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AHC: Keep the London Underground as the largest RTS in the world

SinghSong

Well-known member
Location
Slough
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Here, the Alternate History Challenge is to create an ATL scenario in which the London Underground still retains the title of the world's largest rapid transit system all the way to the present day, in at least one of these aspects:

a) Total system length,
b) Total number of stations, and
c) Annual ridership.

The POD must be after 1900, but besides that, there are no other stipulations (although nuclear war is distasteful). Up for it?
 

Alex Richards

A musical Hubble Space Telescope
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
Location
Derbyshire
Looking at total system length, you'd only need a relatively small extension to go over Moscow, and then severely retard the development of the Chinese networks and you're there.

That feels slightly like cheating however.

I'd need to look further into the unbuilt underground to say more- though somehow retaining the Metropolitan line extension to Verney Junction would certainly be a start.
 

Bonniecanuck

DIEF WILL BE THE CHIEF AGAIN
Location
Hong Kong, now and forever home
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she/her + they/them
There's a relatively easy answer to stretch out system length. In many Japanese rapid transit systems as well as the Seoul Subway, a number of metro lines run through services onto commuter lines run by a different operator. The extent to which they're still considered a single line differs - Seoul, for example, counts through services as a single line regardless of who owns the tracks and stations, so those are all counted as part of the subway network, while in Tokyo the system length is strictly divided between the different operators, so those commuter lines aren't counted. Theoretically, if you can have London run on this sort of through service model and adopt the Seoul definition of what constitutes the Underground's system length, that'll probably work.

That's the theoretical answer. In practice, after 1900, you may be hard pressed to get the infrastructure between the underground railway operators and the above-ground railways to be coordinated, since they would have different specifications for their equipment. This model is actually fairly recent in terms of rapid transit, since it first emerged in Tokyo in the 1960s, but in those cases it was the result of new underground lines built to the same standard as the above-ground connection. I think the best odds for this kind of model to take shape would be in the post-war period, as a solution to deal with traffic and commute issues that would arise from suburbanisation. It would be extremely costly, though, since it would entail having the mainline railway undergo conversions to meet Underground standards, and/or vice versa. There's also the issue of density which would justify having commuter rail run at a rapid transit standard, but that's a bigger issue altogether.
 
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Nyvis

Token Marxist
Location
Paris
Pronouns
She/Her
There's a relatively easy answer to stretch out system length. In many Japanese rapid transit systems as well as the Seoul Subway, a number of metro lines run through services onto commuter lines run by a different operator. The extent to which they're still considered a single line differs - Seoul, for example, counts through services as a single line regardless of who owns the tracks and stations, so those are all counted as part of the subway network, while in Tokyo the system length is strictly divided between the different operators, so those commuter lines aren't counted. Theoretically, if you can have London run on this sort of through service model and adopt the Seoul definition of what constitutes the Underground's system length, that'll probably work.
France also has a similar situation, but only partially. We have two different models of subway transit. Metro, which is purely subway and largely in Paris proper, and RER which extends into commuter suburbs quite a lot, but operate underground in Paris proper. The latter does share tracks with regular train lines.

But yeah that's a hack.

I wonder how different an aggressively planned London could be if built up by, say, a socialist Britain. One that never goes into capitalism's car mania maybe. On the other hand, if you plan too well, you wouldn't need as much transit since you could avoid the sharp residential/office space divide that leads to so much commuting and instead try to favour localizing people near their work. But that's not necessarily going to impact track length, just volume.
 

kratostatic

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Anyers-upon-Senn, Island-of-France
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France also has a similar situation, but only partially. We have two different models of subway transit. Metro, which is purely subway and largely in Paris proper, and RER which extends into commuter suburbs quite a lot, but operate underground in Paris proper. The latter does share tracks with regular train lines.
Such blatant Transilien and Tram erasure smh.

FWIW the London underground is arguably closer to the RER in scope though not in train size; the stations are every 1600m on average (700m for tree Paris metro and I believe 2km for the RER though I can't find the actual stat right now), and of course it goes out to Heathrow which is further from the city centre than either CDG or Orly.

Anyway, as you say maybe the really cheat way to do this is to integrate large chunks of the mainline (i.e. what's now Southern Rail) network as a "super-underground".
 

Nyvis

Token Marxist
Location
Paris
Pronouns
She/Her
Such blatant Transilien and Tram erasure smh.

FWIW the London underground is arguably closer to the RER in scope though not in train size; the stations are every 1600m on average (700m for tree Paris metro and I believe 2km for the RER though I can't find the actual stat right now), and of course it goes out to Heathrow which is further from the city centre than either CDG or Orly.

Anyway, as you say maybe the really cheat way to do this is to integrate large chunks of the mainline (i.e. what's now Southern Rail) network as a "super-underground".
I don't think CDG or Orly are the farthest the RER lines go though. The longest ones leave the Paris unified fare area (I think Malesherbes is the most distant one). But yeah what I meant by other train lines was mainly transilien. Definitely not "underground" by any means.
 

Dan1988

Sorry, sunshine, wrong place
Anyway, as you say maybe the really cheat way to do this is to integrate large chunks of the mainline (i.e. what's now Southern Rail) network as a "super-underground".
Well, Southern + Southeastern + Gatwick Express + Thameslink + Great Northern, surely.
 
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