Which is London's busiest tube station?

The cathedral of underground transport, courtesy of testosterone-fuelled Noughties design principles. Image: David Skinner

Editor's note: There's a sleight of hand with all these figures, of course: “entries and exits” is an imperfect measure of busy-ness. It’s theoretically possible that a major interchange station might have more people pass through, even if relatively few of them cross the gateline.

For the moment though these are the best figures we’ve got so, until someone comes up with a way of counting the number of people changing trains at Bank of a morning, this is our story and we’re sticking to it.

Love it or hate it – and if you’re reading an article on this website, let’s be honest, you probably love it – the tube is enormously popular.

Whether it’s the sweaty sardine-tinned masses of the morning northern line crush, or the surprisingly tragic dribbles on the 3am Victoria line night tube, the London Underground and its 270 stations are put to good use.

But which are the busiest?

The easy, simple answer is Waterloo.

According to TfL figures, Waterloo registered 95,138,400 entries and exits in 2015 (the most recent year for which data, at time of writing, is available). This isn’t surprising – it’s a huge railway terminus, and it also the busiest national rail station by passenger numbers in the country.

Intrinsically, rail termini are much more likely to come top of the passenger numbers. They’re the entry point for millions of people coming into London, both those who commute in for work, and for those who come from further afield for day trips and extended stays.

So it’s not surprising that six of the top ten busiest tube stations are also national rail termini: as well as Waterloo, thereKing’s Cross St. Pancras (2nd), Victoria (4th), Liverpool Street (5th), London Bridge (6th) and Paddington (10th)

That accounts for almost all of London’s main rail terminals, in fact. The only ones missing are either tiny (Marylebone, Cannon Street, Charing Cross), don't have a tube station (Fenchurch Street), or effectively have two, just wrecking the numbers (Euston).

But aside from the national rail termini, which are the busiest stations?

Come here for awful shopping and bumping into slow people. Image: Colin Smith.

Oxford Circus is in third place overall, while Bank and Monument (measured together) come in 8th. Then there are two stations outside central London: the vast transport hub of Stratford at 7th, and Canary Wharf is in 9th.

The complete top ten, with number of visits, looks like this: 

1. Waterloo – 95.13m

2. King's Cross St Pancras – 93.4m

3. Oxford Circus – 92.3m

4. Victoria – 82.8m

5. Liverpool Street – 73.2m

6. London Bridge – 71.9m

7. Stratford – 61.4m

8. Bank & Monument – 57.5m

9. Canary Wharf – 54.4m

10. Paddington – 49.6m

If you’re after particularly niche trivia, the busiest station that serves only one line, and has no national rail connection, is North Greenwich, with 26.3m passengers in 2015.


If you’re being really pedantic and counting the cable car as an interchange (which you shouldn’t), then the answer to that particularly niche question becomes Camden Town on the Northern Line, with 21.9m entries and exits.

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

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When should you forget the bus and just walk?

Might as well talk, tbh. Image: Getty.

It can often be tempting to jump on a bus for a short journey through the city, especially when it’s raining or you’re running behind schedule. Where there are dedicated bus lanes in place, it can feel as though you speed past gridlocked traffic. But as city authorities begin new initiatives to get people walking or cycling, that could all change – and so could you.

British people are wasting tens of hours in traffic every year: London comes top, with the average commuter spending 74 hours in traffic, followed by Manchester, with 39 hours and Birmingham and Lincoln, both with 36 hours.

It might surprise some people to learn that cities are intentionally slowing down private vehicles, in order to shift people to other, more efficient, modes of transport. In fact, Transport for London removed 30 per cent of the road capacity for private vehicles in central London between 1996 and 2010. That trend continues today, as the organisation gives over more space for buses, cyclists and pedestrians.

London’s road capacity, over time. Image: Transport for London/author provided.

Clamp down on cars

The loss of road capacity for cars has occurred across most UK cities, but not on the same scale everywhere. The good news is that the changes, when made, appear to have reduced actual car congestion. It seems that by making it less attractive to use your car, you’ll be more likely to use other transport. In fact, the average speed of buses and cyclists can be up to twice as fast as normal traffic in cities such as London.

The relationship between walking and improved health has been proven to such an extent that it seems everyone – your doctor, your family, regional and national government – wants to increase physical activity. The savings in health care costs, are via improved fitness, reduced pollution and improved mental health, and its impact on social care are huge.

For instance, Greater Manchester wants to increase the number of people who get the recommended level of exercise (only about half currently do). The most advanced of these plans is London’s, which has the specific goal of increasing the number of walks people take by a million per day.

So, the reality is that over the next few years, walking will gradually appear more and more “normal” as we are purposefully nudged towards abandoning our rather unhealthy, sedentary lifestyles.


The long journey

Consider this: the typical bus journey in the UK is almost three miles, with an average journey time of around 23 minutes. The equivalent walk would take approximately 52 minutes, travelling at just over three miles per hour. It seems obvious that the bus is much faster – but there’s much more to consider.

People normally walk at least a quarter of a mile to and from the bus stop – that’s roughly ten minutes. Then, they have to wait for a bus (let’s say five minutes), account for the risk of delay (another five minutes) and recover from the other unpleasant aspects of bus travel, such as overcrowding.

This means that our 23 minute bus journey actually takes 43 minutes of our time; not that much less than the 52 minutes it would have taken to walk. When you think of the journey in this holistic way, it means you should probably walk if the journey is less than 2.2 miles. You might even choose to walk further, depending on how much value you place on your health, well-being and longevity – and of course how much you dislike the more unpleasant aspects of bus travel.

The real toss up between walking and getting the bus is not really about how long it takes. It’s about how we change the behaviour and perceptions we have been conditioned to hold throughout our lives; how we, as individuals, engage with the real impacts that our travel decisions have on our longevity and health. As recent converts to walking, we recommend that you give it a go for a month, and see how it changes your outlook.

The Conversation

Marcus Mayers, Visiting Research Fellow, University of Huddersfield and David Bamford, Professor of Operations Management, University of Huddersfield.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.