Metro Systems by Ridership Per Kilometer

Last post, I brought up the fact that the Cairo Metro is by a large margin the world’s busiest per unit of length, to explain why the government should prioritize investing in more subway lines. In comments, some people asked, or brought up information, about other systems’ comparable figures. Here is a table of some systems, including all the major ones. System length is given in kilometers, ridership is given in millions per year, and ridership per km is given in millions per km-year. I’ve tried to use as current data as possible, and to use official sources (or occasionally media sources) – in other words, the citations Wikipedia uses, and not Wikipedia itself.

Note that this not a complete table. I didn’t find annual data for many cities, such as Milan, Athens, and Vienna. For others I didn’t find data of any kind – Wikipedia sourced me to dead links. I also didn’t find any complete data – ridership and length – for any major commuter rail system, despite my desire to include the RER, S-Bahns, and Tokyo, Seoul, and London commuter rail networks. The North American data is lacking, which I blame on APTA’s use of unlinked trips as its main metric; in contrast, all ex-Soviet subways appear, since they’re in one consolidated source, which is why the smaller ones cluster at the bottom of the table, where they’d share room with many American and Western European systems I didn’t find information about. All subway systems down to half a billion annual riders are included.

System Length Ridership Ridership/km
Cairo Metro 77.9 1504 19.3
São Paulo Metro 74.8 895.6 11.97
Tokyo Metro + Toei 310.3 3255.7 10.49
Prague Metro 59.4 589.2 9.92
Budapest Metro 31.4 302.4 9.63
Minsk Metro 35.43 328.3 9.27
Hong Kong MTR 174.7 1600 (122.7 Feb.) 9.16
Guangzhou Metro 260.5 2280 8.75
Kyiv Metro 67.6 536.2 7.93
Seoul subway lines 1-9 331.5 2619.5 7.9
Moscow Metro 327.5 2490.7 7.61
Mexico City Metro 226.5 1684.9 7.44
Kolkata Metro 25.1 186.9 (140.2 Jan.-Sep.) 7.44
Osaka Municipal Subway 129.9 927.8 (2.542/day) 7.14
Paris Métro 214 1527 7.14
St. Petersburg Metro 113.5 758.6 6.68
Santiago Metro 103 667 6.48
Beijing Subway 527 3410 6.47
Singapore MRT 148.9 921.6 (2.525/day) 6.19
Kharkiv Metro 37.6 231.1 6.15
Baku Metro 34.56 206.6 5.98
Shenzhen Metro 177 1036.7 5.86
Novosibirsk Metro 15.9 88.8 5.58
Taipei Metro 129.2 684.8 (1.876/day) 5.3
Shanghai Metro 548 2712 (7.43/day) 4.95
Nagoya Municipal Subway 93.3 449 (1.23/day) 4.81
New York City Subway 373 1708 4.58
Tehran Metro 152 633 4.16
Delhi Metro 193 799.6 4.14
Yekaterinburg Metro 12.7 52.4 4.12
Munich U-Bahn 95 384 4.04
Barcelona Metro 102.6 373.5 (93.4 Jan.-Mar.) 3.64
Tbilisi Metro 27.1 96.2 3.55
London Underground 402 1265 3.15
Stockholm T-bana 105.7 328 3.1
Nanjing Metro 179.5 503 2.8
Nizhny Novgorod Metro 18.8 40 2.13
Bilbao Metro 43.3 91.3 (22.8 Jan.-Mar.) 2.11
Madrid Metro 294 591.7 (147.9 Jan.-Mar.) 2.01
Chongqing Metro 202 400 1.98
Kazan Metro 15.84 31.29 1.98
Tashkent Metro 36.2 59.17 1.63
Samara Metro 10.3 15.64 1.52
Yerevan Metro 12.1 15.57 1.29
Dnipropetrovsk Metro 7.9 7.5 0.95
Almaty Metro 8.54 6.56 0.77


  1. Shane Phillips

    Thanks for putting this together!

    Just to ease immediate interpretation, I’d add notes in the chart itself, possibly next to the headers, that say what the units are. A quick scan left me very confused as to what I was seeing here.

  2. kclo3

    SEPTA: 93.3 million unlinked trips for BSS + MFL, 103.8 million with PATCO
    with 40 km SEPTA, 62.9 km w/ PATCO
    for 2.33 million riders/km, 1.65 w/ PATCO

    • Eric

      This is not quite a fair comparison. BART naturally scores low here because it is used for long trips, like commuter rail. A rider who stays aboard for a long time only counts as one rider, but he/she has gotten a lot of utility out of the system. So commuter rail will naturally score low here, even though it is valuable for a city to have commuter rail.

      • snogglethorpe

        I think you mean “American-style commuter rail”… Tokyo commuter rail would score crazy high…..

        • Eric

          No it wouldn’t. Even if the trains are crowded, if people stay on them 5 times as long as a subway, then the factor will be 5 times lower.

        • Alon Levy

          Would it? The outer-suburban lines don’t perform as strongly as the subway. I have no idea about JR East because it depends on how far out you count. The private railways are easier to count: Tokyu is crazy high, 10.48, but Tobu’s average is 1.86, Odakyu’s is 5.9, Keio’s is 7.14, Seibu’s is 3.44, Keikyu’s is 5.07, Keisei’s is 1.7, and Sagami’s is 6.34.

          Granted, these are basically within the normal European ranges for a subway, but, with the exception of Tokyu, they’re well below the subway.

          • snogglethorpe

            Compared to BART, or other American commuter systems…? Japanese commuter rail tends to operationally resemble typical subways much more than it resembles American commuter rail, and that seems reflected in the “scores” of the various commuter lines you mention (although there’s obviously a range, I don’t think that negates the point).

          • andrew in ezo

            alon, you may find this info useful for data on JR East’s traffic between FY 2009 and 2013 including the Tokyo metropolitan area (in Japanese):

            Click to access 2009_2013.pdf

            It breaks down average daily passenger numbers for all lines as well as route lengths, though many extend past the commuter zone. Take the Yamanote Line, for example (#1 in the second group of figures on page 1, the first is for shinkansen lines). Annual ridership comes out to 394.5 million. For the 20.6 km stretch of that line between Shinagawa and Tabata (via Shinjuku), that gives a 19.1 score.

      • Richard

        It’s a perfectly fair comparison.

        If somebody constructs an urban subway using urban subway technology far into exurban cowfields it is not just “quite fair” but rather mandatory they the results be evaluated against other urban subways built using urban subway technology in other locations.

        Unique local conditions! Don’t us judge, just fund us!

        • Eric

          If you take long existing commuter rail lines and build a short downtown tunnel to connect them, like Paris or Philadelphia did, then the whole thing does not turn into a subway which shouldn’t have been built because it fails Alon’s metric.

          BART is essentially the same kind of system, except they insisted on building the peripheral commuter lines from scratch with non-standard technology, rather than using existing lines. That was an incredibly wasteful decision, but it’s irrelevant to Alon’s metric, which does not take construction cost into account.

          • Alon Levy

            It also depends on whether you can keep outer-urban construction cheap using els and existing ROWs. BART tries to do that, and fails miserably. SkyTrain, on the other hand, manages decent costs per rider with about 1.7 million riders/km.

          • Nathanael

            BART’s astoundingly non-standard technology keeps its costs very high relative to anyone else. Also, the ways in which it’s nonstandard are nearly all plain plumb stupid, they’re all worse than the standards. (And, the standards existed well before BART existed.) BART has CYLINDRICAL WHEELS, folks — if you know anything about the technical aspects of trains, you’ll be horrified.

      • Nathanael

        There’s weird averaging artifacts in constructing stats like this. BART has a lot of extremely long, extremely useless extensions, which would give it a very low ridership/kilometer number. However, if you just looked at the main tube under San Francisco, the Bay, and Oakland, it would look great.

        What this says to me is that Cairo has no bad subway lines; they’re all good.

  3. snogglethorpe

    Btw, what does “length” usually refer to, track length, route length, …? [i.e. does going from double-tracked to quadruple-tracked on a given route double its length?]

    • Sam

      “Length” for all these systems is route length. So 20km of double-tracked or quad-tracked subway would be listed as 20km. It wouldn’t make sense to calculate track length as quad-tracks only provide better service (express trains etc) rather than improved coverage

    • Alon Levy


      That said, I am not sure how London counts four-tracked segments in which two different named lines run alongside each other, like when the Piccadilly line runs express alongside the local District line.

      • Max Wyss

        An educated guess is that they count those segments twice, each time for the according line. Actually, there are some compatibility issues, not allowing the trains of one line using the tracks of the other (years ago, there was maybe one Piccadilly line train per day (very early morning) running on the District line tracks (and doing a local service).

        • threestationsquare

          Last time I was in London the Piccadilly Line was running on the District Line tracks between Acton Town and Hammersmith and making all local stops, due to construction, so it’s definitely still possible. I recall reading some discussion that this possibility might be done away with in connection with increasing automation (and platform screen doors) on the Piccadilly Line in the next decade or so.

          • Nathanael

            The main issue is that “tube stock” (Piccadilly line) and “subsurface stock” (District line) have different floor heights above the rail. It creates really problematic wheelchair-access issues.

  4. Alex B.

    WMATA is a bit tricky due to recent system expansion – the Silver Line hasn’t yet been open for a full year, so finding a full annual number with that ridership included isn’t easy.

    Before the Silver Line opened, WMATA had 106.3 route miles of rail, translating to 171.1 km.

    Annual ridership for the rail system in FY2012 was 218,244,000 linked trips: That equals 1.27 million rides per km.

    The Silver Line’s first phase has increased the route length to 117 miles (188 km); the second phase (projected to open in 2018) will increase the route length to approximately 128 miles (206 km).

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  6. DR

    Now only if we could see the same chart with service miles/track miles, ridership/service miles, and ridership/(service miles/track miles)!

  7. Eric

    Since the Cairo figure is an extreme outlier, and it appears to be a projection rather than a measurement (the other graphs on the site end in 2009, and the 2015-2020 figures are obviously not measurements; can any Arabic speaker confirm what this graph says?), and Middle Eastern governments are not known for their reliable PR (see Baghdad Bob etc.), I think it should be taken with a significant grain of salt.

  8. michael.r.james

    I agree that the RER should be included in any discussion of Paris Metro, and especially in comparative studies. It is unfortunate that the RATP site is so hopeless and those links are dead. However I believe it is more misleading to omit the RER from the stats than to include stats (from Wikipedia) that can’t be verified from the source. Perhaps you could write to RATP to alert them to the fact that in all media discussions Paris is always severely misrepresented because RER is never included? (I’d do it but my name etc carries zero weight.)
    I read recently that the RER surpassed 1 billion pax p.a. but of course cannot find any official confirmation; however it makes sense as there has been a strong trend growth (apparently caused by people moving to live closer to an RER station, businesses relocating ditto and increased social mobility, ie. more people coming into central Paris for shopping & entertainment). Line A (108.5 km, 46 stations) is claimed to carry 300m pax pa which makes it the busiest single transit line in the world (?), and despite its awesome ability to move people (double-deck trains, 2 minute headways etc) it is still a victim of its own success (peak hour crushes of almost Japanese scale).
    This usage pattern and the overall laudable aims of the Grand Paris Project is why there is a big expansion of the RER planned, including circle lines. All of which means the RER system is a very interesting model for all other big conurbations (indeed London CrossRail was explicitly modelled on RER-A) especially in the Anglophone world who often claim it is impossible to service their sprawl with PT (that people will actually use).

    Anyway here’s my summary (from that table in Wikipedia):
    Paris-RER has 5 lines spanning 587km with 257 stations (33 of which are in Paris intramuros) and carried 782.9 million passengers per year (2012?).
    Thus the combined Paris Metro + RER systems has 21 lines spanning 801 km, with 560 stations (xxx unique?) and carried 2,324 million pax p.a. (2012?).

    I have a suggestion (for your table but also for the future): list Metro and RER separately plus the combined. Incidentally, given that there hasn’t really been anything like the RER in other cities (no doubt those more familiar than me will object …) and who object to it being included in any “Metro”/Subway comparisons, just ask the question: will London CrossRail be included in the London Underground stats when it is running. Answer: of course it will.

    • Alon Levy

      Well, other European cities have S-Bahns (or S-togs, or Cercanias, etc.). The RER is unique in how heavily used it is, but that’s entirely a matter of Paris’s size; per capita it’s not busier than the Berlin or Munich S-Bahn, and not much busier than the London commuter rail network. In those cities, there are about 200 rail trips per person-year, which are either split evenly between the subway and commuter rail (including RER/S-Bahn) or have a slight majority for the subway.

      And of course, then there’s Tokyo…

      • michael.r.james

        Right. But my point was about the kind of transit appropriate for big cities. The point about the RER (and now London CrossRail) is that it is heavy rail, runs at high speed, services many stations through the centre of the city (exactly like Metro, and fully integrated with it) and had more widely-spaced stations so as to move larger numbers of pax more efficiently over much greater distances than Metro. (And a few other features like more comfortable seating for those longer trips; more seating relative to standing space–esp. on the double-deckers; good luggage provision.) Commuter rail that terminates at a mainline railway station is not comparable. I’m not familiar with Berlin but reading the Wikipedia entry S-Bahn does seem similar to the RER. London commuter rail is a different thing. Likewise (from what I remember) Tokyo commuter rail.

        I suppose I am not really addressing the exact topic of your article. But I think “pax-km” is the most appropriate measure of functional usage of a system. Not easy for outsiders to find but since most systems use electronic travel cards I am sure insiders could extract such data fairly painlessly. I think we’d find that the RER (and maybe Berlin’s S-Bahn, and future London CrossRail) would out-perform almost anything else–as it was specifically designed to. Paris-Metro currently has higher ridership (but RER will overtake it possibly within the decade) but covers much shorter rides (and it is why it mostly cannot be extended much beyond its current reach). Again the point is about moving suburbanites (or even exurbanites) over long distances efficiently. It applies as much to the developing world’s mega-cities as to Western world sprawl (US sunbelt, and Australian cities).

        • snogglethorpe

          In terms of “pax-km” quite a few Tokyo commuter lines have very similar numbers to RER lines (counting only the length of the commuter line, not the total length when interlined).

          Traditionally Tokyo commuter lines tend to “stop at the edge” (of the Tokyo core), but they’re so heavily interlined these days that such nominal boundaries aren’t all that meaningful… You can easily take a single train from one distant suburb through central Tokyo and out to another suburb on the other side.

          • michael.r.james

            OK. Maybe.
            Sorry, I’m sceptical because if you live in the banlieu in Paris do you want to live on a SNCF commuter line (now called Tansilien I think?) or on a RER line? No contest–though as I noted earlier the RER is a victim of its own success with peak hour hell. I have a fantasy of wanting to go back and live in Paris (yes, probably a hopeless latelife crisis of reinventing/revisiting one’s youth! Hemingway was right, damn him) but intramuros property prices are just prohibitive now–at least when one doesn’t want to relive that particular aspect (such as 18 sq metres!) and so I am reduced to browsing the …shudder.. banlieu. But assuredly only if it is either at the end of a Metro line (eg. new station in Montrouge for line #4, but of course prices already reflect that) or RER.

            I am reminded of when I worked briefly in Tokyo (Cancer Centre, Otsuka, north-central Tokyo). Commuting was so awful that several people slept in the lab for 3 nights a week, effectively only returning to their families for weekends. I remember one woman who still lived with parents (because rents…) and her rail commute took 2 hours each way! That is what RER was designed to avoid.

            Incidentally “pax-km” means the distance travelled by passengers, not the total number of pax that use a line multiplied by the length of the line; ie. it is a real measure of usage. Alas, cannot be calculated by the pax number alone and really needs to be calculated by the transit authority; or perhaps using an “average journey km” that would also have to be provided.

          • snogglethorpe

            Incidentally “pax-km” means the distance travelled by passengers, not the total number of pax that use a line multiplied by the length of the line; ie. it is a real measure of usage. Alas, cannot be calculated by the pax number alone and really needs to be calculated by the transit authority; or perhaps using an “average journey km” that would also have to be provided

            For purposes of comparison though, it doesn’t matter if the distribution is similar for the lines being compared; whether that’s true or not, I don’t know. [One general case where it’s not is a “through line” as opposed to an “edge line”… assuming most people get off somewhere in the middle of the city, the “through line” will on average probably have have the true pax-km as an “edge line” with similar statistics.]

          • snogglethorpe

            I wrote:

            will on average probably have have the true pax-km as an “edge line” with similar statistics.

            Obviously that should be “have half”… ><

            ….stupid no-edit blog software… grumble…

          • snogglethorpe

            BTW, the standard form of ridership data for Japanese rail lines is a list of average daily boardings+de-boardings for each station along a line, so you could probably roughly calculate true pax-km if you assume most people are traveling to or from the terminal station (or beyond where interlined). This is probably a fairly reasonable assumption for many commuter lines…

        • Sascha Claus

          > »I’m not familiar with Berlin but reading the Wikipedia entry S-Bahn does seem similar to the RER.«
          I’d put it haflway between Metro and RER, running half as far, but with huge overlap towards Metro and RER.
          Note that Berlin also as a buch of RE (RegionalExpress) routes running north-south (5 trains per hour) and east-west (5/7 trains p. h.) through the citiy, forming an express overlay to the S-Bahn, wich itself has slightly higher stop spacing than the U-Bahn. REs are above the RER, most of them are parts of former long-distance routes, now state-subsidized and open to the same tickets as S, U, light rail and bus.

          • michael.r.james

            Each city will solve its growth-created transport issues in various ways. It makes sense that the Germans would be adept at solving this particular problem that is largely engineering, though it is just possible they were a tad early (because halfway Metro & RER may not be good enough for bigger cities). Paris may have been “lucky” in its timing–the mid 70s–when the issues were better defined, and by then the limits of Paris were more or less finalized. Then again the Paris population, pretty much the Ile de France, is 3.3 times that of Berlin, which is to say that the distance and speed/time requirement was known and not a moving target. I’m still wondering if London CrossRail may not have compromised too much: it spans ≈120km and has 46 stations, including those ten in London (which could be too many for the speedy service, OTOH it is in the “wide” axis of the city along which most of the city operates, and they say Heathrow to Oxford street will be 28 minutes compared to the current 1hr+ of the Underground).

            I think the Germans were also on the right track (ha!) with Maglev. I am still waiting for either them (not likely, sadly) or the Japanese (also not likely for city transit) or maybe the Chinese to build intra-city transit lines with it. Not only have they already got one (Shanghai airport maglev, 34km in 7m20s; built by Siemens of course) but they have the most pressing motivations: giant cities and still-growing cities. Some people believe maglev’s best application, its sweetspot transport-wise, will be in city transit rather than long distance. Shanghai is a candidate IMO, because of their master plan of ten satellite cities around central Shanghai. I think steel wheels on rail will have trouble coping with the sheer scale. They may have abandoned their plans for inter-city maglev to Hangzhou but it may yet for a super-Metro. For the same reason BART, even if it were to ever circumnavigate the bay, can’t really be ideal on that scale.
            Maybe the US will surprise us and solve Houston, DFW, Atlanta, Phoenix transit problems with an American maglev!

          • Alon Levy

            Japan has built a maglev line for urban transit. It also has many monorail lines, both regular ones and suspended ones. But the bulk of its urban rail lines, including the bulk of newly built ones, are conventional rail. For higher-speed commuter rail, it’s more important to be able to leverage existing lines than to optimize specs. The Tokaido and Yokosuka commuter trains have wide stop spacing, relying on the Keihin-Tohoku and Yamanote Lines to provide local service, and this lets them average about 60 km/h. It’s not high-speed rail, but for people in Yokohama and points somewhat beyond it, it provides decent travel times to Central Tokyo. (Note: “decent” means the average commute is an hour. But it’s over a vast distance.)

          • michael.r.james

            In reply to Alon Levy 2015/04/20 at 17:57

            Doh! Slaps forehead. Yes, I remember that Linimo line now that you reminded me.
            Possibly it didn’t make much lasting impression (not that I don’t forget important things too) because it is not quite what one has in mind when one thinks of Maglev and its advantages (not solely speed but acceleration and almost maintenance-free running, tight cornering, silent running at likely transit speeds). Its top speed of 100 kmph might be ok for transit though it doesn’t seem anything like the robustness of Shanghai (Wiki citation below). Siemens certainly takes the gold in any comparison. (Having said that, not more than 5 minutes ago I saw a tv news item reporting that the Japanese have just set a new HSR speed record at 603 kmph with their HS maglev. But this is not in the category of commercial pax-carrying trains, where the record is held by old fashioned steel wheels in the form of a French TGV, from memory 575 kmph.)

            [Being the first commercial implementation of a new type of transport system, the line suffered a number of highly publicized technical breakdowns during the Expo, with far higher demand during peak hours than the line’s carrying capacity of 4,000 passengers per direction per hour. On March 19, 2005 and again on March 24, the number of people inside the trains exceeded the design capacity of 244 passengers and the train was unable to levitate. The line also has to be shut down for safety reasons when wind speed exceeds 25 m/s, a relatively common occurrence in the area.]

          • Alon Levy

            Shanghai’s maglev is a huge white elephant; the ridership is so low Shanghai decided to build a parallel conventional subway line.

            Linimo isn’t any faster than conventional rapid transit. Its average speed is just under 30 km/h, which is the same as a legacy conventional subway with the same stop spacing, and less than a new driverless metro, like the one in Copenhagen. It doesn’t have the average speed of a line with 2 m/s^2 acceleration.

            The gold in any comparison isn’t Siemens, but JR-Maglev: the 600 km/h speed record is with a normal train, whereas the TGV’s 574 km/h record was with a modified trainset in which most passenger coaches were removed (the TGV has power cars). JR Central is building a 500 km/h maglev line from Tokyo to Osaka as we speak, with what appears to be 2 m/s^2 initial acceleration; it’s just taking a long time to build because of all the tunnels.

          • michael.r.james

            I don’t understand why people say it is a white elephant. It seemed a long way from a white elephant when I used it and that was only a few years after it began service. So even if it can’t ever repay its capital cost there are plenty of big infrastructure projects like that. (Though I don’t even understand that because apparently it cost only US$1.3 bn which is a fraction of the Second Ave Subway or even the JFK airtrain?) It’s main issue was that it terminates at Longyang Road station and you have to transfer to the regular Metro. I have no idea why they did that as it does seem dumb for such a showcase project (it did run overbudget but since when did that stop the Chinese from doing a project properly). Well, another issue is that for a lot of Chinese apparently it is expensive (relative to the bus & now regular Metro; but $8.00, really? when they have just come from flying?) which I suppose was deliberate but means they got caught in the middle–because the richer Shanghaiese still take a taxi or get met by their own limos. I see that the regular Metro line also requires a change of train to get to the centre and overall it takes one hour versus 20m for combined maglev + Metro. Tell me, which will you use next time you fly into Shanghai?

            As to HSR speed records personally I would give it to the Shanghai maglev (at 431 kmph) because it has been doing that as a commercial pax service since 2004, and it does that speed every single run (though only maintains it for a short period because the run is short.) The JR can claim records all it likes but it is still on a test track (though admittedly longer now than Shanghai) (and the TGV did do its speed for a sustained 750 km.) The time to boast is when they do it as a commercial service over serious distances.

            But I am fairly neutral and will be happy if the Japanese build their maglev line. Because I still fantasize about Australia linking its east coast cities*. With our big distances it (maglev) makes more sense than many countries and the times for regular HSR are still a bit too long. Unfortunately it is still opaque as to what the real cost is because the Japanese have decided to build theirs in tunnels thru the mountains for almost two thirds its span which has to be a big part of its total cost–and I’m not sure they will be completely transparent on costs anyway. The tiny, tiny glimmer of hope for building one in Oz is that I think our PM’s office business advisor got a run on it a week or two back when he was in Japan. He is a neanderthal climate-denier, but a HSR enthusiast, go figure, and was gushing over getting the Japanese to both build it and finance it (with all their US$1 trillion of newly printed money for infrastructure projects). He (Maurice Newman) actually wrote about it in Rupert’s national paper.

            A very fast train is a model of sustainability
            MICHAEL R. JAMES March 26, 2010

          • Alon Levy

            It seemed a long way from a white elephant when I used it and that was only a few years after it began service. So even if it can’t ever repay its capital cost there are plenty of big infrastructure projects like that. (Though I don’t even understand that because apparently it cost only US$1.3 bn which is a fraction of the Second Ave Subway or even the JFK airtrain?) It’s main issue was that it terminates at Longyang Road station and you have to transfer to the regular Metro. I have no idea why they did that as it does seem dumb for such a showcase project (it did run overbudget but since when did that stop the Chinese from doing a project properly).

            It’s a white elephant because it’s operating at 20% of capacity, because nobody wants to take a train to Longyang Road. The train terminates at Longyang Road because to get to city center would require massive tunneling, which would raise the cost too much. Shanghai will spend that money on a subway tunnel serving a million passengers a day, but not on an airport connector serving a few tens of thousands.

            Tell me, which will you use next time you fly into Shanghai?

            When I flew to Shanghai in 2009, I used the maglev (and did not once use any mechanized mode of transportation in the city other than a train). If I did that again, I’d either use the maglev or ride Line 2 all the way. The maglev would be entirely for the railfan thrill, to be honest.

            (and the TGV did do its speed for a sustained 750 km.)

            No, it didn’t. It was on a test track, too, using a modified test train.

          • snogglethorpe

            Also note that the Yamanashi test track (that the recent maglev speed runs were done on) will incorporated into the Tokyo-Nagoya shinkansen line. So it wasn’t really unrepresentative, although I suppose the track will probably be rebuilt to some degree for production use.

            Similarly, according to wikipedia, the TGV speed run was done on a section of the LGV Est line before it opened, but that section of the line was modified in various ways to support the speed run. (see )

          • threestationsquare

            I rode the Shanghai Maglev about two weeks ago and it was mostly empty, 20% of capacity sounds about right (maybe even less). It has all the issues that make dedicated airport connectors underperform, plus issues with expensive immature technology (the limitation to 350km/h outside daylight hours is not a huge deal but disappointing), and an inconvenient terminal.

            That said, as a traveller it seems mad to spend an hour on the local Line 2 train instead of six minutes on the maglev train, and contrary to Alon’s comment, railfandom is the only motivation I can think of for taking Line 2 the whole way.

            Given that Shanghai’s intercity train station is now way out by the domestic airport I kind of wish they’d go ahead with the old plan to extend the maglev there (since it’s a schlep from the centre right now). It may not be very well-suited for that application though (e.g. they’d need a long dwell time at the central station for people to get on and off through the narrow doors on the current rolling stock), and the ridership might still not be high enough to justify so much tunnelling.

          • michael.r.james

            In reply to Alon Levy says: 2015/04/21 at 22:41
            “taking Line 2 the whole way.”
            I haven’t been to Shanghai since that line was opened to the airport (even if I had I would not have used it) but I understand that it doesn’t “go all the way”, ie. you have to change trains (at Guanglan Road two stops further out from Longyang Road stn ) even if it is all called “metro line 2”. And getting between the two airports, Wiki suggests “It is wise to allow more than five hours for a safe flight transfer at Hongqiao International Airport using public transportation.” Note that London has examined the concept of merging Heathrow and Gatwick into a single virtual airport using a Maglev HSR shuttle –makes some sense as Gatwick can be expanded a lot more cheaply and less disruptively than HRW.

            As to those 20% ridership figures, where does that come from? The Wiki article is almost a decade old. And threestationsquared doesn’t say what time of day or night he/she used it; apart from being a single data point from an anonymous blogger (sorry it’s just that it would be nice to see something more authoritative). Google searches only reveal “anecdotal” evidence and the fact that there are no official figures released.

            As to the extension of the maglev all the way (or at least to Lujiazui next to the river) I always assumed it would be above ground, elevated like it is all the way to the airport, on the median on the giant freeway that goes out to Longyang Road station. In fact I seem to recall the Metro is elevated on most of that route (but can’t quite remember, what I do remember is that at Longyang Road one goes from street level up to the Metro, or have I got that wrong?). And I would say it is a rather neat feature to have come into their showcase business district, yes?

            I will acknowledge that its lack of interoperability has consequences though actually in most big Metro networks it turns out that is less of an issue than planners have often assumed. (Because as soon as a system passes a certain threshold all lines need to be completely separate. A case in point is the annoying overlap of the Circle, Central and hmm is it the District lines in central London; you can sit on those trains and wait … and wait .. and wait for some other train to cross your line ahead.)

          • Alon Levy

            No, Line 2 is underground to well past Longyang Road. Wikipedia has a schema of where the line is above ground and where it is underground. There’s also Google Earth, which may be a few years out of date, but the core of Line 2 is 15 years old.

            Merging airports that are physically far away from each other using a long-distance connector is really stupid. Sorry. London’s having somewhat unique issues (Heathrow has only 2 runways, Gatwick only 1), but even there, for the same cost as such a connector they could build much of HS2, obviating the need for airport expansion. Shanghai’s situation is different, and largely self-inflicted, with the separation between domestic flights at Hongqiao and international ones at Pudong; in the medium term, the solution is to be more flexible about which flights use which airport, which is already happening to some extent (there are flights to Gimpo and Haneda).

          • michael.r.james

            Alon Levy:
            [Merging airports that are physically far away from each other using a long-distance connector is really stupid. Sorry. London’s having somewhat unique issues (Heathrow has only 2 runways, Gatwick only 1), but even there, for the same cost as such a connector they could build much of HS2,]

            Heck, there seems a lot of negativity on this blog.
            IMO London airports are a mess. I prefer a mega-hub and so favour Boris Island which almost everyone pours cold-water on with very lame reasons (WW2 bombs, built on mud, too far!). Some think having three international airports (HRW, Gatwick, Stansted) better serves a big city like London so, for example those in the south only have to go to Gatwick instead of trekking to Heathrow–yet hardly any of the big airlines use Gatwick and last time I was in Brighton I had to take a horribly early bus that sailed straight past Gatwick on the way to Heathrow. But in the absence of moving Heathrow (it is Crown land whose sale of such prime residential land would pay for anything you’d like including Boris Island) expanding Gatwick makes the most sense (versus disturbing several million more Londoners around HRW’s new runway flightpath, not to mention the cost of land resumption). OTOH, removing Heathrow would remove a awful disturbance and create a wonderful garden suburb that would relieve London’s growth problems (and it already has the transit in place!).
            Now Alon, why would it be stupid? And why would it cost more than HS2? Let’s first start with the likely cost of a third runway at HRW: £14-18bn, and tens of thousands of homes at risk of demolition (according to its own report). HRW to Gatwick is 56 km so let’s call it twice Shanghai’s 30.4 km which at Chinese 2004 prices would be $2.6bn, so who knows (and really no one knows) call it $5bn today (it would run elevated along freeway medians almost the whole way, pretty much the exact route of that coach I took from Brighton). It would take ≈10 minutes by a 500 km/h maglev (almost certainly quicker than that early maglev shuttle at Birmingham airport; or almost any airport shuttle between terminals I can think of) and just two trains on two tracks (as per Shanghai) would have a capacity of ≈4,400 pax per hour (easily pushed to >10k paxph with extra and/or longer trains). Shanghai has proven it can be done, day in day out for (11) years. All that cost and energy, you say? Compare it to any alternative, I say. (Like all those millions who live south of London including the entire south & SE coast who currently mostly go to HRW, almost all of whom sail past–actually stop at–Gatwick on the train or bus or car.)

            Of course, if one had one’s preference you would never plan such a thing. But the (latter-day) Brits seem incapable of long-term planning (though finally in the second & third decades of the 21st century they are building the kind of infrastructure they knew they needed at least 60 years ago and which the French under very similar circumstances actually built (they created a brand new airport at CDG with enough reserved land forever, built an RER, highways and TGV to it etc etc). Heck, the long inquiry the Brits will hold into whether they should build HRW third runway will probably cost as much as a maglev! Only China has such neat clean planning opportunities and as we see with Shanghai’s two airports, even there they get stranded with non-ideal situations.

          • Alon Levy

            It’s 56 km of elevated maglev versus about 180 km of mostly at-grade HSR. Elevated structures come at a cost premium. Don’t use Shanghai as a benchmark; even after adjusting for PPP, Chinese subway costs are about one third as high as London’s, and a similar cost premium applies to high-speed rail. That’s how HS2 ends up so expensive. It’s HS2 that’s intended to obviate the third Heathrow runway, and not a maglev system that would merely redistribute riders between two airports with very busy runways (Gatwick is the world’s busiest single-runway airport).

          • threestationsquare

            @Alon: I think there’s not enough capacity for all the high speed trains at the legacy station, given their preferred operating practises (Amtrak-NYP-style boarding etc). Shanghai Railway Station has 13 platform tracks, while Shanghai Hongqiao has 30 — the new high-speed rail stations in China are all enormous. The through-station arrangement of Hongqiao presumably further increases capacity though I think few trains actually run through in revenue service. The approach to the legacy station is also a four(?)-track bottleneck that might be difficult to expand enough. I believe the legacy station is mostly used for trains of the shorter-distance Shanghai-Nanjing (“Huning”) high speed line (along with a few legacy low-speed services), while most trains of the Beijing-Shanghai (“Jinghu”) high-speed line (which bypasses most nearer cities) go to Shanghai Hongqiao. This seems like a reasonable prioritisation of capacity under the circumstances. High-speed trains from Hangzhou and the south also go to Hongqiao as the legacy station is quite poorly situated for them; they could go to Shanghai South Station but that’s not all that much more central than Hongqiao, and would be worse for connecting through passengers. For that matter it’s not like the legacy station is within walking distance of many destinations.

            @michael.r.james: I used the maglev around 10am on a Sunday; I’d also like to see some actual ridership statistics. Line 2 is underground at Longyang Road and in fact most of the way to the airport, only surfacing east of Lingkong Road. There’s not an obvious way to extend the maglev elevated to Lujiazui (Century Park is in the way for one thing) but you could perhaps run it elevated along the ring road to near the Nanpu Bridge before tunnelling. And regarding interoperability, while it’s true that it’s usually best to have metro lines completely segregated in normal service, it’s still useful to have interoperability for non-revenue moves like yard access, dealing with disruptions, shared maintenance resources, ability to shift rolling stock around to meet demand, and other economies of scale.

          • Adirondacker12800

            …economies of scale…

            Maybe with the Toonerville trolley but a system like Shanghai’s there’s enough subway flitting around that they need multiple yards and shops. Redundancy has it’s charms.

          • michael.r.james

            Alon Levy wrote:
            [It’s 56 km of elevated maglev versus about 180 km of mostly at-grade HSR. Elevated structures come at a cost premium. ]

            I must be missing something here. HS2 is only 180 km?
            I assume it is supposed to take pressure off HRW because pax travelling to the north will go by HSR rather than by domestic flights from HRW? (In the same way that Eurostar has taken ≈80% of London-Paris (and Brussels; soon Amsterdam?) and removed most of the flights? I can’t imagine that there will be anything like the same magnitude of effect since most people would be using train for most of those northern destinations, except perhaps Glasgow/Edinburgh.)

            Re the cost, yes I believe I covered the fact that it would be many times the claimed Chinese cost. OTOH both China and Japan claim they have got the price of maglev down by a lot. Yes, elevated structures cost but perhaps not as much as you might think or imply. Maglev is very light compared to standard rail (and already there are significant difference in bridge specs if it is designed to allow freight trains or solely pax trains). Shanghai cost more than planned because the original long span between supports had to be reduced twofold due to sinking in the Pudong mud.

            As you point out “Gatwick is the world’s busiest single-runway airport”, and that is why they are planning their second runway. They could continue to expand if necessary. And that is the logic for brainstorming on the maglev link with HRW where doing anything is incredibly fraught and incredibly expensive and incredibly slow to happen, and pisses off large numbers of Londoners. I would also point out (as I did imply in my last post) that a HSR linking HRW and Gatwick would be a de facto public transit link even without being open to the non-flying public (though the proposition allows for different carriages or different trains for airside and landside pax respectively) because people that live in the south and currently travel all the way to HRW by various means would no longer be adding to congestion on M/A23 + M25 etc or the train and London Metro systems. And ditto on the north & western side of London, especially with future London CrossRail spur to HRW.

            Personally I try to avoid using HRW or indeed London at all. That last trip I kind of trapped myself into it when friends couldn’t come across to Paris to see me so I reluctantly (least favoured Euro country, least favoured big city, least favoured airport) went to them necessitating changing my ex-Europe flight from Paris to CX’s flight out of HRW. In future I will take Eurostar return Paris. (Which funny enough, the cost of Eurostar is almost the same as the extra cost of flights into HRW versus any other Euro airport!)

          • threestationsquare

            @michael.r.james: Why do you keep referring to LHR as HRW? It’s jarring.

            The number of people travelling from southeast of London to Heathrow is tiny by transit/urban transport standards; it’s ridiculous to suggest they have nontrivial impact on M25 or London rail congestion. (The whole airport only handles 200k pax per day, mostly not during rush hour, and the vast majority of pax are to/from London proper.)

            A lot of the opposition to a third runway at Heathrow is motivated by climate change concerns, the argument being that if a sensible carbon tax isn’t possible then deliberately constraining aviation capacity to drive up the price is a partial substitute. This applies just as much or more to an additional runway at Gatwick.

            @Alon: How is HS2 supposed to obviate demand for a third Heathrow runway? There are not many flights from Heathrow to destinations within England (8 per day to MAN, 6 to NCL, 3 to LBA, that’s all) and these serve almost entirely connecting traffic which HS2 will not serve well (given the long transfer via Heathrow Connect/Crossrail, lack of through-checked baggage, and high fares). Longer term maybe you’d hope to eliminate some of the 18 flights to EDI and 9 to GLA? I’d be more hopeful about shifting significant air traffic by running more Channel Tunnel passenger trains and charging less stratospheric fares for them. But Heathrow is already dominated by intercontinental traffic (with shorter-distance traffic using Stansted et al) so I’m not sure how much you can hope to shift. Of course, if the goal is really to constrain supply for environmental reasons so that less flying (and less long-distance travel) happens as described above, then fair enough.

          • michael.r.james

            In reply to threestationsquare 2015/04/23 at 09:42

            Are you serious? 200k pax per day (plus those accompanying them on pickups/dropoffs) and the 23,000 direct employees and all the associated businesses that cluster closely around big airports, is nothing? That doesn’t count all the deliveries such as catering etc. As Europe’s biggest airport it will also be the biggest air cargo centre which means yet more trucks distributing it all. I would venture to say that it is almost certainly the biggest parking lot in SE England, maybe the UK. It is (or was) the biggest retail outlet in the UK (actually maybe Europe) on turnover value which of course means an awful lot of delivery trucks. It is one of the biggest bus stations in London.
            It sits just off the M25 so as to facilitate all this movement; many staff and pax will arrive that way (which is why you can get massive traffic congestion around it, often exacerbated by seemingly endless roadworks on the M25, actually most motorways in the UK, awful place to drive.)

            All this is why London CrossRail is being extended to it, while it is currently served by London Underground and Heathrow Express.
            It attracts pax from a huge catchment who all end up converging via the M25 or those rail routes. When I lived in Brighton (south coast) or Oxford (NW) I almost always flew internationally via it, requiring hour long bus trips to get there (or sometimes via Central London) and that is repeated by lots of people from all over SE England.
            And a third runway would potentiate another 30-50% increase in all this movement.

            As to objections to its expansion, pick your reasons or your special interest group. It silly to imagine it is just about the climate issue; people have objected to Heathrow ever since it existed and at every step of its expansion, and for some the climate thing may just be a convenient new reason. And frankly who can blame them, it is absurd to have Europe’s biggest airport smack bang in the middle of suburbia like that. They have simply never had the foresight to do anything about it (most comparable cities moved their airports well out, like Paris-CDG, NYC-JFK, Washington-Dulles, Tokyo-Narita, Amsterdam-Schipol etc.) That’s why I have a bit of grudging respect for Boris Johnson for thinking big and bold. There are serious business models that predict property values for miles around, especially the flight paths, would increase significantly if it was moved.
            And until Heathrow Express–with its typical gouging high fares–the Underground line was deeply inadequate as it is a commuter line that stops at 15+ stations en route and takes an hour to the centre, and has no provision for luggage. A taxi to central London is only for the rich.

          • Adirondacker12800

            The stuff on the trucks isn’t going to get on a passenger train. Or any train.
            Except for thrice monthly flights to Freedonia why would people be transferring between Gatwick and Heathrow? Wouldn’t they just take the flights that involve a stroll across the concourse? Even the ones to Freedonia?

          • michael.r.james

            Most big airports (mega-hubs) have systems to move people around from terminal to terminal. Some of these people-movers have even been maglev driverless trains (Birmingham many decades ago). The cruder ones make you board a bus that lumbers around on the tarmac dodging fuel tankers and planes, while the better ones like HK have a underground train to take you the kilometres to the different terminals and runways. (HK even lets you check-in your luggage at the downtown rail terminal up to 36 hours in advance of your flight.) Do you even think about any of this when you buy your ticket to Freedonia?

            You won’t be going to Heathrow or Gatwick. You will be going to Heathwick, entering it from wherever is most convenient (west London, or Sussex; West-Heathwick or South-Heathwick), check-in (including luggage), passing thru security and getting on a shuttle; depending on your flight it will either be a slow 5-10 minute trip to a local terminal (IIRC Gatwick has an elevated lumbering people-mover “train”) or a 10 minute fast trip to West-Heathwick. Come to think of it, they should extend the Heathwick maglev to central London (they could replace the Heathrow Express track to Paddington Stn–maybe a few more km east to HS2 at St Pancras, brilliant idea IIMSSM) which would make the whole thing even more efficient (and hassle-free like HK).
            What do you care? You wouldn’t even think about it.

          • Adirondacker12800

            It’s not the job of TfL to enable trips between Freedonia and Nowhereistan.
            I’ve actually used large international airports. With service to almost anywhere. And enjoyed the view from the departure lounge in many Midwestern hub airports. Why would anyone in their right mind fly into Gatwick to connect to a flight at Heathrow or vice versa when they can fly to an airport where they stroll across the concourse for their connecting flight?

          • michael.r.james

            What has TfL got to do with anything?
            The Heathrow Express is privately owned by Heathrow airport (whatever the company is called these days) just as the Shanghai Maglev is not part of the Shanghai Metro (and that may have been part of its undoing).

            I’d rather take a maglev shuttle between terminals (which could be 50km apart and you wouldn’t notice and it wouldn’t matter) than what I’ve done at many US airports which is either bus-on-the-tarmac (which mid-west airport has you waiting in a kind of glass shack stranded in the middle of the airport after disembarking, then finally getting on a bus to wander around getting to the main terminal and repeating it to change flights? pathetic), or LAX and JFK (before it got Airtrain which is a big improvement and rather proves my point). Have you been to any modern airports lately? Mostly in Asia–like HKI, or Changi or of course the Chinese ones? (And possibly Dubai though I have heard complaints about it.)

            Anyway, why would you fly into a place like Heathrow (or any similar mega-hub) just to fly somewhere else? (Because that’s what the American airlines and lack of good rail transport forces you to do in the US?) If you’re flying into/from one of the London airports you’re generally going into/coming from London. I avoid it altogether. I prefer to fly into Paris (or Barcelona) and catch a TGV to Montpellier, Barcelona & Madrid or Brussels or Amsterdam, or Germany … or even London. Soon even Italy via the incredible Gotthard Base Tunnel TGV. I don’t know why you wouldn’t (want to) go into Paris if only for the day (which is not true for London) but they have the TGV at CDG so you can go direct if such is your wish.

          • Adirondacker12800

            If you’re flying into/from one of the London airports you’re generally going into/coming from London.
            Then why do you need to go to the other airport?

          • michael.r.james

            You should read the earlier posts on this.
            Talking about people flying out of either West or South Heathwick by travelling from wherever they are in London or SE England to the nearest, then if necessary using the HSR to shuttle to the other “terminal”. Reverse on returning “home”.
            Sure there are some transfers who never leave the airport; from memory about 15% so yeah they can shuttle too to either “terminal” easily too.

            Anyway take a look at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta which is the world’s biggest airport. It does have a huge amount of transfer-only pax because it is both a huge hub for domestic flights and a big international airport. It has 207 gates so your idea of “strolling across the corridor from one flight to the next” is simply physically impossible. It has 2 terminals with 7 parallel concourses that serve those 200 gates. To move people between these it has an underground people-mover, called the Plane Train and is the “world’s busiest automated system, with over 64 million riders in 2002” (Wiki). If Heathrow and Gatwick merged to form a single virtual Heathwick (and built that new runway, maybe eventually two) at South Heathwick (ie. Gatwick) it would be bigger than Atlanta. The HSR link would link the various terminals and concourses in the same way the Plane Train does–but almost certainly quicker–and you would not notice the difference (except they would probably make sure you did because it would be spectacular like Shanghai’s maglev).

            There is no doubt at all that it could work. It’s not cheap but it wouldn’t cost as much as trying to build a new runway at Heathrow, and a lot of Londoners would benefit (quality of life; if you watch Wimbledon tennis you will occasionally notice the players pause while a plane roars overhead–from LHR). But that doesn’t mean it will happen, or that it is necessarily the best option (that is Boris Island IMO) but the Brits very rarely choose the best option. And they usually take decades to decide. Paradoxically the Heathwick concept was more likely when BAA had a monopoly of Londons airports but now they are owned by different private companies so that is another hurdle. And the biggest is not even British, so forget national interest. Its a mess and will remain so for the forseeable future.

          • Adirondacker12800

            I’ve read other posts. After I finish giggling I try to keep a straight face and post something moderately polite. Why does someone who lives near Gatwick want to go to Gatwick, take a train to Heathrow and fly to New York when they can fly to New York from Gatwick? Once you eliminate all the destinations that people can get to on non-stops or by changing planes in a hub someplace why does anybody want to get on a train to get to the other airport? Enabling a few transfers for obscure destinations isn’t a good reason to spend billions. Especially if it involves people who are just transiting in the UK. And want to do it for the low fares.

            The old aphorism in the South was “I don’t know where I’m going when I die but I’ll have to change trains in Atlanta” has been updated to “… change planes in Atlanta”. Airlines tend to cluster their gates in one place. When you change planes in Atlanta or Chicago or Cleveland or Saint Louis or Phoenix or … you walk across the concourse. The reason there are buses wandering around on the tarmac at some airports is that there are so few people who need to do something like that, that buses are a solution.

            There aren’t going to 27 sets of platforms at the airport. So unless you get reallly reallly lucky and your arrival gate is near the train platforms and your departure gate is near the train platforms you still have to trek across the terminal. Much easier to fly to a hub where changing planes involves walking across the concourse. Or take a non-stop.

          • michael.r.james

            I’m afraid you are seriously in denial of facts.

            “Why does someone who lives near Gatwick want to go to Gatwick, take a train to Heathrow and fly to New York when they can fly to New York from Gatwick?”

            That could even be true for NYC as destination but most of us don’t want to fly with a sh!tty US airline.
            Or take my last real-world experience there: I was flying CX via HK (and flew into Paris). I had no choice if I was leaving Europe from London with CX (and in any case there is no one at Gatwick I would fly with to HK). Even without the Paris complication I like to fly CX and so it would have changed nothing. So I commuted up to LHR which meant literally passing the doorstep of Gatwick at the halfway point. (The same would be true if I used other acceptable airlines such as Singapore or Qantas or Thai etc). Also, it is a manifestation of the same issue that LHR wants to build a third runway. The major airlines do not want to 1. move to Gatwick or 2. be split over two or more airports (the ones that have both LHR and Gatwick are Emirates & BA but they don’t serve all destinations from both so you might actually get the worst transfer imaginable (well, it’s a one hour bus ride); plenty of pax don’t wish to fly with either). Obviously LHR has far more international destinations and far bigger choice of airlines than Gatwick. Decades ago many US airlines were “relegated” to use Gatwick but over the years most of them have managed to get back to LHR (which is why it is bursting at the seams; I wonder what you don’t understand about this?).

            “Airlines tend to cluster their gates in one place. When you change planes in Atlanta or Chicago or Cleveland or Saint Louis or Phoenix or … you walk across the concourse. ”

            Keep telling yourself that. Perhaps its even true for your travel (if you are a business traveller then your company probably forces you to fly American, poor sod). But one wonders what those 64 million pax using the world’s busiest people-mover (Atlanta’s Plane Train) are doing? Plane spotting?
            Atlanta (LAX, JFK, O’Hare) are major international airports but only Americans will want to fly with American airlines and, perhaps, have that convenience. So the rest won’t have that advantage when transferring to domestic. The scale of domestic flights in the US means that even partner (code-share/alliance) intl. airlines will not have a convenient gate to do as you prefer.

            “you still have to trek across the terminal.”

            Your last para was unclear. But I will agree that, with the growth of airports, their designers seem to have taken the decision to force pax to trek long distances–sometimes with the help of travellators (usually slower than actual walking and often blocked by non-walking pax & their luggage). The staff, not so much, as you see them scoot around on their golf-carts etc, beeping us to get out of their way! Anyway, the concept of those underground people-movers (trains) at HKI, JFK and Atlanta to name a few, is that they get you close-ish to the gate. In reality they usually like to force you to walk thru some retail en route.

            I understand that the Atlanta Plane Train stops at all 7 concourses (which, to be sure, are long linear structures still requiring a trek, presumably with travellators). So still not clear what your problem is.
            From your replies I can only presume you are conservative:
            Why do conservatives hate trains so much?
            This next expansion of LHR is, I reckon, not certain as it will be the biggest disruption ever to suburban London. As I have said several times, I think it is well past the time they bit the bullet and created a completely new mega-hub to resolve all these issues. But creating the virtual Heathwick is also a valid concept even if you are unable to get your head around it.

          • Adirondacker12800

            n any case there is no one at Gatwick I would fly with to HK

            So you want someone to spend billions to burrow a train across London so that you have more choice in airlines. you willing to pay the very high fare to do that?

          • michael.r.james

            Too silly an argument to really bother replying to.
            There are ways to fund such things. The JFK AirTrain received some funds from the Feds but the bulk of funding was via usual loans contingent on a (from memory) $5 surcharge on all incoming pax at the airport. Heathwick would have 111 million pax so that’s half a billion dollars from a tiny surcharge (but more likely to be £5, so that’s a billion dollars). To put it in context Heathrow proposes to spend twice that amount (£550m) for noise amelioration if it goes ahead with its third runway (and in first phase resume 750 homes, another $2bn or so). This is before a single hole is dug for the new runway & terminals. Not to mention the externalities of all that extra strain on the roads (London’s roads, esp. M25, are always on the edge of collapse) and the existing public transport which the maglev would greatly relieve. Oh and by the way, Heathrow already has the highest landing charges in Europe yet still remains the biggest airport in Europe.

            Do you think NYC, NYNJ Port Authority and JFK were just wilfully wasting money on building that bit of infrastructure (and plans to extend it all the way to Manhattan in the future). It would have nothing to do with relieving the burden on the already over-burdened roads and Subway. Or to make the airport function more efficiently (which it has needed for at least 40 years).

            The JFK AirTrain is free within the airport terminals (and car parks & hotels) and costs $5 to ride to Jamaica or Howard Beach subway stops. Incidentally from Manhattan to JFK airport by yellow cab costs $52, and apparently Uber is actually more ($65)!

          • threestationsquare

            @Adirondacker12800: There would, in fact, be some benefits from integrating LHR and LGW as michael.r.james proposes. Both passengers and airlines would have increased flexibility; airlines would not need to run duplicative flights to both airports for the sake of connecting passengers or passengers much closer to one or the other, and could either offer passengers more choice of schedules or fly larger (more efficient) planes. These benefits are tiny compared to the costs but it’s silly to pretend they don’t exist. Also, a nitpick, connecting from an intercontinental flight to a domestic flight at a US airport is never just a stroll across the concourse, as it always involves the extended rigmarole of immigration and customs (including collecting and re-checking checked bags if you have them), then re-clearing security; the amount of time taken by all that swamps the amount you plausibly spend getting between gates.

            @michael.r.james: Yes, extending the JFK Airtrain to Manhattan would be wilfully wasting money; even the existing segment was a rather poor use of money, costing nearly $100k per daily rider. Certainly it didn’t have a significant impact on traffic on the Van Wyck (not that this is the standard transit projects should be judged by, but your suggestion that suburb-to-airport trips are a significant fraction of the traffic on the M25 seems absurd). There just aren’t enough people using airports to justify hugely expensive transit projects when New York, London, and nearly every other large city has much more pressing needs along corridors that people would ride every day rather than a couple times a year (Second Ave, Utica, Crossrail 1 and 2, etc). Money is fungible, and if demand at the airports is sufficient that it could bear an extra £5 surcharge, then you can impose that tax anyway and use it to fund non-airport transit improvements. Subsidising people who think they’re too good to fly certain airlines is an especially poor use of the proceeds of such a tax, as it would fall mostly on people with no such limitations.

            Your proposal combines the problems and underperformance of orbital/non-city-centre-bound transit with the problems and underperformance of airport connectors. The vast majority of people using London’s airports are travelling to or from the city centre, not the western or southern suburbs. This means they can be roughly indifferent between Gatwick and Heathrow at present, and so your LGW-LHR maglev would not benefit them. The number of connecting passengers who would end up using it is also likely small — connecting passengers are few enough that LHR and LGW don’t bother having landside people movers between their own terminals currently. But even if it implausibly somehow got the 175k daily passengers of the Atlanta airport people mover (which is used not just for connecting but by nearly all O&D passengers to get between their gates and the checkin/baggage claim area), for a $10B+ maglev line that would still be a disappointingly high cost per rider.

            It’s true that the political forces lined up against London-area airport expansion are strong enough that the other options are also very expensive. So how about doing nothing? No third runway at LHR, no second runway at LGW, no Boris Island. Airfares rise, people find ways to avoid the London airports or avoid flying altogether, transit investment remains focused where it will do the most good. Would that be so bad?

          • michael.r.james

            “integrating LHR and LGW as michael.r.james proposes”
            MRJ: Minor point: it is not my proposition but was a serious examination by serious airport & urban experts looking at all options to solving LHR’s congestion issues. I probably have embellished it with my own notions …
            “airlines would not need to run duplicative flights to both airports” and “Subsidising people who think they’re too good to fly certain airlines … ”
            MRJ: Only a very few airlines do that. Emirates & BA. The two airports were originally set up to serve the same markets but over the years they have come to serve largely different markets, and most of the full-service airlines have migrated to LHR and Eurocentric, Med + North Africa etc (hence it is Europe’s biggest for point-to-point flights) and LCCs serve Gatwick–it doesn’t have a single US airline. Doesn’t that kind of prove the problem?
            “extending the JFK Airtrain to Manhattan would be wilfully wasting money”
            MRJ: I don’t know all the factors but they must be the same as drove the decision to build it to Jamaica in the first place. The Subway A-Line is inadequate to the job, and of course very slow. It may never reduce the traffic on Van Wyck but that is no proof of anything other than the law of road usage: they will always fill up to some threshold because congestion is one of the few things that stops people driving. The high cost of building infrastructure in the US (Anglophone countries in general) is well known (NYC’s Second Ave subway?) but even if nothing can be done about it, does it mean you just stop building it? (alas, in the US with its decrepit road, bridges, railways and transit stations the answer seems be ‘yes’). Big infrastructure always costs a lot with howls by all the usual suspects. But it almost all pays for its big price tag over the decades. I also can’t see what is wrong with a airport surcharge that funds airport-specific infrastructure and your arguments on this are just unworkable.
            I’d also point out the similar situation with Paris-CDG which has been served by RER line-B for almost 40 years. It is vastly better than the London U Piccadilly line, but it still serves the commuters of NE Paris, and it thus became very congested and increasingly less than ideal for both sets of users. So they are essentially duplicating/separating the airport line from the commuter line (only 50% of the route) so that it will now be express into Gare du Nord. It too will cost a lot of money but that whinge is exactly what happened when the first RER lines were opened those 4 decade back; only a conservative road lobbyist would argue they should not have been built.
            Also you need to try to get a grip on numbers in an appropriate manner. Taking even modest numbers of travellers off the roads can make a difference to the efficiency of those roads. Do a thought experiment: what would happen to JFK, or LHR or CDG if their public transport links shut down. Paralysis for everyone.
            “The vast majority of people using London’s airports are travelling to or from the city centre, not the western or southern suburbs.” and “that suburb-to-airport trips are a significant fraction of the traffic on the M25 seems absurd”.
            MRJ: This is deeply puzzling. The vast majority of Londoners do NOT live in Central London–by simple geography-demography. Then there are several millions who live in the south, and of course more millions west, north-west etc. LHR services all of SE England which is something like 30m people. The fact that for a lot of these people, it is currently “easiest” for them to travel into central London and back out again, rather is the issue. (including people on the south coast ICE train that stops at Gatwick but they stay on to London to go back out to LHR). I believe CrossRail will partly address that problem and so would the HSR link LHR-LGW (and my idea, to run it on seamlessly into the Heathrow Express route to Paddington).
            Although a much higher number of Parisians do live in central Paris (2.3m), another 10 million live extramuros in the Ile de France (and probably another 10m or more live in the airport’s catchment). This is why they eventually built a TGV line to CDG so some pax can avoid travelling into Paris altogether (it serves additional functions: trains from London, Brussels etc can travel express thru to the south without clogging central Paris TGV track and stations; in summer you can catch a TGV in London express all the way to Avignon). The ambitious Grand Paris plan aims to have several more TGV stations on the periphery of Paris for the same reasons.
            “LHR and LGW don’t bother having landside people movers between their own terminals currently … for a $10B+ maglev”
            MRJ: Weird circular (non) logic. See all my replies above. Of course not, because they operate as two airports and the vast majority of airlines (except BA and Emirates) don’t want to split their operations. Those (most) at LHR don’t want to move to LGW for obvious reasons but it would no longer matter if Heathwick existed (and the HSR link worked as advertised, ie. like the Shanghai maglev, flawlessly). The guaranteed ridership would ensure success; and I think they could allow non-pax travel on it at reasonable charge to help finances.
            On the cost, you’re making a pure guess. I admit we can’t use the purported cost of Shanghai as a guide but neither can we use the proposed Tokyo-Nagoya maglev cost (of $100bn, $90bn or $52bn take your pick) because it has an outrageous length of tunnel thru mountains. Both China and Japan claim to have cut the cost of building a maglev train by 30 to 50% (excludes tunneling). On top of that, a LHR-LGW maglev really could be built above the M25 & M/A23 all the way so would not involve any private land redemptions (a political as much as cost issue), nor involve any noise or disturbance issues. So, IMO, it would be cheaper than any of these OTT estimates. OTOH there is that ridiculous Anglophone premium put on building any infrastructure.
            “So how about doing nothing? No third runway at LHR, no second runway at LGW, no Boris Island. Airfares rise, people find ways to avoid the London airports or avoid flying altogether, transit investment remains focused where it will do the most good. Would that be so bad?”
            MRJ: I almost agree. I never fly if there is a halfway reasonable (rail) alternative. It is why I love France because once in the country I can get around in great comfort and speed and convenience without flying (or driving). A HSR network is developing across Europe, even the UK is joining the club. I hope the Chinese build their fantasy HSR to Europe! (I’ve done the Moscow-Beijing Trans-Siberian rail trip.) But do you know that Eurostar is already essentially saturated and there is talk of building a new one to cope with increased trans-manche travel due to 1) completion of HS2 opening the market to another 30m people and 2) Eurostar’s increasing reach (Amsterdam, proposed to Germany, more specials to south of France (Barcelona, Madrid, Seville?), Milan via the Swiss new Gotthard Base tunnel HSR, etc.)
            Flying used to be fun but it’s mostly all gone now. I’ll probably always have to do the occasional long-haul flight but I try to avoid it.
            But you know perfectly well the pressures on these mega-hub airports is not going away. It is not just the politicians (who would rather it was NIMTOO) but business and ultimately even many of those Nimby-ists objecting to the third runway. Airports are a very big contributor to the economic dominance of world cities.
            Besides, I look at it as much as a glass half-full challenge. Boris Island would not only make a far superior aviation solution for London forever, but it would improve London by creating a newtown on the old LHR site and remove the current disturbance to millions of London residents. But they need to do it now, not after both LHR and LGW start building their new runways etc. A second best solution is Heathwick linked by maglev.
            And that brings me to another cost issue that all you nay-sayers are just ignoring: the estimated £14-18bn to build LHR’s third runway, and all the disturbance it will cause. Not only is it an awful lot cheaper to build an extra runway at LGW but you’d be building one instead of two; seriously that alone would save the cost of the maglev.

          • michael.r.james

            On the last point (reduce air travel so no need for LHR third runway), I meant to add: the HSR networks (in Europe and China) will increasingly become a component of international air-travel. Cathay Pacific already incorporate on-travel on HSR from their German destinations (Frankfurt I suppose); ie. you can buy it as part of the CX ticket. Makes sense. (Both CX and Hong Kong are faves of mine.)

          • Adirondacker12800

            Too silly an argument to really bother replying to.

            Then why did you?
            You haven’t answered the question. How high a fare are you willing to pay for the train between airports. Instead of making other arrangements?

            t the bulk of funding was via usual loans contingent on a (from memory) $5 surcharge on all incoming pax at the airport.

            The Port Authority wipes it’s ass with 1,000 dollar bills. They financed it themselves.
            The rules for the Passenger Facility Charge are complex but boil down to “you can’t spend the money outside of the airport perimeter”. Which is why the Airtrain fare is 5 bucks at the off airport stations.

            Heathwick would have 111 million pax so that’s half a billion dollars from a tiny surcharge (but more likely to be £5, so that’s a billion dollars).

            So people who don’t need to cross London, instead of you making other arrangements, are going to finance your low fare?

            drove the decision to build it to Jamaica

            It connects millions of people in Queens, Nassau and Suffolk County to the airport. And in many places in Manhattan it’s faster to use the E train than to use the A train.

          • michael.r.james

            “Then why did you?”

            Because, no matter how dumb the question, I don’t like to leave it dangling so it may seem (even if only to the single commenter) his dumbness was “proven” correct by default. It’s a burden I carry 🙂

            “You haven’t answered the question. How high a fare are you willing to pay for the train between airports. Instead of making other arrangements?”

            Because it is a particularly dumb and irrelevant question. Users of public transit (PT) pay a much higher percentage of the costs of the system than road-users do. Look it up. Not to mention that they actually help the road system do its primary function (for those who really need it, such as freight, tradesmen, utilities like police, ambulance, fire brigade etc).

            The broader answer is that it is impossible to recover the economic benefits that are brought about by PT, by charging its users what would be full “cost recovery”. Conservatives don’t want to believe this and bury their head in the sand over it, and of course are huge hypocrites about the public infrastructure they use every day without paying full costs for it. But it applies to most big infrastructure projects.

            Incidentally I can actually answer your question because I always choose the PT option from airports around the world. In most major international airports there is a dedicated train service and it is almost always considerably more expensive than the local Metro service. This is true in LHR, Paris-CDG, Tokyo-Narita etc. (and Shanghai Maglev, I don’t know about their Metro line 2 option). But NYC is notable in not being any different to a normal fare on the Subway–that is probably to do with the fact that the airport station is not at the end of the line, so no easy way to charge the air travellers more–which of course they do on the new AirTrain. There’s your answer: I would happily pay the extra to use the AirTrain (though I might not be sure it saves enough time to be worth it, and it forces me to transfer; as it happens the A-train takes me all the way to Columbia Med School which is where I am usually headed, a good 75 minutes on the A.)

            “It connects millions of people in Queens, Nassau and Suffolk County to the airport. And in many places in Manhattan it’s faster to use the E train than to use the A train.”

            I’m not sure of what point you are trying to make, or which you perhaps think I don’t know. Of course that is a good service to Queens, Nassau etc because previously there was not a direct transfer (from A-train) to Jamaica. That was an excellent choice for the AirTrain (and Port Authority or whoever made the decision) but of course it was also one reason for the expense (it needed brand new track, a very expensive thing in crowded cities; cf. the Second Ave Subway!). Also because many of those who live out there presumably drove their own cars or used taxis previously, so this will relieve the roads of cars (regardless of the “no obvious effect” on the Van Wyck).
            What has the E/A choice “in Manhattan” got to do with anything? It is well known that the public dislikes transfers, especially when you’ve come off a flight and have luggage. This, and relief of busy Subway lines, is why there was always the plan to extend the AirTrain all the way (I’m not saying if or when that will happen, but arguments based on “cost” are always too narrow and only worthy of short-sighted bean-counters; with attitudes like that you wouldn’t have the Hoover Dam, the Brooklyn Bridge or the Interstate Highway system and a million other “expensive” things built by government (because they don’t and can’t pay for themselves over a short-enough timespan for private interests to fund them). And that is the answer to your final dumb question:

            “So people who don’t need to cross London, instead of you making other arrangements, are going to finance your low fare?”

          • Joey

            Linking transit systems to airports is often a questionable use of public funds given very high cost per rider. Given that, it makes sense to spend precisely $0 of public money on linking airports to each other. What airports choose to do with their own money is another question

          • michael.r.james

            “What airports choose to do with their own money is another question”

            Another neo-conservative joins the argument!
            Look, as a matter of principle you should refuse to use any publicly-funded & owned international airport. That would include most of the world’s airports, including AFAIK all of them in the US–they are Statutory Authorities usually owned by the City and/or state, similar in structure to the NYNJ Port Authority. I guess the US decided a long time ago that such things are of too high national strategic interest to allow private ownership, and why the airport authorities can hardly scratch their own ass without FAA authorisation (eg. they set the surcharge JFK was allowed to apply to pay the AirTrain loans). But you could still use London Heathrow (and Gatwick) which is a rare privately owned one because it was privatised by Maggie Thatcher (in fact all three big London airports, LHR, Gatwick and Stansted were privatised into one private monopoly! Nothing like an absence of competition on the biggest aviation market in Europe, huh? “Free market” indeed.).

            So, you see, “their” money isn’t.

          • Joey

            Another neo-conservative joins the argument!

            Sure. Whatever. The point is this – in a fantasy world where we had more transit funding than we knew what to do with, maybe this would make sense to think about. But in this world nearly every city has a backlog of more valuable transit projects to complete.

          • michael.r.james

            “But in this world nearly every city has a backlog of more valuable transit projects to complete.”

            … but which they cannot easily fund via a surcharge on the airports which have of the order of 100 million trips/passengers per year. Of course such links like JFKs AirTrain does benefit the city and its transit/Subway system by taking pressure off it. And ditto for Paris RER-B which is at saturation point (ie. for its non-airport commuters). Not to mention the dollars all these visitors bring to the host city and adding to the trade benefit of the host nation.

            But facts and the complexities of running big cities is irrelevant, apparently. Whatever.

          • Adirondacker12800

            You still haven’t told us how much you are willing to pay for this privilege. And why people who bright enough to figure out a way to get where they are going without crossing central London should pay a surcharge so you can.

          • michael.r.james

            I did answer it, exhaustively in posts at:
            2015/04/26 at 05:22
            2015/04/26 at 23:56
            2015/04/27 at 02:56
            2015/04/27 at 03:45

            As clearly and explicitly as I know how. Perhaps I am hopeless at explaining these things, but if there is anyone trolling here it is not me. I think you actually do understand perfectly well.
            As before I am having trouble seeing a coherent question in that complaint about people traversing London (which they clearly do in their millions, en route to LHR; why do you think they are building CrossRail to LHR? LGW was designed to stop it but it doesn’t work; the two airports pax are different markets and huge numbers of them criss-cross London and each other to their airports).
            At the same time I don’t know what more I can explain.
            All over the world at major airports*, surcharges on flight pax are used to pay for various things including the rail links to the host city. Conservatives hate this because they think they are paying for someone else’s free ride! Even though it helps them too (if they are in their limos, taxis or hire-cars clogging the roads) and those rail-riders are paying well above city transport rates. So it is not a question of what I would be willing to pay, it’s what I already pay.

            *just a few airports with that type of arrangement:
            LHR & Heathrow Express & future London CrossRail
            Paris-CDG & RER-B (current & future express version)
            JFK & AirTrain
            Dulles & extension to Washington Metro
            Atlanta & MARTA
            SFX & BART

            Oh, another thought.
            If you are obliged to fly with an American airline (as I have when being funded as a speaker/expert at NIH’s expense) then you WILL be flying to LHR regardless of where your departure/destination is. (No scheduled American airline services LGW.)
            One final thought.
            You (and others here) keep avoiding answering THE question. Do you believe it makes sense to build LHR’s third runway at ≈$30bn? I can’t quite think of an analogous situation in the US (for the reason that most big cities sensibly moved their airports a long time ago when they looked into the future and realised their current ones were about to be engulfed by the city) but it would be the equivalent of resuming about 10 sq km of, say, Brooklyn urban area and imposing huge air-traffic on another ≈20 sq km of Brooklyn that is in the flightpath. Actually Gatwick was London’s answer but turns out it didn’t work out (all the world’s major airlines didn’t like it and migrated back to LHR). It is very late in the day for London still to be grappling with this problem but the Boris Island (could build the thing for the cost of the LHR third runway) or Heathwick solutions are both economically/financially and urban-planning wise, the better solutions for an awful problem.
            This is your opportunity to have the last word, because unless you come up with some genuine question not already answered, or a genuine new angle, I think I am done with this.

          • Adirondacker12800

            No you haven’t. You’ve explained how you want to travel across London because other options are icky and how other people can be taxed so you can do that but you haven’t said how much you are willing to pay to take the wunderwagen across London. In pounds or Euros if you prefer.

          • michael.r.james

            Yes, I did but you are having trouble understanding.
            If Heathwick was created by such a link, and I was flying out of or into West or South Heathwick, I would be willing to pay what the pax pay on JFK’s AirTrain between terminals, or Atlanta’s PlaneTrain etc. Transfer between terminals is an integral part of any airport. If it went significantly outside the airport to connect up with the city’s transit system, then I would expect to pay something like one would on JFK’s AirTrain if you took it to Jamaica or Howard’s Beach.

          • Adirondacker12800

            So we are back to you getting a ride with other people’s money. No one is forcing you to trek across London. Why not free transportation to CDG?
            There are other airports which you are free to use. Call customer service at one of the airlines that doesn’t offend your delicate sensibilities and suggest to them that the airlines finance it.

          • michael.r.james

            Conservatives (though I think the modern usage is an abuse of meaning), always so concerned about “others” getting a free ride! As I noted in an earlier comment, you should refuse on principle to drive on public roads, use any public transport, not use any major international airline with scheduled services, refuse to use any people-mover between terminals in any big airport anywhere in the world. It is hard to know where it stops. Even modern medical care: you should refuse it for fear of free-riding on the reality that almost every single medical advance has come from publicly-funded research, often at public institutes. (Of course Americans do get themselves caught on the horns of a dilemma on this one which is why they have the worst healthcare in the developed world. I wonder if (you happen to be a smoker) you could bring yourself to use the latest breakthrough for an effective treatment for lung cancer (an antibody treatment, the first and only), from Cuba?)

            I suppose it might almost be possible to live in such a private bubble but you’d have to be as rich as the Koch brothers or Rupert Murdoch.

            Keep digging.

          • Joey

            I would be willing to pay what the pax pay on JFK’s AirTrain between terminals

            JFK’s AirTrain is free between terminals. You pay to go to Howard Beach or Jamaica.

            It also required no tunneling to construct, let alone urban tunneling.

          • michael.r.james

            That was my point.
            I don’t know what tunnels you are talking about. Is there some kind of secret rule re tunnels and people-transport that I am ignorant of?

          • Adirondacker12800

            You still haven’t explained why anyone should give you a free ride to second airport because you find the services at the first airport icky.

          • threestationsquare

            @michael.r.james: Apparently it’s “neoconservative” to oppose spending scarce resources on a line for rich airport riders when they could be spent with far greater benefits on daily commuters?

            Londoners pay ridiculous amounts to live in tiny flats (so small that they’d be illegal in most of the US) close to the employment in the city centre, or endure commutes of an hour or more on overcrowded Underground and National Rail trains from points further out. Not only is this situation bad for those who bear it, but it’s strangling London’s (and thus the UK’s) economy by limiting access to the economic opportunities of Central London. More housing needs to be built but at present the transport infrastructure can barely support it. Absolutely every pound available for transit construction (whether from airport taxes, income taxes, council taxes, road taxes or fares) needs to be spent on building new Crossrail tunnels through Central London or upgrading existing rail routes, as this is where it will do the greatest good for the greatest number of people. (I’ll grudgingly accept HS2 because it frees up capacity for suburban service on the WCML.) Each Crossrail line can expect to carry something like a million daily passengers at a cost of around $20-$25B ($25k per daily rider).

            Your maglev proposal does nothing for these millions of daily commuters. You’d instead spend something like $10B (based on the cost per km of HS2; half the cost of a Crossrail) to serve perhaps 50k daily airport riders (based on rough calculation from pdf p22-23 of this document with the origins and destinations of LHR and LGW passengers), so around $200k per daily rider. Alon has written extensively about how while politicians like proposing and building airport lines, these are usually stupid ideas offering much worse value for money than inner-urban lines. Your maglev would be even worse value for money than the projects he rightly derides.

            We live in universe with finite resources. Caring about cost isn’t just for “conservatives” or “short-sighted bean-counters”; it’s vital if these resources are to be spent where they will do the most good. When wasteful projects do get built we’re not obliged “on principle” to avoid using them (that sounds like the sunk costs fallacy), but we should still politically oppose building more of them.

            (And no I don’t think it makes sense for LHR to spend tens of billions on a third runway. I’m more ambivalent on a second runway and LGW; if it were built I think the relatively small number of airport travellers (who unlike commuters mostly don’t travel during rush hour) could be accommodated on the Brighton Main Line with at most some modest projects to alleviate bottlenecks (e.g. a fourth pair of platforms at East Croydon). It’s my experience that rail service to Gatwick is already pretty good and not too crowded.)

          • michael.r.james

            I agree with quite a bit of what you would like, but there is also some confusion in there.

            First, to repeat, the Heathwick idea is not mine but was one of several options of coping with the continued growth of air-travel and Heathrow in particular. You seem to be burying your head in the sand over this, and almost nothing either of us waffle about will stop it. The economics and in fact better urban-planning all scream not to build a third runway at LHR. Your comments about LGW are magical thinking that the past 3 decades have disproven (not a single US airline flies from LGW, what the heck more do you need to know?). So you don’t have any real solution except to be a NIMBY? The $30bn to build the third runway would easily build an extra runway at LGW plus the MagLev link (and basing costing on HS2 is quite misleading when the LHR-LGW link can use existing transport corridors, no land resumptions, no tunnels, no NIMBYism).

            Second, CrossRail is being built and looks like it should be transformative (not to mention a good link to LHR); in turn that may lead to building more or upgrading similar commuter rail. With HS1 and the St Pancras reno, HS2 and CrossRail, I may have to stop badmouthing London as I have for the past 35 years! (which was already decades later than when these projects should have been started; remember Maggie’s 12 year delay in HS1?).
            All of these things cost a fortune (and a lot more than comparable infrastructure elsewhere, but that is another story and at least they are building them). They should improve the city for everyone, and that also means the economy (sheesh, I’m sounding like a conservative but actually we progressives believe in a productive economy!).

            Third, it’s Maggie Thatcher you need to blame for the housing situation. In a masterstroke she sold off all council housing (at bargain prices) but simultaneously stopped building any new social housing. Ever since London has had housing troubles worse than before, compounded by ridiculous prices (of course that is partly caused by the supply/demand equation made worse by this decision) as everyone, even Blairite Labour, believes they can just leave it to the market.

            Fourth, as to rail to airports I find the arguments against it to be simplistic (to be polite). So what, if a line might have one quarter of the ridership of the busiest line in the city? You can do that econo-rationalist runaround chasing your own tail forever and never build anything (after all most new rail lines takes years to build up ridership). Not to mention that airport transit riders almost always pay many factors higher fares than the host city’s Metro riders (even though they often share the same line if not the same trains), which helps payback its loans and cover maintenance; a airport surcharge means that even less of its cost is a burden on the host city (and the biggest subsidy usually comes from national governments not local). The Shanghai maglev is just one of many examples–it was not part of the Metro system and had zero effect on its funding etc which is why the Metro extended their line to the airport. One could also claim that those airport riders are more valuable to the city than the average Metro rider; not solely tourists who are bringing their discretionary spending to your city (and not some other competitor city) but the business travellers (which in a broad definition would include scientists like me, but also creative industries etc). A city’s international airport is its portal these days (though HSR is competing in Europe) so that is another reason to avoid it being a real turnoff (like LAX was and still is, and JFK was getting awful too, etc). Perhaps these are the reasons why almost every single major airport in the world has excellent PT rail connecting it efficiently to the city. Heck even Atlanta does! One of these days LAX will.

            Fifth, you can walk and chew gum at the same time. After about half a century of gentle decline towards decrepitude (except arguably for the 1%) London seems to be on an upward path. If you want some more social projects then you need to work on the politics and not just on negativity to what many consider essential transport infrastructure. Remember that if LHR was moved in toto (to LGW or to Boris Island) there is space for at least 250,000 residents and there would be a very strong case that it should not just be for the wealthy upmarket Richmond/Wimbledon set; and it would have fantastic rapid transit to everywhere from day one! (Which IMO would mean they should build the part around the stations as higher-density TOD instead of low-density leafy suburbia. So maybe closer to half a million residents.)

          • Adirondacker12800

            So you don’t have any real solution except to be a NIMBY?

            Raise the fees to use Heathrow to encourage people to use Gatwick Stansted and Luton.

          • michael.r.james

            Ha! So you are admitting you have no solution.
            There once was official policy that had a bunch of American airlines operating from LGW, but as I have said over and over, today there is not a single one left. LHR is, and has been for a long time, the most expensive in Europe for airlines and pax (landing fees, sundry charges, land transport to the city etc etc.). And with the costs for the third runway being so surreal (and the years long enquiry before then) I don’t know how they are going to fund it; is there really room to add yet more vast surcharges? It’s a private airport (!) yet does anyone really believe they will fully or even majority fund this development? Having the airports privately owned is now a big part of the problem. To be honest, part of me (the Australian part and my later-life French part) makes me want to say, well they created these problems by political ideology (Thatcher), compounded over the half-cnetury by complacency, inaction, and NIMBYism so let them stew in their own toxic brew. I’ve noticed here that some are seemingly “little Englanders” and would rather the whole urban planning thing (HS2, CrossRail, airports, housing policy etc) would just go away and “leave them in peace”. Flood the Eurostar tunnel, close down Heathrow, quit the EU.

            If LHR costs rise much further (and Dog knows how much they would have to rise to really force an airline to move to LGW) then my own solution, and one which I seriously urge on friends planning on going to London, is to fly into Paris-CDG (ok, also not perfect & feeling the usual growth strains), spend a wonderful day in Paris then catch a late-evening Eurostar to London-St Pancras. It will cost no more, you’ll have a free day in Paris and a relaxed and hassle-free journey into the heart of London. Or better still, just give London a total miss …

          • threestationsquare

            @michael.r.james: I don’t really care whether the maglev is your stupid idea or some “planner” or politician’s stupid idea, the disease of proposing wasteful airport transit strikes the powerful and powerless alike.

            I’m not convinced there’s a problem with airport capacity in London at all. It’s still one of the cheaper places to fly into in Europe, even with the extremely high airport taxes ($130 to $170 per roundtrip, vs under $60 in Paris). Presumably if Gatwick expanded they could lower landing fees and some airlines would shift from LHR to LGW for the savings. I don’t know if that’s actually enough to make building a second runway at LGW worthwhile; I don’t think it’s a very important question either way. (Slightly lower airfares or slightly fewer delays would be a pretty minor impact on most Londoners’ daily lives.)

            Crossrail is on track but will likely be at capacity the day it opens. Crossrail 2 is still unfunded and uncertain, and really they shouldn’t stop there (Paris of course has five RER lines and continues to expand its network). There are decades worth of worthwhile potential projects to serve current and future London commuters.

            The housing problem is only about half Thatcher’s fault; the other half is the “planning permission” system that makes it very difficult for the market to increase housing supply (even worse than the zoning laws in most of the US, which usually allow at least some expansion “as of right”), and which was introduced by the Attlee government in the late 40s. Though that part can at least be reformed (unlike Thatcher’s mistake). Your suggestion to redevelop the Heathrow site is a distraction when the problem is not lack of land but difficulty in getting permission to build anything.

            Your justification for lighting money on fire with airport transit is apparently that if we lavish billions on airport investment so that rich airport travellers can enter the city like gods (while commuters are stuck on overcrowded trains) the benefits will “trickle down”? This is surprising given the ideology you’ve espoused elsewhere, but at any rate the evidence doesn’t support it. Certainly very good airport transit doesn’t seem to do much to help Cleveland and Philadelphia, while very poor airport transit doesn’t seem to hold back Los Angeles and Houston. More rigorous analyses also find that airports are greatly overrated as engines of economic development.

          • michael.r.james

            I agree (and have written here) that CrossRail will be a huge success. It will need that perceived success to overcome the resistance to building more of it. This is the sad fact of the UK today (and the past 70 years or so). They were dragged kicking and screaming by the French into building the Channel Tunnel and then MaggieT vetoed any public funding for HS1 so it languished for 12 long years. But both have been wild successes, and many pommies have used TGV and AVE on the continent, so finally after another few decades HS2 is being built, against furious resistance (this from the country that built the world’s railways a century and half ago). You will deny it (by always finding other more worthy things on your personal faves list to “burn money” on) but your reaction to the LHR issue is exactly this same pattern.

            As to the weird inverse-logic/theory of airports, clearly LAX, Houston etc are terrible because they are victims of their own success and untrammelled growth (things that don’t afflict Pittsburgh and Cleveland). Try telling those places, and Hong Kong and Singapore etc, that the contribution of their airports is unimportant. You bang on about the “rich” using LHR but that is nonsense. Everyone of every SES group flies these days, whether it is to fancy world cities, Ibiza or package deals to Marbella or Orlando-Disneyworld. But if one thing would be sure to restrict access to the lower-SES group that you seem so concerned about, would be making flying more expensive by restricting it or forcing airlines to use airports they don’t want to etc. etc.

            As to the housing “planning permission” thing, do you really think London can go the US Sunbelt route of Houston, Phoenix, Dallas or Atlanta? Perhaps you would like London’s Green Belt to be opened up to developers? Probably squeeze in half a dozen Milton Keynes. Do you support the development around Stratford (Olympics site)? And it’s funny/sad because your NIMBYism is exactly what makes it worse. I can agree with you on the problem “description” but one thing is for sure, neo-con economic policies have made this issue worse all over the world. Just as surely it has eroded the income & wealth of the same group.

            So, it seems you will probably be voting for Nigel in the election in 2 weeks, huh?

          • snogglethorpe

            I seem to have inadvertently subscribed myself to the Rambling Political Rant of the Day mailing list… ><

          • Sascha Claus

            threestationsquare said:
            » Your proposal combines the problems and underperformance of orbital/non-city-centre-bound transit with the problems and underperformance of airport connectors.«
            And for a threefer, it adds the advantages of a mode incompatible to legacy rail infrastructure (Maglev)! Building the elevated London Orbital Railway with old-school steel rails would allow trains to continue southward to Brighton or northward to Central England or wherever the people in need of better airport access are living.

    • threestationsquare

      Why would Crossrail be included with London Underground statistics? London Overground and local Thameslink services are already rather RER-like, and are not included in the usual statistics. The numbers Alon quotes above don’t even include the DLR.

      While RER-ifying North American commuter rail networks is obvious low-hanging-fruit for improving transit, I question whether it would work as well in US sprawl as it does in Europe and Japan. The major Australian cities already have very RER-style networks (electrified legacy suburban lines feeding city centre tunnels) and while these work well enough their transit mode share is still low by the standards of Paris, Berlin or London. And current US land use policy all but prohibits the “moving to be closer to an RER station” development dynamics you describe in Paris.

      • michael.r.james

        In my responses to others (above), I have already outlined the key design features of RER that distinguishes it from commuter rail. It seems you either haven’t read them, or you fail to understand, especially with the comment on London CrossRail which is going to have ten big stations right across all the hotspots of central London. Within central London most users won’t notice any difference between the old Underground and LCR, just like today (and since 38 years) in Paris users don’t notice any difference between Metro and RER (the sole operational difference is that you have to swipe your ticket to get in and out of RER stations).

        And as I also pointed out, RER-style service, versus standard commuter rail, is exactly what sprawl-towns need. It might be built by re-purposing standard commuter rail tracks but it can’t simply be shiny new carriages or it would not fulfil the purpose (or indeed it would not be necessary).
        Assuredly Australian cities do not have RER-style services. You seem to believe it just means heavy-rail that goes thru the suburbs. Even Sydney’s NW Metro currently being built out to at least 30km out to exurban sprawl, is being messed up by the current conservative government who are forcing pax to transfer in northern Sydney (north of the harbour) to what is an already crowded service to the CBD (they are proposing a new under-harbour rail tunnel but in Australia proposals are cheap, and the tunnel is hyper-expensive, as well as quite unnecessary). But do note the name “Metro” so yes it is more RER-like but is the first in Australia. The problem with most commuter rail is that the service is slow, which usually means 30 minute intervals; the point of RER is that it stops at fewer stations and achieves higher speeds which together means perhaps halving that train interval–in fact RER-A can get it down to 2 minutes!).

        Actually in the US I would say SF’s BART and Washington Metro are close analogues of RER.

        • threestationsquare

          The criteria you gave for “RER”:
          1. “Heavy rail” (which I take to mean grade separated and electrified)
          2. High speed (I assume you mean compared to typical metros; it’s not like Crossrail will be any faster than the existing stopping services out of Paddington and Liverpool St on the sections it takes over from them. Those services already have substantially higher average speeds than typical metros and I’m not sure where you get the idea that most commuter rail is slow. Current North American commuter rail tends to prioritise speed to the detriment of everything else.)
          3. Stopping at many stations through the centre of the city
          4. Wider stop spacing than a typical metro, allowing service far out into suburbia
          5. High frequency, at least in the core section (many Paris RER branches only have trains every 30 minutes)

          All of the above are definitely satisfied by the existing Thameslink service in London. Passing through the city centre it stops at St Pancras, Farringdon, City Thameslink, Blackfriars, and London Bridge or Elephant & Castle, providing somewhat faster service and wider stop spacing than the parallel Northern Line of the London Underground. Off-peak frequency in the core is a train every 6 minutes or so. Outside the city centre it has much wider stop spacing than the Underground and extends out much further, to St Albans, Sutton, Bedford, and Brighton. Nobody thinks of it as part of the Underground and no Underground statistics include it. Crossrail will be the same sort of thing except east-west instead of north-south.

          The East London Line-based section of London Overground is similar, having taken over a former London Underground line near the city centre and connected it to legacy commuter rail lines at both ends (although these don’t reach so far into the suburbs). Again no statistics on the Underground include it despite the core part of its infrastructure being the same as when it was an Underground line, since organisationally and legally it’s now part of the “National Rail” network instead (even though administered partly by Transport for London, as Crossrail will be).

          Regarding Australian cities, I wasn’t talking about currently under-construction outlying extensions, I was talking about the much older city loops in Sydney and Melbourne. These allow trains from far out on legacy suburban lines (including express services with wide stop spacing, from way out in Campbelltown or Frankston) to come together to provide frequent metro-like service to many stations in the city centre, before heading back out to the suburbs again; I think this fits all of the criteria above. It’s a good model under the circumstances, but it doesn’t solve the problems of sprawling suburban land use and resulting low transit mode share, as I noted in my previous post. BART and the DC Metro built similar networks without the cost-saving of re-using legacy lines; their transit mode share is even more abysmal (by Eurasian standards).

          • michael.r.james

            Nah, you’re stretching to breaking point. London CrossRail will almost certainly be considered part of the London Underground (unless the conservatives are privatizing it, or keeping it independent with privatization as a future option?). It would be kinda nuts if it didn’t make it to the TfL Underground maps (like your ICE trains to Brighton etc are not on it, ie. like all regional trains are not, but DLR is). It is surely going to be using the same ticketing system.
            I don’t have the energy or motivation to check any of those things, and it is true that one cannot put it past the Brits to do something stupid and/or ideological when it comes to transport.

            Yes, I am biased. After living there ten years and knowing it for over 30 years, I am no lover of the London U. (or London for that matter, or its roads too; I haven’t used Eurostar since HS1 takes you at actual high-speed to St Pancras; my experience was of the low-speed route to Waterloo. Blame the 12 year delay in building HS1 on Thatcher’s ideology.)

            And BTW if those things you claim in London as similar to RER really were, then why do they themselves explicitly acknowledge LCR was explicitly modelled on Paris’ RER-A (even if LCR won’t be double-decked, the tunnels will be able to use those trains if necessary).

          • threestationsquare

            As noted on Wikipedia, “Crossrail will be operated by MTR Corporation (Crossrail) Ltd as a London Rail concession of Transport for London, in a similar manner to the London Overground.” As with the Overground, it will almost certainly appear on Tube Maps but have different branding and be excluded from Underground statistics like the ones Alon cites here.

            Thameslink and Overground are/were more like the RER-C, joining up mostly-existing bits of previously-underused urban infrastructure, and it’s reasonable to note that Crossrail is more like the RER-A with its long new central tunnel.

          • michael.r.james

            I think that is more consistent with what I was saying than what you were. It will appear on Tube maps.
            “and be excluded from Underground statistics like the ones Alon cites here.”
            Those are your words and not in the Wiki article that I can find. However it might be the case but then that is consistent with what I have said earlier (and got this discussion going) about Paris RER stats being excluded from Paris Metro stats: totally misleading and fundamentally incorrect view of Parisian rapid transit.

            The appointment of MTR to run the line is exactly as I described above: this is something conservatives do and if I dug I would expect to find it was conditional upon government funding and guarantees. It is purely ideological and such arrangements have often (indeed almost always) failed and needed bailing out.
            Though I will admit MTR is a class operator. However I would also note that its reputation derives from the fact that it runs the HK Metro system that was funded by HK government and MTR does not repay that capital cost, hence its much lauded financial performance. The same will be true of CrossRail–ie. the neo-lib economists will claim it a great success and an argument for privatizing all transport while ignoring that private capital would never build such a thing in the first place but are happy to make a lot of money from rent-taking contracts from like-minded politicians. I wouldn’t be surprised if MTR end up running Sydney’s NW Metro when it is finished because it would be entirely consistent with the current conservative government’s agenda to privatize everything (oh, not to mention the ex-ministers in those governments usually end up on the boards of those companies).
            Oh, and negative comparisons will be made with the old Underground management but this will ignore that the new line will be not only ultra-modern, but will certainly parastize the old lines whose financial performance will thus deteriorate and no doubt lead to conservative calls for the unions to be squashed blah, blah. It is really a scheme to transfer money from public to private for-profit companies which can only make their profits because of massive public capital investment in the first place, all in the false name of better management.

            Finally your last para agrees with my statements and RER-A description all along. So I think we can put this thing to bed?

          • michael.r.james

            Incidentally I have no problem with comparisons of the new Thameslink and Overground networks with Paris-RER of its equivalent, ie. hybrid Metro-heavy-rail . But those are quite recent reconfiguration of old commuter lines over the past few years. Indeed they may be similar to the creation of RER-C (1979). I also note that all these were planned back in the 60s/70s (including CrossRail) but typical of the UK of that era, they did nothing about it. While Paris and France went ahead with lots of nation-building infrastructure including 6 RER lines beginning in 1977, and TGV in 1981, leading to the channel tunnel (which Maggie only allowed if it didn’t use a single dollar of public money!). The reconfiguration of those lines has led to a fivefold increase in ridership proving that this particular kind of service (of which I would still tend to say the RER is the prototype) is needed for suburban and outer regions of big cities. Still a way to go to reach RER’s billion pax p.a. but CrossRail will do a fair bit to catch up. Of course Paris is building more RER including some specific circle lines that do not go into the centre.

            My very first post on this article was to point to the fact that RER was left out of the picture of Paris city rapid transit, which is silly and misleading when considering how big cities can cope with transport. Given how much London’s transit network is changing I think the same will be the case for always including CrossRail, Thameslink and Overground in any analysis of the city’s rapid transit system.

          • snogglethorpe

            My very first post on this article was to point to the fact that RER was left out of the picture of Paris city rapid transit, which is silly and misleading when considering how big cities can cope with transport.

            It’s a fair point, but exactly the same thing is true of many other cities. In Tokyo, most of the many urban surface rail lines are almost indistinguishable from Tokyo subway lines in terms of operating-practices / scheduling / rolling-stock / ridership / etc, but it’s all too common for comparative international analyses to ignore everything but Tokyo Metro simply because the latter has “metro” in the name and the others don’t.

            Alon is smarter than that, of course, but even he is constrained by the availability of data (not all operators are equally forthcoming), the time to analyze it all, etc.

          • michael.r.james

            I agree. Though in my brief time working in Tokyo I didn’t spend any time testing the commuter trains, and was lucky in that the Yamanonte line served most of my needs (isn’t it a bit RER-like? of course, since it pre-dates the RER, perhaps I should state it the other way around?).
            The only reason for my first post was because Alon himself mentioned it: “despite my desire to include the RER, S-Bahns, and Tokyo, Seoul, and London commuter rail networks”.

  9. Chris

    I can get an estimated daily linked ridership for Toronto, but I have no idea how to convert that to annual.

    • Alon Levy

      If it’s daily, then multiply by 365. If it’s weekday, then multiplying by 300 will get pretty close to the actual number.

      • Chris

        OK. Not sure if you want to include this. The Toronto subway and RT has approximately 912.9 thousand linked trips per day (based on an expanded 5% sample travel survey for the region, undertaken in 2011-2012). This doesn’t include tourists, as they would not be included in the travel survey. Multiplied by 300, that gives us 273.9 million per year. With a 68.3km network, that’s 4.01 million riders/yr/km.

        Frankly, I’m skeptical because it’s MUCH lower than I expected. With no long lines stretching deep into the suburbs to inflate the km number and very heavy peak and off-peak ridership by western world standards, it should be ranking much higher.

  10. Naveen

    Just compiled Ridership by km for all systems with data from wiki. Any way that it can be posted here by image?

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