London's public transport is world's best (no, really)

Emily Dugan
Friday 05 October 2007 00:00
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Those who cope with the sardine-can conditions of the Northern line, known to commuters as the "Misery line", each morning can be excused from being stopped in their tracks by the news that London's transportsystem has been voted the best in the world.

A poll of world travellers by TripAdvisor reveals that people outside the UK believe that the capital's transport system is one of the safest and most efficient public transport networks in the world. The Underground and the ever-cheerful London cabbie come in for particularly high praise.

The findings may come as something of a shock to the city's commuters, who among other things have had to deal with two days of Tube strikes earlier this summer and regular delays.

Part of the reason for London's popularity in the poll is the comprehensive extent of the Tube network. Two out of five people polled said that the most important factor was that public transport went everywhere they wanted to go. Twenty-nine per cent said safety was the key element. On cleanliness of the system, London came in fourth, with Washington DC first, Tokyo second and Paris third. Los Angeles was considered to have the worst public transport.

TripAdvisor's verdict was seized upon by Ken Livingstone. The Mayor of London has previously come under fire for the poor state of the capital's transport networks, particularly for daily commuters, after making transport a high-profile part of his mayoral campaign.

Mr Livingstone said: "What we are seeing are the fruits of real and sustained increased investment in London's public transport, a break from the previous policy of deregulation and choking off resources.

"London has achieved a unique shift in journeys from cars to public transport, a 40 per cent increase in bus ridership, cleaner engines for buses and taxis, traffic down in the city's centre, and 83 per cent increase in cycling, and the biggest transport investment programme since the Second World War."

The Mayor also said that these achievements were "alongside cut-price and free travel schemes for London's poorest, oldest and youngest", although those polled were strongly critical of the price of travelling on London transport.

New York was just behind London in the perceived cost of its transport, and was also second in line for the best public transport accolade.

Michelle Perry, TripAdvisor's communications director, said that this was the second year in a row that New York and London had done well in the survey: "For the second straight year, London and New York were tops for public transport among travellers. As they also rate as the most expensive among travellers, it's proof that even when it comes to riding a bus or a subway, you get what you pay for."

London's achievement in the survey is all the more remarkable as the safety of its transport network has been questioned in recent months. Last week, Tube drivers on three lines staged a one-day wildcat strike, which stemmed from mounting concerns over the emergency braking system of the trains. The single-storey bendy buses, brought in by Mr Livingstone, have also been criticised over safety standards.

The Conservative mayoral candidate Boris Johnson, who poses the biggest threat to Mr Livingstone in the election, has based much of his campaign on how the capital's transport needs improving, focusing particularly on the infamous bendy bus. Mr Johnson has called the long buses "cycling killers". Speaking at a hustings for Conservative mayoral candidates, Mr Johnson contended that London needed to get rid of them completely. "They wipe out cyclists," he said. "There are many cyclists killed every year by them."

'I find it hard to believe'

* Sofia Mitra-Thakur, Tax consultant

"This morning I waited ona crowded Tube platform and watched four crammed Victoria line trains chunter past before I could wedge myself in, meaning I turned up late for work yet again. The best transport system in the world? I doubt it."

* Hannah De Haan, Theatre manager

"I find it hard to believe that anyone would think travelling by public transport in London is a positive experience. I used to commute from north-west London to east London every day. I suffered endless queues and jam-packed carriages."

* Yubaraj Sedai, Sales assistant

"London public transport is almost certainly the best in the world but not in terms of technical advancement, where countries like Japan are way ahead. But the frequency is good and management do their best to reduce jams."

* Charlotte Coles, Civil Servant

"I like the bus best as you get to see so much of the city. But when I'm in a rush I'll get the Tube. It's amazing that you can get a bus all the way across London for only £1 – so much cheaper than most northern cities.I love London transport."

* Tim Glister, Publishing assistant

"I love London transport, it's as much a part of the city as Big Ben, and the best way to connect you to it. Without the Tube, London wouldn't be London. Likewise, what better way is there to see the sights than by bus?"

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