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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Podcast: The Great Northern Rail Crisis

Manchester Victoria station during a 2017 strike. Image: Getty.

You wouldn’t necessarily know it reading the news from London, but the north of England’s railway network is in a bit of a mess. Delayed electrification work, a new timetable, mass cancellations, the whole shebang.

To explain how bad things are, and how they got that way, I’m joined by Jen Williams, political and social affairs editor for the Manchester Evening News. She tells me why nobody seems sure who’s to blame for this mess, and whether there’s any realistic chance of anyone tidying it up any time soon. All that, and we talk about Andy Burnham, too.

The episode itself is below. You can subscribe to the podcast on AcastiTunes, or RSS. Enjoy.

Skylines is supported by 100 Resilient Cities. Pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation, 100RC is dedicated to helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century.

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

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