London Underground Vs Moscow Metro

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 15 months ago

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London Underground Vs Moscow Metro

Londonist took a trip to Moscow; before long we were exploring the famous metro system.

Why did this place seem so familiar and yet so different to us? And did we like it more than the London Underground itself?

We decided to weigh up the pros and cons of each. Feel free to argue with us though.

We're not sure which Moscow station this is, because it probably isn't labelled

History

London's was, famously, the first underground system in the world, meaning all others took their lead from it.

With Moscow (built in the 1930s under the steely glare/moustache of Stalin), that influence permeates deeper. Not only is it believed the Russian word for station, voksal, derives from a simple misunderstanding regarding Vauxhall, but London Underground staff advised on the construction of Moscow's own subterranean transport network.

Interestingly, the Moscowesque barrel-vaulted ceiling of Gants Hill station is architect Charles Holden's own tribute to the Russians, and completed in 1947 after they'd helped us win the war. Still, at the very least, the tube directly influenced Moscow's first 13 underground stations.

Result: London wins

The Moscowesque Gants Hill station. Photo by Sean Batten in the Londonist Flickr pool

Trains

Just like London, Moscow's metro system has a historical hodgepodge of trains threading through it — everything from wheezing stock that's decades old and noisy as hell, to slinky, open-plan air-conditioned numbers (it was one of Moscow's newer trains that veered off the rails in 2014, killing scores).

The Russian capital's trains are noticeably roomier (more on size later), but as with all non-London metro systems, the lack of moquette leaves seats feeling naked and cold.

As for punctuality; you may think it's a negative thing to have no 'next train' countdown, that is, until you realise you don't really need them — during peak times, the average interval time between trains in Moscow is a mere 90 seconds, and outside these hours it doesn't feel like you're hanging around much longer (that might explain why the Moscow Metro has few ads — there's no time to read them).

Result: It's a draw

Price

Don't, alright? Just don't.

Result: Moscow wins

Cockfosters could do with one of these

Information and navigation

Non-Cyrillic comprehending members of the public are at a distinct disadvantage on the Moscow Metro, and you can soon find yourself in a right pickle trying to needle your way through the cavernous system.

And while we know London's underground network is about as bilingual as Del Boy, even if you were to take away the language factor, the general dearth of information on the Moscow Metro is conspicuous.

Some stations don't have their names written on the platform, maps in the stations are scarce, and you can forget about handy pocket maps altogether.

Something that sums up the sense of befuddlement: we had to catch a train to St Petersburg from what we were told was Oktyabrskaya; when we arrived at Oktyabrskaya though, we were informed the train actually went from a totally different station, which was on a ROAD called Oktyabrskaya, but itself called Leningradsky.

London Underground, we're proud to say, is a right jobsworth when it comes to signage, and info in general.

Result: London wins

TfL gives good signage. Photo by Edward Kimber in the Londonist Flickr pool

Décor

Stalin did some abysmal things, but while the people who built the Moscow Metro didn't exactly have a ball, you cannot deny that the fruits of their labours are almost overwhelming.

Many of the central stations are buried time capsules of grandiloquent communism — underground cathedrals flaunting stained glass (Novoslobodskaya); inundated with bronze statues (Ploshchad Revolyutsii, which was Stalin's personal favourite); studded with mosaics depicting feats of athleticism, science and general outs of doing communism (Mayakovskaya); Grecian marble friezes (Elektrozavodksaya); and bombastic vaulted ceilings that drip with chandeliers (any number of stations).

The London Underground is an altogether humbler beast; a rambling patchwork of eras and styles that have their own personality, yet fit in as a coherent part of the network (TfL has branding down to a tee).

And while the tube might not have Moscow's stately swagger, if you seek them out, you'll find find stained glass (Uxbridge), bronze statues (positioned outside many stations, including Stockwell and Liverpool Street), marble (Marble Arch, yes we cheated) and storytelling mosaics (Leytonstone), and chandeliers (Clapham South).

We're going out on a limb here: London's underground is more eclectic, and no way near as specious.

Result: London wins

Stained glass and a resolute looking passenger in the background, at Novoslobodskaya

Size

Both London and Moscow may be gargantuan metropolises, but only one of them has an underground system that feels it can comfortably accommodate its denizens.

Moscow's advantage is that its metro was built some 70 years later that London's, and constructed by a regime with ideas so massive, most of them ultimately imploded.

The vaulted metro stations, however, remain, and jostling for space on platforms, or letting three trains go by, doesn't appear to be a thing in Moscow.

Another thing; escalators here plunge DEEP (Park Pobedy has Europe's longest escalator, going up which is a bit like that scene from A Matter of Life and Death), so it's rare you'll see people barging past on the left, because the things are simply too long to run up/down.

Ultimately, more space means less stress, means improved passenger etiquette. Although who's overall better mannered out of Muscovites and Londoners, is another article altogether.

Result: Moscow wins

And this is just a SUNDAY (possibly). Photo by Doug in the Londonist Flickr pool

Final score

London: 3 Moscow: 2. Now tell us why we're wrong, in the comments below.

Last Updated 03 April 2017