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History of Impact of Railways on communities in the World

The History Man

Over the last 200 years railways have had a profound effect on the areas they serve – opening them up to trade and passenger transport.

The busiest passenger station in the world is said to be Shinjuku in Tokyo where 1.26 bn passengers arrive or depart per year. Tokyo is the ultimate rail centre in terms of use – albeit Bombay is also busy, but not on any lists of busy stations on Wikipedia.

In the US, Penn station in New York is very busy and about to be modernised by adapting the one time main New York post office building. Further up Manhattan an additional 2 tracks are being built in a new tunnel under the East River into Grand Central station.

In Africa Cairo, Johannesburg and Cape Town have thriving commuter rail networks; Sydney and Melbourne lead the way in Australia and in New Zealand the old Post Office has been adapted as a terminal in central Auckland. 

China now has the longest high speed distance rail network in the world, linking its huge cities Taiwan, South Korea and Japan which all have high-speed networks complementing their Metros and commuter networks.

In Europe, most railways were built in long established cities, in contrast to places like Chicago and Buenos Aires where railways permitted goods to be brought to market and stimulated the rapid growth of these cities which are still served by extensive passenger suburban networks as well as long distance freight railroads. Los Angeles attempted to ignore the railway but now has 130000 people a day using its beautiful art deco Union station with revived rapid transit links to the suburbs as well as commuter trains and new Underground lines. In Florida a new totally privately financed railway has opened this year from Palm Beach to Central Miami (very much planned around improving linkage but also adding value to property around the stations).

In Europe the busiest station is Gare du Nord with over 180m passengers using it each year; Chatelet in Paris, Rome Termini, Hamburg and Zurich are also busier than London Waterloo. The rest of this note will focus on the role of heavy rail and its link to property in London which is so dominant to the rail network.  

The Table below shows the busiest 10 stations in the UK in 2007 and 2017 together with the busiest Underground stations in 2016. For heavy rail the Office of road and rail publish details of passenger throughput at all 2560 stations and the Underground details from Transport for. The order is as in 2017 with 2007 shown. The figures are throughput per year and Underground is separate to heavy rail. xr indicates on or near The Elizabeth Line.T similar for Thameslink.

Station                        2017 throughput                     2007throughput              Underground 2017

Waterloo                        99.4m  (1)                              83.9m (1)                                  91.2.m(2)

Victoria                           75.9m   (2)                             66.8m(2)                                  79.4m(4)

Oxford Circus                                                                                                              84.0m(3)XR

Liverpool St                   67.3m   (3)   XR                      55.2m (3)                                67.6m(6)

London Bridge              47.9m   (4)    T                        47.6m(4)                                 69.0m(5)                              

Euston                           44.1m    (5)                             25.6m (7)                               43.1m(11)

Birmingham New St    42.8m   (6)                              14.5m

Stratford                       42.3m   (7)  XR                        13.1m                                     62.8m (7)

Paddington                  35.9m   (8)  XR                         27.2m(6)                                49.7m (9)

The History Man

About Theo Steel

Theo Steel

Theo Steel joined BR in 1970 from Oxford University and was Assistant General Manager in East Anglia in the 1980's. He then worked on planning the route of the Channel Tunnel Rail link in 1989/90 before becoming Managing Director for BR in the South West until 1995. He then worked for London and Continental until 1998. After that he returned to Great Eastern as Commercial and later Managing Director until 2004.Thereafter he was Project Director planning the investment for the Olympics and particularly at Stratford. In the 200's he had a portfolio of external Chairmanships including Renaissance Southend and the Essex Development Agency. He is currently almost rqtiredbut is a Governor of Prospects College in Basildon.Married to Linda they have children and Grandchildren and enjoy living near the sea in Southend.

Articles by Theo Steel

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