This map shows how much the world has shrunk in the last century

Rome2Rio's map of the world by travel distance from London in 1914. Image: Rome2Rio.

Globalisation has become the simmering political issue of this generation. The heaving, tumultuous forces of anti-globalistion diatribe con artists such as Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, and Nigel Farage. Or the sheened, smiling polish of unashamedly pro-globalisation prophets (think Emmanuel Macron and the artist formerly known as Nick Clegg).

The phenomenon can feel like something that's suddenly blown up quite recently – since the 2008 financial crash, or perhaps since the end of the Cold War in 1990. From the point of view of transport, however, the key moment must be the beginning of powered airplane flights, mastered by the Wright brothers in 1903. 

But it wasn't until 1914 that aeroplanes came into their own, with flights across the channel and around Europe as part of the battle of the First World War. Which, helpfully, is where this map starts:

The world in 1914 from London. Click to expand. Image: Rome2Rio.

This is an isochronic map. Parts of the world are shaded in different colours relative to how long it takes to get there from the centre of the world – aka London. 

Western Europe, the southern parts of northern Europe, the coast of North Africa, and European Russia are all within a five-day journey from London – shaded in dark pink.

The next level out – in light pink – is a five to ten-day journey. That includes more of Russia, Turkey, the Red Sea coast, the Caucasus, and the east coast and mid-west of the US. Ten days to get to New York. Imagine. 

Orange shows how far you can get if you invest ten to 20 days of long train and boat rides. Suddenly, most of North and Central America opens up, along with the Brazilian coast, South Africa, India, Korea, a whole load of Siberia, and Shanghai and its environs. 

(By this point, going around the world in 80 days is starting to sound quite impressive.)


Green is where we get into serious long-haul territory – 20 to 30 days' journey. Here lies Japan, Hong Kong, western Australia, Zanzibar and more of the inland areas of Africa, Madagascar, Hong Kong, Iran, and today's Malaysia. 

Pretty much all of the world opens up by a 30 to 40-day-journey - coloured light blue on this map. Australia's almost totally covered, as are the Americas, Arabia, Siberia, the Pacific islands and New Zealand. By this point, the regional discrepencies in the quality of infrastructure to take you inland from the big ports and coastal regions are becoming horribly clear.

Dark blue shading indicates the longest journeys from London – over 40 days long. It's only at this point that the inland areas of South America (the Amazon), Africa (the Sahara and central African rainforests), Asia (the eastern Chinese steppes) and the Australian outback open up. 

Fairly obviously, these are the places where agressively penetrating railroads – normally built by European imperial powers – couldn't get to so easily. Where North America has the great railways criss-crossing the continent, travelling to South America lands you on a boat heading up the Amazon. Slow going. 

Compare that to the situation today (well, 2016 to be exact). 

Both maps put together, so the differences can be seen in tandem. Click to expand. Image: Rome2Rio.

If the team from Rome2Rio, the transport search engine company behind the map, had used the same scale, the entire map would have been in that dark pink shade. 

But, they didn't. Which is understandable. Dark pink on the 2016 map is where you can get to in half a day. 

The situation in 2016. Image: Rome2Rio

Again, Europe and European Russia are covered, but so are the east-coast cities of the US, a few choice west-coast cities, West Africa, most of Arabia, and a speckling of locations through India and up into Central Asia. 

If you're willing to spent a half to a three-quarters of a day travelling, you can get to most of North and Central America, much of the Brazilian coast, a whole lot of Africa, and basically all of south and east Asia excluding Tibet and Mongolia. You can even get to Alaska. 

In under a day from London, the world is pretty much your oyster, as shaded in orange – with the notable exception of Australia and New Zealand. 

A journey of one to one-and-a-half days (look for the light green shade) opens up coastal Australia, New Zealand, southern Greenland, and most of the interior of South America and Africa. 

It's worth dwelling on the fact that the most far-reaching shade here – the mid-blue indicating a journey of more than one and a half days – covers a time period so much shorter than those of a century earlier. Where journeys in 1914 could easily be in excess of 40 days, you'd feel hard-pressed today if you wanted to get somewhere and it took three days. 

So, yeah. Globalisation, huh? Cool stuff. 

Jack May is a regular contributor to CityMetric and tweets as @JackO_May.

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More than 830 cities have brought essential services back under public control. Others should follow

A power station near Nottingham: not one owned by Robin Hood Energy, alas, but we couldn't find anything better. Image: Getty.

The wave of cities worldwide rejecting privatization is far bigger and more successful than anyone thought, according to a new report from the Transnational Institute, Reclaiming Public Services: How cities and citizens are turning back privatisation. Some 835 cities in 45 countries have brought essential services like water, energy and health care back under public control.

The persistent myth that public services are by nature more expensive and less efficient is losing its momentum. Citizens and users do not necessarily have to resign to paying increasingly higher tariffs for lower standard services. The decline of working conditions in public services is not an inevitability.

And the ever larger role private companies have played in public service delivery may at last be waning. The remunicipalisation movement – cities or local authorities reclaiming privatised services or developing new options – demonstrates that cities and citizens are working to protect and reinvent essential services.

The failure of austerity and privatisation to deliver promised improvements and investments is part of the reason this movement has advanced. But the real driver has been a desire to meet goals such as addressing climate change or increasing democratic participation in service provision. Lower costs and tariffs, improved conditions for workers and better service quality are frequently reported following remunicipalisation.  Meanwhile transparency and accountability have also improved.

Where remunicipalisation succeeds, it also tends to inspire other local authorities to make similar moves. Examples are plentiful. Municipalities have joined forces to push for renewable, climate-friendly energy initiatives in countries like Germany. Public water operators in France and Catalonia are sharing resources and expertise, and working together to overcome the challenges they meet.

Outside Europe, experiments in public services are gaining ground too. Delhi set up 1,000 Mohalla (community) clinics across the city in 2015 as a first step to delivering affordable primary health care. Some 110 clinics were working in some of the poorest areas of Delhi as of February 2017. The Delhi government claims that more than 2.6m of its poorest residents have received free quality health care since the clinics were set up.


Local authorities and the public are benefiting from savings too. When the Nottingham City Council found out that many low-income families in the city were struggling to pay their energy bills, they set up a new supply company. The company, Robin Hood Energy, which offers the lowest prices in the UK, has the motto: “No private shareholders. No director bonuses. Just clear transparent pricing.”

Robin Hood Energy has also formed partnerships with other major cities. In 2016, the city of Leeds set up the White Rose Energy municipal company to promote simple no-profit tariffs throughout the Yorkshire and Humberside regions. In 2017, the cities of Bradford and Doncaster agreed to join the White Rose/Robin Hood partnership.

Meanwhile, campaigners with Switched on London are pushing their city to set up a not-for-profit energy company with genuine citizen participation. The motivations in these diverse cities are similar: young municipal companies can simultaneously beat energy poverty and play a key role in achieving a just and renewable energy transition.

Remunicipalised public services often involve new forms of participation for workers and citizens. Remunicipalisation is often a first step towards creating the public services of the future: sustainable and grounded in the local economy. Inspiration can be found in the European towns and villages aiming for 'zero waste' with their remunicipalised waste service, or providing 100 per cent locally-sourced organic food in their remunicipalised school restaurants.

Public services are not good simply because they are not private. Public services must also continuously renew themselves, grow, innovate and recommit to the public they serve.

The push for remunicipalisation in Catalonia, for example, has come from a movement of citizen platforms. For them, a return to public management is not just an end in itself, but a first step towards the democratic management of public services based on ongoing civil participation.

Evidence is building that people are able to reclaim public services and usher in a new generation of public ownership. The momentum is building, as diverse movements and actors join forces to bring positive change in communities around the world.

You can read the Transnational Institute report, “Reclaiming Public Services: How cities and citizens are turning back privatisation”, on its website.