Everyone knows there’s an unspoken but extremely strict code of conduct for travelling on the Underground: never make eye contact, don’t engage in conversation, don’t lean on the poles and never, ever stand on the left side of the escalator. Uproar ensued when TfL tampered with one of the most sacred Tube maxims for a six-month trial in April 2016, asking people travelling through Holborn station to stand on – get ready to gasp – both sides of the escalator, with no walking allowed. During the trial, which aimed to ease congestion and delays at the station, one of four escalators became standing only at all times, while another escalator followed the new regime at certain times throughout the day.
Now, thanks to a Freedom of Information request from Gizmodo UK, TfL's initial results from the trial have been revealed – and guess what? We may have all be living a Tube etiquette lie. Well, maybe. The trial found that the standing-only escalators were able to carry an average of 151 passengers per minute, compared with 115 on the escalator where the old rules still applied and people stood on the right and walked on the left.
This wasn’t always the case, the TfL report said: ‘Greater throughputs are seen on escalators 6 and 7 when there is a low proportion of passengers walking up the escalators.’ But, ultimately it concluded: ‘This indicates that during very busy periods a greater throughput can be achieved when passengers stand on both sides of the escalator.’
So TfL may have a point with the standing only escalators, but we’ll be damned if they try to make those Tube Chat badges stick.
Image: Sean Batten