Hong Kong’s MTR is among the world’s best subway systems, according to a list compiled by CNN. The city’s 10-line mass transit railway— which includes heavy rail, light rail, and a feeder bus service — made it to the list in large part because of its on-time performance, clean stations, and vast network in a relatively compact city.

CNN noted that Hong Kong, with its “densely populated city areas crowded around a deep natural harbour and towns scattered across dozens of islands and mountainous countryside”, is not an easy place to build railways. However, the MTR has gained a reputation for “quality, efficiency and punctuality” in the nearly 45 years since it first opened.

London UndergroundBerlin U-Bahn
Beijing MetroMoscow Metro
Copenhagen MetroGlasgow Subway
Paris MétroShanghai Mass Rapid Transit
Tokyo subwayKyiv Metro
Seoul MetroChicago “L”
New York City SubwayDelhi Metro
Mexico City STC MetroHong Kong Mass Transit Railway
Singapore Mass Rapid TransitBudapest Metro
CNN’s complete list of the best subway systems in the world.

The system’s punctuality, in particular, was cited as one of the biggest reasons for its inclusion in the list, with a 99.9% on-time performance according to a 2019 study released by MTR. The subway was also lauded for its funding model, by which the construction of new lines fuels development, which in turns helps finance the system’s expansion. The vast network — comprising more than 150 miles (241 kilometres) of route and 99 stations — is also supported by “clean and spacious” stations.

Other Asian subway systems that made it to CNN’s list are Beijing for its driverless trains and cheap fares, Tokyo for its sprawling network, Seoul for its uninterrupted Wi-Fi, Singapore for its famously clean trains and stations, and Shanghai for its passenger capacity. While CNN’s list is not rank-based, the famous London Underground got first mention for being a “global cultural icon”, and “world leader in transport architecture and design for more than a century”.

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hong kong central mtr station
Hong Kong’s MTR stations are known for being big and clean (© Jamie Lloyd via Flickr)

Last year, Hong Kong was the third-best city in the world for public transport options, which included the MTR as well as trams, buses, ferries, and taxis. The survey took into account the average public transport cost, transport options, public transport stops, and the number of electric vehicles and eco-friendly transport options in the territory.

Header image credits: projectile fish via Flickr

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From the Middle East to the Far East and a couple of places in between, Anjali has lived in no fewer than seven cities in Asia, and has travelled extensively in the region. She worked as a lifestyle journalist in India before coming to Hong Kong, where her favourite thing to do is island-hopping with her daughter. You can check out her musings on motherhood, courtesy her Instagram profile.

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