Opinion Former Article

Tube station bans walking on escalators

Holborn tube station has banned passengers from walking on two ‘up’ escalators in a bid to ease congestion. But many London Underground users are flouting the new rule by continuing to pass to the left of those standing.

In a five minute period in yesterday’s morning peak TP Weekly News observed 153 commuters walking up the pair of escalators rather than stand on the left as directed.

Users expressed their dislike of the new arrangement on Twitter. Transport for London said it was pleased with how the six month trial has gone so far.

“People were standing on both sides of the escalator at busy times,” a spokesperson said. “We will continue to monitor customer behaviour throughout the trial.”

Complaints from users outnumbered support for the scheme on social media. “I came to London in 1971, vowed to get my exercise by always walking up the escalators. Still doing it today, don't plan to stop,” said one Twitter user. Another tweeted: “I chuckled all the way up the escalator at Holborn this morning, as we all calmly continued to stand on the right and walk on the left.”

Transport for London claims that a previous trial at Holborn last year found that standing on both sides of the up escalators reduced congestion by 30%. London Underground’s operations director Peter McNaught said before the trial: “The etiquette on London Underground is for customers to stand on the right of escalators, allowing others to walk on the left. However few customers choose to walk on longer escalators such as Holborn, so much of the left-hand-side is unused.

“We hope that this can lead to improving congestion at Holborn, making journeys easier for all of our customers.”

New signs and customer information are on display to encourage customers to stand on both sides. A third 'up' escalator is also available for people who still want to walk. Behavioural scientists at the London School of Economics have developed a series of measures to encourage users not to walk on the escalators to see which works best.

These include standard instructions to customers and messages which use a play on words about standing. At the foot of the escalators passengers pass a talking ‘projection’ of a staff member giving advice, new electronic versions of the triangular 'stand on the right' signs are in use and there are now signs on the floor, footprints on the escalator steps and handprints on the handrails.

Holborn is one of the busiest stations on the London Underground and the escalators leading to the ticket hall are over 23m tall. Transport for London claims that research has shown that for escalators with a vertical height of more than 18.5m it might be more effective to encourage standing on both sides because few customers will want to walk.

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