

Cities with subways or metros

See list of cities with underground or metros

Subway (world)
Navi Mumbai
Belo Horizonte
Buenos Aires
Cheng you
Hong Kong
Kryvyi Rih
Kuala Lumpur
los Angeles
Mexico city
New York City
Nizhny Novgorod
Palma de Mallorca
Porto Alegre
Rio de Janeiro
San Francisco
San Juan
St. Petersburg
Santiago de Chile
Santo Domingo
São Paulo
Washington, DC
Red pog.svgCity with subway City with subway
Yellow pog.svgunder construction
Cities with subway


10 Euro commemorative coin for the 100th anniversary of the underground in Germany, 2002

There are four completely crossing-free subway networks in Germany. The Berlin subway was the first to go into operation on February 18, 1902. After the small-profile network with a wagon width of 2.30 meters, the large-profile network with a wagon width of 2.65 meters was put into operation in 1923. The entire network today consists of ten lines with a total length of 145 kilometers. The then independent city of Schöneberg opened its own underground line in 1910 with the option of changing to the Berlin underground network. The current U4 line was not connected by rail until 1926.

In February 1912, the Hamburger Hochbahn followed , whose today a total of 104 kilometers long route network is divided into four lines with one branch.

In 1971 the subway network in Munich was put into operation as the third German subway system free of crossings. The then imminent Olympic Games accelerated construction. Today the network is around 103 kilometers long and consists of six lines. In the center, the routes are each used by two lines.

Just one year later, the fourth and last network with a length of 37.1 kilometers went into operation with the Nuremberg subway . In 2008 the third line with driverless operation was opened, which converges with the U 2 in the center. Nuremberg is the only city in the world in which there was a mixed operation with driverless and driver-guided underground trains.

The subway networks in Hamburg, Munich and Nuremberg extend into neighboring cities, the one in Nuremberg even connects two large cities (Nuremberg and Fürth , with a route that largely corresponds to that of the first German railroad ). Garching near Munich , for example, has its own subway lines, the operation of which is connected to the subway network of the regional center with the help of complicated contractual and financing arrangements.

Many other German cities and metropolitan areas have subway-like systems, the routes of which outside the tunnels mostly do not run on independent railway bodies and are referred to as Stadtbahn . Their special railway bodies have street crossings at the same level. In some cases, there are even track bodies that are flush with the street, where the tracks share the traffic area with individual traffic.

These systems include about the rail network Rhein-Ruhr , the paths of light rail Cologne , the city railway Hanover , the light rail Bonn , the city railway Stuttgart and Frankfurt U-Bahn , the first line was opened on 4 October 1968th In Frankfurt , the U 4 underground line was a completely cross-free underground line until it was extended to Schäfflestrasse and then to Enkheim in June 2008.

The metros also include the S-Bahns operated in many German metropolitan areas in addition to subways for urban traffic, which have high density of stops and even longer tunnels in the city center in Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt am Main, Leipzig, Stuttgart and Hamburg.


The only classic underground in Austria is in Vienna , the Vienna underground . In Serfaus , Tyrol, there is the Dorfbahn Serfaus , a 1280-meter-long underground air-cushion lift with cable drive at over 1400 meters above sea level . In Tyrol, there is another local train that runs completely independently of individual transport: the new Hungerburgbahn in Innsbruck is partly underground. In Linz , the tram has been running on a 1.9 kilometer long underground section with three underground stations since 2004 , which is referred to as a mini-subway , but is more like a light rail . It now crosses under the main train station of the Westbahn. In 2011, another 1.3 kilometers underground route was opened from the station to the west.

There are two underground tram stops in Graz ( Brauhaus Puntigam and Hauptbahnhof ). However, both stops are open at the top to save on expensive fire protection equipment. The construction of a subway with three lines in the Styrian capital was already planned in the 1990s. However, these plans were discarded after a feasibility study showed that expanding the tram network would make more sense. In April 2018, the subway plans were taken up again in a reduced form. An east-west connection from Eggenberg to Sankt Leonhard is to be built on which fully automatic trains are to run. In March 2019, Holding Graz founded a project company that will deal with the feasibility and financing of an underground train by mid-2020.

In Salzburg , the local railway runs underground for a length of around 300 meters in the area of ​​the main train station and ends in the main train station tunnel station , with arguments about an extension through the city center and then further above ground on the south-facing Alpine road to Anif . In April 2018, the extension to Mirabellplatz, which should be completed in 2024, was decided.


In Lausanne , the Lausanne-Ouchy cogwheel railway has been converted into a fully automatic metro and extended to Epalinges . The m2 (line 2 of the Métro Lausanne ) opened in August 2008. Due to the gradients, the trains based on the Parisian model are equipped with pneumatic tires. The line m1 does not run without crossing; it is therefore not a subway, but a light rail.

In addition, there were plans for a subway network in Zurich , the largest city in the Swiss Confederation , until the 1970s . A tram route was partially relocated underground, but in 1973 the majority of the Zurich electorate rejected the subway proposal. Only the S-Bahn tunnel , which was also being voted on, was realized later. Although not a subway by definition, the two tram lines 7 and 9 of the Zurich transport company (VBZ) run underground over a length of around 2.5 kilometers ( Milchbuck – Schwamendingen tram tunnel ).


Pioneering companies - metro systems until 1914

city business opening annotation
Brooklyn Atlantic Avenue Tunnel December 3, 1844 The 500 meter long section of the Long Island Rail Road , also known as the Cobble Hill Tunnel , was initially built in a trench and arched over in 1850. Atlantic Avenue lay above it , which is why the tunnel is occasionally referred to in literature as the world's first subway. However, it was a railway tunnel without stations. It was shut down in 1861.
London Metropolitan Railway January 10, 1863 Opened as an underground extension of the Great Western Railway between Farringdon and Paddington (7 stations), steam operation (electrification from 1905), first extension in 1868. The line is now part of the Metropolitan Line and the Hammersmith & City Line .
new York West Side and Yonkers Patent Railway 1867 Cable-powered elevated railway (later steam service) in Greenwich Street and Ninth Avenue .
London District Railway December 24, 1868 First leg: from Westminster to South Kensington . First a daughter, then a competitor of the Metropolitan Railway, built and used (from 1884) together with this the ring route of today's Circle Line (London) .
New York City , Manhattan Beach Pneumatic Transit February 26, 1870 In shield tunneling erbauter tunnel under the Broadway (similar to a pneumatic drive pneumatic tube ), with only one shuttle car. Closed in 1873 and destroyed in 1912 when the BMT Broadway Line was built .
London Tower Subway August 2, 1870 First underground railway built using mining methods , cable drive , shuttle service with just one car under the Thames . Already closed on December 24th of the same year.
Istanbul Tunnel January 17, 1875 Underground funicular with two stations. The route is 574 m long and the gradient is around 15%.
New York City , Brooklyn September 24, 1883 Elevated railway over the Brooklyn Bridge , cable drive , electrified in 1896 and taken over by the BRT
Brooklyn Brooklyn Rapid Transit May 13, 1885 First (steam powered) elevated railway in Brooklyn, ran from the Brooklyn Bridge along Lexington Avenue to Brooklyn Broadway
London City and South London Railway November 4, 1890 First electrically powered subway in the world, first section: from King William Street (closed in 1900) to Stockwell . Mining construction ( tube ), Thames underpass.
Chicago Chicago Elevated May 27, 1892 Although New York had an elevated railway much earlier, the Chicago L (from El for elevated ) is considered the most famous elevated railway in the world. The first route ( South Side Rapid Transit ) went from Congress Street to 39th Street south of the center, was quickly expanded and initially operated in steam. Electrical operation from 1896. Today it is part of the green line of the operator CTA. In 1893, 1895 and 1900 three more elevated railway companies started operations. In 1897 the common heart of the network was opened, the Union Loop , a ring route in the city center.
Liverpool Liverpool overhead February 4, 1893 The world's first electric elevated railway connected Liverpool city center with the port. It had 14 stations on a 10 km route. A tunnel station was also created during later extensions. The network was shut down on December 30, 1956 and the systems were then broken down.
Budapest Millenniumi Földalatti Vasút May 2, 1896 First metro in continental Europe. Built for Hungary's 1000th birthday, under the paving of the Andrássy út boulevard planned for the same occasion . The route was 3700 meters long and had nine stations. Electrical operation.
Glasgow Glasgow District Subway December 14, 1896 Ring line (10.5 km, 14 stations); initially cable operation, electrical operation from 1935; 1977–1980 completely out of service due to renovation
Boston Tremont Street Subway September 1, 1897 The first subway outside Europe was a tram tunnel with three underground stations. Two of them were demolished in 1963 and replaced by new buildings. 1901-08 also used by elevated railway trains (four-track expansion).
Vienna Vienna light rail June 1, 1898 The first, 14 km long section ran from Hütteldorf to Heiligenstadt (15 stations). Built along the belt as an elevated railway, along the Vienna in an open cut and in tunnels. Steam operation, electrification 1925. Today the lines U4 and U6 .
Paris Métropolitain de Paris July 19, 1900 The first route ran from Porte de Vincennes across the city to Porte Maillot and is part of today's line 1. In Paris, it was not private companies that planned, but the city administration, which is why a meaningful coherent network, electrical operation, was created from the start.
Barmen , Elberfeld and Vohwinkel Wuppertal suspension railway March 1, 1901 The three neighboring industrial cities of Bergisch decided on a special kind of elevated railway: a single- rail suspension railway over the river Wupper . The 13.3 km long route is still in operation today, there have been no extensions. The suspension railway corresponds to the definition of a metro system, but it is not a metro in the strict sense of the word, electrical operation.
Boston Main Line Elevated June 10, 1901 Four years after the tram tunnel, Boston received a metro. It ran largely as an elevated railway and also used the tram tunnel in the center. In 1908 the line was moved to the parallel Washington Street Tunnel ; today it is part of the Boston subway as the Orange Line .
Berlin and Charlottenburg Electric overhead and underground railway Siemens & Halske February 15, 1902 The first underground trains in the then German Empire ran on viaducts in Berlin and the neighboring city of Schöneberg. Only the Potsdamer Platz subway station and the three in the city of Charlottenburg are underground. Electrical operation.
New York City Interborough Rapid Transit October 28, 1904 The first tunnel section of a New York metro is considered to be the birth of the subway . The 14.5 km route ran from City Hall to 145th Street in Harlem .
Philadelphia Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company (PRT) March 4, 1907 Elevated Railway along Market Street , between 22nd Street on the banks of the Schuylkill and 2nd Street on the banks of the Delaware Underground Routing. Four-track tunnel with combined tram service between 22nd Street and City Hall. The route is now part of the Market – Frankford Line .
New York , Hoboken , Jersey City Hudson and Manhattan Railroad February 26, 1908 Subway between Manhattan and New Jersey . The centerpiece was a tunnel on the bottom of the Hudson River , and from 1909 another Hudson tunnel . Operation was transferred to the port authority in 1962, which had the World Trade Center built on the site of the inner-city terminus .
Schöneberg Urban subway December 1, 1910 Schöneberg near Berlin opened the second subway in Germany in 1910 and the first municipal-run subway. Today's line U4 of the Berlin subway runs underground, is almost 3 km long and has five stations.
Hamburg Hamburger Hochbahn February 15, 1912 Ring route around the Alster Lakes, viaduct and dam location, only seven stations were underground when it opened. The first section ran from the town hall to Barmbek . Electrical operation.
Deutsch-Wilmersdorf and Royal Domain Dahlem . Wilmersdorf subway October 12, 1913 The subway of the then city of Wilmersdorf was around 9 km long and had ten stations. It reached from the Charlottenburg subway station Wittenbergplatz to Thielplatz. Large sections of the route were designed as a single-cut railway and are now part of Berlin's U3 line .
Buenos Aires Subte Line A December 1, 1913 Opening of the first subway line in the southern hemisphere. At that time it ran from Plaza de Mayo to Plaza Miserere and was quickly expanded.

See also

Portal: U-Bahn und Stadtbahnen  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of subways and light rail vehicles


  • WJ Hinkel, K.reiber, G. Valenta and H. Liebsch: yesterday-today-tomorrow - subways from 1863 to 2010 . Schmid-Verlag, Vienna 2004, ISBN 3-900607-44-3
  • Tram magazine: subways . Geramond-Verlag, Munich 2004, 1, ISBN 3-89724-201-X
  • Mark Ovenden: Metro Maps of the world . Capital Transport, London 2005, ISBN 1-85414-272-0 (English)
  • Paul Garbutt: World metro systems . Capital Transport, London 1997, ISBN 1-85414-191-0 (English)
  • Sergej Tchoban and Sergej Kuznetsov (eds.): Speech: 13: metro / subway , JOVIS Verlag Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-86859-840-7

Web links

Wiktionary: U-Bahn  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Underground  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Subway  album with pictures, videos and audio files



Individual evidence

  1. What are metros? UITP publications ( Memento June 27, 2013 on WebCite )
  2. Der Straßenbahner - Handbook for U-Bahners, Stadt- und Straßenbahner , published by the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV), 2001
  3. ^ "AEG test tunnel" Publication of the "Berliner Unterwelten" project ( Memento from January 12, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  4. 1st half of 1902 publications by Holger Prüfert (TU Berlin) homepage
  5. As of January, the U2 will also run automatically: New operating concept for the U2 and U3 lines, with a 100-second cycle as a highlight. (PDF) VAG, November 29, 2009, accessed on June 28, 2018 .
  6. ^ Jodie Stephens: Sydney Metro opens to the public as NSW Premier heralds 'a whole new way of doing things'. The Australian , May 26, 2019; accessed May 26, 2019 (Australian English).
  7. Jürgen Hotzan: dtv-Atlas to the city. From the first foundations to modern urban planning . Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 1994
  8. ^ "Continue to wait for the U3 line", Nürnberger Nachrichten, July 26, 2006, page 13
  9. There are still tunnel stations in Hamburg without a second exit: Feldstrasse , Hagendeel , Mönckebergstrasse , Sternschanze
  10. Archive link ( Memento from October 31, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  11. On the subject: Suicide ( Memento from January 30, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  12. ^ The TransportPolitic: Shanghai's Metro. Retrieved July 19, 2010 (English).
  13. ^ ThyssenKrupp: Lifts for Barcelona. (No longer available online.) RP Online, archived from the original on March 9, 2010 ; Retrieved July 19, 2010 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  14. (link not available)
  15. ^ Official website of the Moscow Metro. (No longer available online.) Moscow Metro Administration, archived from the original on March 23, 2010 ; Retrieved July 19, 2010 (Russian).
  16. Subway travel at a glance. (No longer available online.) New York City Transit Authority, archived from the original on June 13, 2009 ; accessed on July 19, 2010 (English).
  17. Documentation of the early plans for the Vienna subway
  18. A "mini metro" in Graz?
  19. U-Bahn for Graz: pipe dream or groundbreaking?
  20. City gives the go-ahead for subway and gondola
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on November 5, 2005 .