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.

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook.

 
 
 
 

In many ways, smart cities are really very dumb

Rio de Janeiro’s control centre. Image: Getty.

It’s not news that anything and everything is increasingly being prefaced with “smart”: phones, watches, homes, fridges, and even water (yes, smartwater exists). And it’s not unintentional either. 

Marketeers know that we, the public, are often stupid enough to believe that thanks to their technology, life is better now than it was way back in, say, the primitive Nineties. Imagine having to, like a Neanderthal, remember how to spell words without an autocorrecting algorithm, or open the fridge door to check if you’d run out of milk, or, worse still, interact with actual people.

So it’s hardly surprising that we’re now also witnessing the rise of the so-called “smart cities”; a concept which presupposes that cities that are not technologically  “smart” are dumb, which, as anyone interested in the millennia-old history of cities — from the crypto-currency grain storage algorythms of ancient Mesopotamia to the complex waste infrastructure of ancient Rome, to London’s public transport infrastructure — will know, is not true.

Deployed in these smart cities are cameras and other networked information-gathering devices, load cells and other “sensing devices” detecting passing pedestrians and vehicles, audio surveillance devices listening for gunshots – and even vending machines equipped with biometric sensors to recognise your face. This is not to mention beacon technology — tiny anonymous looking black boxes hidden in trees and on lampposts — which transmits advertising, offers and other information directly to smart phones in the vicinity. 

If that doesn’t seem sinister enough, take, for example, Rio de Janeiro, where, in 2014, the International Business Machines Corporation designed a mammoth “control centre” that integrates data from 30 agencies for the city’s police. 

Described by the Guardian as having “the functionality of a Bond villian’s techno lair”, the then local mayor, Eduardo Paes, claimed the centre was making the city safer while using technology to deploy its “special” police unit to carry out the state’s “pacification programme”. Launched in 2008, the programme, which aims to push out drug gangs from Rio’s favelas, has been criticised by Amnesty International: “in January and February 2017 in Rio de Janeiro alone, at least 182 people were killed during police operations in marginalized neighbourhoods (favelas) – a 78 per cent increase in comparison to the same period in 2016”.

Sinister or not, as smart cities grow, they create new problems. For example, as urbanist Adam Greenfield writes in Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life, neither the algorithms nor their designers are subject to the ordinary processes of democratic accountability – a problem that international academics are currently attempting to tackle.  


“We need to understand that the authorship of an algorithm intended to guide the distribution of civic resources is itself an inherently political act,” writes Greenfield. “The architects of the smart city have utterly failed to reckon with the reality of power.”

The Real Smart Cities project, founded by Dr Gerald Moore, Dr Noel Fitzpatrick and Professor Bernard Stiegler, is investigating the ways in which so-called “smart city” technologies present a threat to democracy and citizenship, and how digital tools might be used create new forms of community participation.

Fitzpatrick is critical of current discourses around smart cities, which he says “tend to be technical fixes, where technology is presented as a means to solve the problems of the city.” The philosophy underpinning the project is “that technologies function as forms of pharmacology”, he adds, meaning that they can be both positive and negative. “The addictive negative effects are being felt at an individual and collective level.” 

An example of this lies in the way that many of these smart cities replace human workers with disembodied voices — “Alexa we need more toilet roll” — like those used to control the Amazon Echo listening device — the high priestess of smart home. These disembodied voices travel at the speed of light to cavernous, so-called “fulfilment centres”, where an invisible workforce are called into action by our buy-it-now, one-click impulse commands; moving robotically down seemingly endless aisles of algorithmically organised products arranged according to purchase preferences the like of which we never knew we had — someone who buys a crime novel might be more likely to go on and buy cat food, a wireless router, a teapot and a screwdriver. 

Oh to be the archeologists of the future who while digging through mounds of silicon dust happen upon these vast repositories of disembodies voices. That the digital is inherently material and the binary of virtual/real does not hold — there is no cyberspace, just space. Space that is being increasingly populated by technologies that want to watch you, listen to you, get to know you and sense your presence.

One project looking to solve some of the problems of smart cities is that of the development of a “clinic of contribution” within Pleine Commune in greater Paris (an area where one in three live in poverty).This attempts to deal with issues of communication between parents and children where the widespread use of smartphones as parental devices from infancy is having effects on the attention of young children and on the communicative abilities between parents and children. 

This in turn forms part of a wider project in the area that Stiegler describes as “installing a true urban intelligence”, which moves beyond what he sees as the bankrupt idea of smart cities. The aim is to create a “contributory income” in the area that responds to the loss of salaried jobs due to automation and the growth and spread of digitisation. 

The idea being that an income could be paid to residents, on the condition that they perform a service to society. This, if you are unemployed, living in poverty and urban deprivation, sounds like quite a simple and smart idea to try and solve some of the dumb effcts of the digital technology that's implemented in cities under the ideology of being “smart”.