London Underground to pilot new escalator arrangement at Holborn Tube station

10 March 2016
"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"

Customers at Holborn station will be asked to stand on both sides of two 'up' escalators, in plans announced today to reduce congestion at the station.

From 18 April the new arrangements will be in place for around six months, with a range of signage and customer information encouraging people to fill up the escalators by standing on both sides. The other 'up' escalator will still be available for people who want to walk.

Behavioural science

A variety of messages, developed with the help of the behavioural science department at the London School of Economics, will be tested at different times to see which work best. These include standard instructions to customers and 'light' messages that play on words about standing.

These will be communicated in various ways, including using a talking projection of a staff member, electronic versions of the triangular 'stand on the right' signs that customers pass as they travel up the escalator, signs on the floors, foot prints on the escalator steps, handprints on the handrails and station announcements.

Record numbers

Peter McNaught, Operations Director at London Underground, said: '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. 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.'

More capacity and reliability

LU invests £1.3bn a year in its capital programme, with major stations, trains, track and signalling being modernised or replaced to provide more capacity and reliability for a growing city. The next major phase of this work will bring faster, more frequent and more reliable journeys to millions of passengers who use the Circle, District, Metropolitan and Hammersmith & City lines.

Redevelopment work to increase capacity at key stations and make them step-free is also underway at a number of stations including Victoria, Tottenham Court Road and Bond Street. More than half of LU's 270 stations have now been modernised or refurbished.

In addition, when the Elizabeth line fully opens from 2019, more than half a million customers a day will be served by a fleet of brand new 200m long trains at 40 stations, including 10 newly built in London.

More customers

The London Underground convention is for customers to stand on the right of escalators, allowing others to walk on the left. However, at stations with very long escalators, such as Holborn, few customers choose to walk, meaning that much of left-hand-side of the escalator is unused.

A previous test held in November and December 2015, proved that as many as 30% more customers could use an escalator in the busiest parts of the day if they stood on both sides.

During that experiment, extra staff were brought in to ask customers to stand on both sides. A similar arrangement will be in place at the start of the new trial, after which the staff will not be present and LU will be testing whether customers will change their behaviour in the longer term through use of the signs and messages and force of habit.


Notes to Editors:

  • The 'standing only' arrangement will be in use for the two escalators closest to Central line platforms
  • Holborn Tube station is one of the busiest on the Tube network, with more than 56m customers each year
  • The Holborn escalators leading to the ticket hall are 23.4 metres tall, so most Holborn customers will prefer to stand on the 'up' escalators rather than walk. 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

Example messages:


  • 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

Results of previous three-week trial:

  • Before the previous trial, calculations showed the Holborn escalators would normally each carry around 80 people per minute, with more standing than walking. Theoretically LU expected to see this rise to more than 110 people, with the escalators filled with standing passengers on both sides
  • The results exceeded expectations, with a recorded increase of 30%. An escalator that carried an average of 2,500 customers between 8.30 and 9.30am on a normal day, carried around 3,250 when it was designated standing only for the same five-day period
  • 'Station control' - temporarily preventing customers from entering the station because of crowding - was only implemented on one day during the first week of tests and not at all in the other two weeks. Prior to the tests implementing station control was something which happened several times a week. This is a good indicator that flows had improved.