Public transport can be a nightmare, abroad just as much as at home, especially when it comes to managing your daily commute to work. Nobody wants to turn up late to a business meeting, especially not in the often hot and bothered state that rush-hour on the Tube can sometimes leave you. But when you’re working abroad a car may not always be an option, with driving sometimes a much more daunting prospect in some foreign cities where traffic can seem to obey an entirely different set of laws to the ones you’re used to.
It’s a situation that can leave you entirely dependent on local transit options, but that may not always be the trial you might expect. Here’s a look at four cities in particular where it makes more sense to ditch the taxi in favour of the metro:
Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway, or MTR, is one of the most efficient metro systems in the world, with 99.9% of its passengers reaching their destinations within five minutes of the scheduled time of arrival, so it’ll be a rare day that a delay causes you to be late for work. Free Wi-Fi is available at all stations, so you can stay connected while you commute, and 3G network coverage extends to almost all of the system to keep tunnels from getting in the way of your phone calls. Unsurprisingly, there’s also plenty of direction around for the English-speaker with bilingual announcements and signs to help keep you from accidentally ending up on the wrong side of Victoria Harbour.
Just don’t plan to catch up on breakfast while you travel, as eating and drinking are banned on the MTR, with some pretty hefty fines attached. Although there can be moments of congestion, especially at particularly major stations, you can equally rest safe in the knowledge that unlike its Tokyo cousin, staff members here will not attempt to pack you into a carriage like sardines.
Another fully automated system, the Dubai Metro has both air conditioned trains and stations which make for a more pleasant journey in the higher temperatures of the local climate. It’s a relatively new network, having been operating since 2009, and as a result is uniformly modern, with well-maintained carriages that are a bit of a far cry from the hard plastic seats of some of the older metro systems. A particularly distinct feature of this metro is that it offers three separate classes of accommodation, with a premium Gold Class, standard Silver Class and a specific Women and Children Class.
At present there are just two lines in operation, after economic concerns prompted the indefinite delay of 3 additional branches planned to extend the reach of the network. This delay has caused the notable absence of any direct link with the local airports, although there are still connecting bus services to cover the gap.
Possibly the most notable feature of the Copenhagen Metro is the fact that all thirty-four of its trains are driverless, instead being operated by the automatic train control (ATC) system. As such the metro is able to run a twenty-four hour service, although connections between trains are still variable depending on the period in question. Nevertheless its busiest stations are always well-serviced, especially during the rush-hour commute, and you’re unlikely to be stranded even if you end up having to stay late at the office.
While the metro system is still under expansion, with only twenty-two stations at present, it is highly integrated with Copenhagen’s other public transport systems, linking up to other train services and bus routes to facilitate easy transfers. With the majority of the metro’s staff employed in stations there’s also a great level of customer assistance available if you need it.
While the Seoul Metropolitan Subway is run under three different operators, this doesn’t materially affect the commuter experience, with the arrangement having boosted this to be the longest metro system in the world with more than 600 miles of track. Despite being the oldest entrant on this list the subway showcases South Korea’s focus on technology, boasting climate controlled seating to bet the chill in those colder winter months and a smart payment system that allows passengers to pay their fares from their smartphone. Wi-Fi and 4G are also accessible at all points in the network, meaning that you’re never out of range of a signal and if necessary can continue to work uninterrupted as you travel.
Fortunately for the international traveller, announcements and signage feature English alongside Korean, somewhat reducing the likelihood of getting lost if you find yourself having to navigate the city without a guide. The subway is the only system in the world to have full-colour LCD screens installed throughout stations, with displays on the trains showing a variety of content from news coverage to stock prices to keep you informed in transit.
Commuting can be a trying experience, but at least with these particular transit systems you know there’s probably a lot less to worry about, so long as you mind the gap!
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