Shaun Walker: Trains run like clockwork but shoving babushkas drive you to point of insanity

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The Independent Online

As a seasoned traveller on both London's Tube and Moscow's metro, I find it difficult to say which one is worse.

Moscow has obvious advantages over London. The trains run like clockwork – a display records the time since the last train and it very rarely makes it to two minutes before the next one comes roaring into the station. In five years of living in the Russian capital, I can count the number of times I've been held inside a tunnel on the fingers of one hand. And the idea of whole lines experiencing "serious delays" for hours or days is unthinkable. Even when there were terrorist attacks on the metro in 2004, the affected stations were running as normal again the next day.

In a country where things so often don't work, it is a staggering model of efficiency. The unbroken human waterfall that comes cascading down the station escalators for hours on end is breathtaking. And some of the stations really are stunning – Revolution Square, with its life-size sculptures of Soviet archetypes, still leaves me speechless every time I pass through it. Komsomolskaya, with its ornate mosaics, chandeliers and gold trimming, is more Buckingham Palace than Green Park Tube.

On the other hand, the sheer level of pushing and shoving can drive you to the point of insanity. You soon realise that the worst offenders are the small but hardened babushkas, who can ruin your day with a carefully placed elbow to the kidney. Other hazards include unimaginably strong body odour, stray dogs, and ostensibly respectable businessmen who just happen to be necking four cans of 13 per cent watermelon-flavoured alcopops on their way to work at 8am.