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8 of the world's most eye-catching rail and metro maps and the stories behind them.

Posted by Dave Songer on Apr 3, 2019

Maps main imageAs readers of these pages will know, the rail industry and transport in general are undergoing a great deal of change. Changes that, in the main, help make operations smoother, safer and more predictable for all involved. For operators and passengers alike the growing availability of technology directly enables things that simply weren’t on the table even a few years ago, with predictive maintenance and regenerative braking to mobile ticketing and online customer services just a few of the tech updates. Well, for this feature, we’ve decided to go with tradition and focus our attention on an intrinsic aspect of all rail networks, an area which has fundamentally changed very little over the years: maps.

The way in which maps are created, shared and viewed across the world has certainly developed thanks to the computers, websites and smartphones but it’s fair to say that aesthetically they’ve held firm since the very first design. Here, SmartRail World has again turned its attention to some of the world’s network maps that have caught our attention, with eight illustrating perfectly that although the routes they describe are very different, the design and overall feel incredibly familiar.


DenverWith a network that serves more than 2.8 million people in an area of around 2,400 square miles, Denver’s state operator RTD opened its first light rail line more than two decades ago in 1994 – the 5-mile D Line. The latest, the University of Colorado A Line, followed 18 years later and became its first high-speed section of the network. Today, RTD’s train network comprises 53 stations across 10 lines. To further boost its commuter services, the operator has announced its intention to extend the G Line by 11 miles to the west of downtown Denver.
Full size map

Hong Kong

Hong KongSoon celebrating its 40th birthday, Hong Kong’s MTR network has close to double the number of Denver’s at 94, with overground and subterranean lines that link up the territory’s three main islands. Setting the network apart from its contemporaries, Hong Kong’s metro has had on-board Wi-Fi for the last 25 years, now offering a fast system that stays connected everywhere on the network. If progress continues in this area at the same rate, some have predicted that the introduction of the long-awaited 5G networks will be a matter of months rather than years.
Full size map

Washington D.C.

WashingtonThe US capital city’s metro has 117 miles of track connecting connect 91 stations and is now in its fifth decade of operation. According to a report from the operator released at the end of 2018, the six-line Metro has replaced its oldest and most unreliable rolling stock, action that has led to its best railcar performance in eight years. Metro announced at the beginning of 2019 that crime on its network had dropped to its lowest levels in 19 years, thanks in large part to the introduction of technology and also the increasing willingness for passengers to report suspicious activity.
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TaipeiClocking up approximately two million passenger trips every day, the Taiwan capital’s light rail system connected more than 100 people by 2018 two years after opening in 1996. The operator announced in March that it would be giving one year’s free travel to the lucky 10 billionth passenger, granting them unrestricted access to the Brown, Red, Green, Orange and Blue lines. In 2018, the train manufacturer Alstom announced that it had won a €378m contract to supply 19 of its Metropolis trains that will be governed by the French company’s Urbalis CBTC driverless signalling system.
Full size map


ValenciaCombining light railway, metro and tram, Metrovalencia’s nine-line network is due to soon become 10, after reports that Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat Valenciana, the organisation that operates the metro, said that it will begin construction in April 2019. The work is due to be completed in 2021 and is partly funded by the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund programme. A majority of the metro is overground, with around 15% of the 97-mile network operating underground. It’s also capable of driverless operation, with four of the lines currently controlled automatically.
Full size map


MunichKnown as the U-Bahn, the predominantly subterranean trains have been running in the Bavarian capital for close to 50 years and now serve in the region of 400 million passengers annually. Plans to expand the 96-station network – which connects with the overground S-Bahn light-rail service – by 20% were recently announced by the city, an upgrade that would see it add around 25 miles of track in around a decade's time. Under those plans, service frequency would be increased and would also carry more passengers, thanks to extending its trains by a fifth.
Full size map


Mapa_Metro_de_MedellínThe newest of our featured networks, Medellín’s began life in 1995 and has two lines with 27 stations. The network connects with Metrocable, the cable car that's done wonders for social mobility in the city by providing affordable transport to some of its poorest communities. In recent news, the city showed its commitment to staff training by introducing a state-of-the-art train simulator that enables apprentices to hone their driving skills. The system can tracks users' progress in a range of climactic conditions on journeys that are exact replicas of the network's route.
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Dublin - mapAnnounced late last year, plans for a new privately-funded six-line metro has been scheduled to enter service by 2025. In addition to lowering its reliance on the public purse,Dublin Metro would also be built much quicker than other comparably-sized networks. Cutting the construction time will also be possible thanks to a repeat of the construction method used on the Madrid Metro – the Spanish capital’s 75-mile network was built in seven years and “at a fraction of the price” that Transport for London paid for the Jubilee Line”, according to its architect, Manuel Melis Maynar.
Full size map

This may also interest you:

New call-to-actionFast Forward, the magazine: Transportation for the 21st Century. A free to download, 24-page document that features infographics and thought-provoking editorials on key areas for transport operators including passenger safety and experience and operational efficiency.

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Topics: quirky, SRW Featured

Dave Songer

Written by Dave Songer

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