I remember the days when we used to travel to visit my cousin and the family in Bucharest from Mangalia, my hometown on the Black Sea coast. Making my way from a small place to what felt like the biggest place in the world to a 7-year-old boy.
Arriving in Gara de Nord in Bucharest and then making our way to my cousin’s house via what to me seemed like the most amazing thing. This amazing thing was the Bucharest Metro.
Waiting on the platform for this long train to pull in and take us to our destination. A constant breeze of cold and warm air flowing from the tunnels. I can remember it so vividly now noise as the trains break into station.
This was incredible, the first time I had ever been on the underground transportation system.
However, the Bucharest Metro is not exactly as a little boy remembers. It’s not the biggest in the world, not the prettiest, and it certainly isn’t the most efficient. The Bucharest Metro has a great history opening for its first service on the 16th Nov 1979. Consisting of 44.3 miles in length and having 53 stations, the Bucharest Metro carries approx. over 650,000 passengers per day.
In the 1930’s when Bucharest was regarded by many as Mini Paris the earliest plans for the Bucharest Metro were drafted. However, with World War II breaking out, followed by period of political unrest resulting in the installation of communism, put an end to those plans.
By the 1970’s Bucharest’s public transport system was the fourth largest in Europe yet was no longer adequate due to the fast pace of urban development in the capital city. The development of the Bucharest Metro was now necessary and construction on the system started on the 20th September 1975.
Once it did begin, however, construction preceded at breakneck speed: the first part of the metro opening just over three years later. No mean feat, especially given that the mix of sedimentary rock and soft clay on which Bucharest sits made tunnelling an engineering nightmare. They say that “Ceausescu used to bring truck loads of army personnel” to help build the underground. Not sure how much of this statement is true but a fascinating one none the less.
Indeed, the Bucharest metro is one of the most revealing legacies of the Ceausescu regime. It was designed to get workers from the massive housing estates built during the 1960s and 1970s (Titan, Militari) to the factories where they worked, as quickly and efficiently as possible, using as few resources as possible.
The Bucharest Metro network did not follow the same style as other Eastern European systems. The Bucharest Metro decided to employ simple station designs, clean-cut, modern, and without excessive decoration. The main function was that the stations delivered speed of transit and practicality. Well done Romania!
The trains themselves were all constructed in Romania and did not follow the Eastern European style of construction. This may have been Communist pride to be fair as there is a pattern emerging here of not following anyone else. Each station followed a colour theme and designed to be open plan with no stations made to look exactly like any other. The Bucharest Metro is larger than those of Prague and Budapest and when planned new line extensions are finished the Bucharest Metro will consist of over 100km in length with 80 stations.
There are 4 metro lines in operation, 1 under construction, and another 1 in the planning phase. The metro as we know it today was completed in just 13 years. By the time the section from Gara de Nord to Dristor was opened in August 1989, an astonishing 39 stations and 57 km of tunnel had been built since 1976.
In stark contrast, it took almost 10 years to finish the 3.6 km 1 Mai branch (opened in 2000), and a further eight to complete the 4.75 km extension to Anghel Saligny (opened in 2008). Two more stations (Jiului and Parc Bazilescu opened in July 2011).
If you find yourself taking a trip to Bucharest I would say that travelling around this great city has to be experience on the Bucharest Metro system.
Head of Customer Success, uTrack