Around the world in 2022, there is a growing dependence on the railways in many countries with the likes of China plowing ahead with ambitious projects to build high-speed networks. However it’s neighbouring Japan that is home to most of the busiest train stations in the world and in this post we’re going to find out what they are, whilst also looking at some of the busiest stations in other countries and continents.
The World’s Busiest Railway Stations – Look no further than Japan!
There is nowhere quite like Japan when it comes to travelling by train with the country’s impressive high-speed network lines and suburban networks used by tens of millions of people on a daily basis.
Japan is home to some of the fastest trains in the world and it is also the country with the busiest railway station. Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station is a quite extraordinary, and for the uninitiated, very overwhelming place with an average of 3.59 million passengers per day reported in 2018. It’s home to 36 platforms and more than 200 exits and is set for renovations to make it easier to navigate, although the bad news is they won’t be complete until the mid 2040’s!
Shinjuku is the busiest station in the world but there are many others in Japan that come quite close in terms of passenger numbers, not to mention complexity. The second and third busiest train stations in Japan are not far away in Central Tokyo and also rank second and third in the world. Shibuya and Ikebukuro stations both average around a billion passengers per year while Osaka’s Umeda Station is not far behind that and would easily top the list were it in any other country in the world.
The Busiest Train Stations in the Rest of Asia
In terms of total passenger-kilometres per year, there are two countries that top Japan and they are both in Asia. It’s no surprise that those countries are China, with it’s rapidly growing network, and India where millions rely on the railways for long distance travel. However, with both countries considerably larger than Japan, those facts don’t always translate into busy railway stations, at least not on the scale of those in the land of the rising sun.
China’s busiest railway station is in the capital. Western Beijing Railway Station reportedly serves around 100,000-140,000 travellers per day which still makes it incredibly busy but it’s only a small fraction of the numbers that pass through the busiest stations in Japan. It does have the advantage of being slightly more spacious though and was Asia’s largest train station until it was surpassed by the station at Shanghai Hongqiao Airport.
India’s busiest train station serves a considerably larger number of people and you’d struggle to guess its location if you didn’t know. It doesn’t lie in the capital Delhi or booming Mumbai, but in the country’s 39th largest city of Howrah in the state of West Bengal, although in practice it serves as a major terminus connecting nearby Kolkata to the surrounding region and rest of India.
Howrah Railway Station, often referred to as Howrah Junction, is something of a relic to another era with the first locomotive train leaving the station way back in 1853. Today it is swarmed by commuters and travellers into and out of Kolkata with around 600 trains per day. There is no official passenger data for Howrah, which can be a chaotic place at the best of times but railway officials estimate that it receives close to a million passengers each day which would potentially make it the busiest train station outside of Japan.
Another station at least in the picture when it comes to that is Taipei Main Station, a massive rail hub on the island of Taiwan with a reported 190 million total entries and exits in 2017 when taking into account passengers using the station’s rail, high-speed railway and metro connections.
Busiest Train Stations in Europe
There is no definitive list of the busiest train stations in the world with data not always available or even recorded in some countries, and in any case the impact of the pandemic will have changed the picture considerably. However you can get pretty accurate pre-2020 figures across Europe, another major centre for rail travel with most countries at least having networks that connect all the main cities and towns, while plenty have high-speed networks.
The busiest railway station in Europe is Paris Gare du Nord which reported 292 million passengers in the year 2019. That’s only around 23% of the annual numbers who pass through Shinjuku but it’s comfortably the busiest in Europe ahead of Germany’s Hamburg (196 million) and Frankfurt am Main (180 million) while only Munich Station has more platforms with 34 compared to Paris Gare du Nord’s 32.
The busiest train station in the UK is London Waterloo, although with only 94 million passengers per year, that doesn’t even make the top ten in the continent overall. That list also features the likes of Zürich HB, Paris’ Gare de Lyon and Madrid Atocha. Meanwhile the main stations in the Italian cities of Rome and Milan also feature with the two also home to the busiest airports in Italy.
Busiest Train Stations in the US
The United States hasn’t embraced rail travel in the same way of many of its European or Asian counterparts but there are a few large commuter networks in some of the big urban areas, particularly around New York.
The Big Apples’ Penn Station and Grand Central rank as the two busiest in North America but they don’t get close to the kinds of numbers we see at the busiest railway stations in the world. Penn Station serves just over 100 million passengers annually while Grand Central is more in the region of 65 million, a fraction more than Toronto Union, the busiest railway station in Canada.
The Best of the Rest
There are few other train stations around the world that even get close to the kinds of passenger figures seen at stations up and down Japan.
In Oceania, Sydney Central Railway Station is the busiest with 85 million journeys in the year 2018. Meanwhile Johannesburg Park Station is the largest in Africa although it lacks accurate passenger figures.
This look at the busiest train stations in the world was published in 2022. Most of the data relates to 2019 or before as most stations have been much quieter during the pandemic.