UK: Following research which has suggested it could provide a 30% increase in capacity on long escalators, on March 10 London Underground announced that passengers at Holborn station will be asked to stand on both sides of two up escalators for a six month trial period starting from April 18. The other up escalator will still be available for people who wish to walk.

The LU convention is for people to stand on the right of escalators, enabling others to walk on the left. However, LU says that few people choose to walk on long escalators, meaning that the left side is unused. As a result, on escalators with a vertical height of more than 18·5 m it might be more effective to encourage standing on both sides. Tests on the 23·4 m escalators at Holborn in November and December 2015 found that an escalator which carried an average of 2 500 people between 08.30 and 09.30 was carrying 3 250 when designated as standing only.

Messages to inform passengers of the change have been developed with the behavioural science department at the London School of Economics, and include standard instructions and messages playing on words about standing. These are to be communicated in various ways, including a talking projection of a staff member, electronic versions of the triangular 'stand on the right' signs alongside escalators, signs on the floors, foot prints on the treads, handprints on the handrails and station announcements. Messages include:

  • Stand on both sides;
  • Stand on the left and the right;
  • Please don't walk on this escalator;
  • Standing room only;
  • Standing? Outstanding!
  • United we stand.

‘It may not seem right that you can go quicker by standing still, but our experiments at Holborn have proved that it can be true’, said LU Operations Director Peter McNaught. ‘This new pilot will help us find out if we can influence customers to stand on both sides in the long term, using just signage and information. Anyone who wants to walk on the other escalators will be free to do so, but we hope that with record numbers using the Tube, customers will enjoy being part of this experiment to find the most efficient ways of getting around.’