One of the first rules of London tube etiquette is when on the escalators, you stand on the right and walk up the left side. This London Underground convention is a accepted rule and much valued by Londoners but often a source of confusion for visitors.
In a radical break from convention, passengers at Holborn station will be asked not to walk up two escalators after research has found that standing on both sides improved passenger flow and reduced congestion.
Holborn is one of the stations that has quite long and high escalators, therefore fewer people take up the option of walking up the escalator causing queues to form at the bottom. During a test when standing on both, the results found 16,220 people could travel on Holborn’s 23.4m (76ft 8in) -high escalators during rush hour, compared to 12,745 in normal circumstances.
So how do you get people to change their escalator habits ? TFL is using a number of approaches during the trial to find out which is most successful. One of the more novel approaches is the ‘hologram’ of a member of the TFL staff explaining the changes, other approaches include electronic “standing only” signs, blue footsteps and handprints on the handrails.
Early indications are that hundreds of the normally imperturbable commuters are ignoring the advice and walking anyway. But with 56 million people using Holborn annually and congestion a problem at peak times, it may be that one of the common conventions on the Tube is under threat especially in stations with long and high escalators.