Here's proof that London has Britain's best public transport system

These are the lucky ones. Image: Tal Cohen/Getty.

The latest instalment of our weekly series, in which we use the Centre for Cities’ data tools to crunch some of the numbers on Britain’s cities.

Which British city has the best public transport system?

Okay, we're probably over-reaching by pretending that there's even any debate about this. London has the tube, and two light railways, and a fledgling S-Bahn network, and buses and trains covering pretty much anywhere else. Not to mention boats and a cable car that nobody asked for.

According to the Institute of Public Policy Research, the British state spends £2,500 on transport infrastructure for every Londoner. In the north east of England, it's just £5 per head. Of course London has the best public transport system in Britain. Of course it does.

Nonetheless, it's always good to put some numbers on these things, so let's fire up the ol’ data-matic.

This graph plots the size of British cities against the share of their commuters who take public transport to work. (The data is from 2011; the chart isn't interactive, but don't despair, the full data is available below.)

Click to expand.

There's quite variation in how many commuters use public transport. In some cities – Edinburgh, Liverpool, Glasgow – it's well over 20 per cent.  At the bottom end, in Telford, it's barely 5 per cent.

Perhaps surprisingly, there's no clear correlation between city size and public transport use. Relatively big Birmingham and Manchester are in the middle of the range, while relatively small Brighton is near the top. Perhaps this is a reflection of decades of underinvestment in urban transport: most continental cities the size of Birmingham have an extensive tram or metro network.

Anyway. We've cheated a bit on that graph: we excluded London from the data. That's because, when you add it back in, it totally wrecks the scale of the thing.

Click to expand.

Partly, of course, this is because London is nearly four times bigger than any other city in Britain. But its presence warps the graph in another way, too. In Edinburgh, its nearest rival in this particular category, 27.6 per cent of residents take public transport to work. In London, it's 44.6 per cent.

Your taxes in action, one presumes.

While we’re crunching the numbers, here's the top 10:

That looks to us like a three way split. Glasgow, Liverpool and Newcastle all have reasonably developed rail networks (albeit not on anything like the scale of London's). Edinburgh and Brighton both have extensive bus networks.

Brighton also falls into the third category – London commuters towns where a large chunk of the workforce gets on a train to London every day, bumping up the figures.

For completism's sake, here's the other end of the table...

...about which, if we're honest, we have less to say.

Last but not least, here's an interactive map. Hover over a dot and it'll give you the data.



17 things the proposed “Tulip” skyscraper that London mayor Sadiq Khan just scrapped definitely resembled

Artist's impression. See if you can guess which one The Tulip is. Image: Foster + Partners.

Sadiq Khan has scrapped plans to build a massive glass thing in the City of London, on the grounds it would knacker London’s skyline. The “Tulip” would have been a narrow, 300m skyscraper, designed by Norman Foster’s Foster & Partners, with a viewing platform at the top. Following the mayor’s intervention, it now won’t be anything of the sort.

This may be no bad thing. For one thing, a lot of very important and clever people have been noisily unconvinced by the design. Take this statement from Duncan Wilson, the chief executive of Historic England, from earlier this year: “This building, a lift shaft with a bulge on top, would damage the very thing its developers claim they will deliver – tourism and views of London’s extraordinary heritage.”

More to the point, the design was just bloody silly. Here are some other things that, if it had been built, the Tulip would definitely have looked like.

1. A matchstick.

2. A drumstick.

3. A cotton ear bud.

4. A mystical staff, of the sort that might be wielded by Gandalf the Grey.

5. A giant spring onion.

6. A can of deodorant, from one of the brands whose cans are seemingly deliberately designed in such a way so as to remind male shoppers of the fact that they have a penis.

7. A device for unblocking a drain.

8. One of those lights that’s meant to resemble a candle.

9. A swab stick, of the sort sometimes used at sexual health clinics, in close proximity to somebody’s penis.

10.  A nearly finished lollipop.

11. Something a child would make from a pipe cleaner in art class, which you then have to pretend to be impressed by and keep on show for the next six months.

12. An arcology, of the sort seen in classic video game SimCity 2000.

13. Something you would order online and then pray will arrive in unmarked packaging.

14. The part of the male anatomy that the thing you are ordering online is meant to be a more impressive replica of.

15. A building that appears on the London skyline in the Star Trek franchise, in an attempt to communicate that we are looking at the FUTURE.

14a. Sorry, the one before last was a bit vague. What I actually meant was: a penis.

16. A long thin tube with a confusing bulbous bit on the end.

17. A stamen. Which, for avoidance of doubt, is a plant’s penis.

One thing it definitely does not resemble:

A sodding tulip.

Anyway, it’s bad, and it’s good the mayor has blocked it.

That’s it, that’s the take.

(Thanks to Anoosh Chakelian, Jasper Jackson, Patrick Maguire for helping me get to 17.)

Jonn Elledge is editor of CityMetric and the assistant editor of the New Statesman. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

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