King’s Cross tube station on the Victoria Line (southbound) has recently seen a scheme introduced for an experimental period where sections of the platform are shaded green in order to show the areas that passengers should keep clear of.
The idea is to encourage better alighting from the trains as well as making for easier contraflows along the platform when they are very busy. Yet the only sign warning of the scheme is that placed at the top of the escalators. There’s no other information anywhere else in the station.
The notice at the top of the Victoria Line escalators that warns of the green lanes scheme.
All so far so good. Except that its got several problems. The first is the colour. Its confusing people because they think its where one should stand in order to get on the trains! The other problem is its a nasty colour and in many ways its considerably similar to the gray platforms which can cause problems for blind/visually impaired people. Green is often seen as a good colour for guidance but sadly its not much use in this case.
The green used is actually quite bright compared to the photographs I had seen of it prior to my visit to the station. However it does depend on where one is, the amount of light reflected, whether there is a train in the station, the amount of passengers about and how dirty it has got.
Its not a helpful scheme in my view (I can say this with some confidence as a former member of the consultation panel for disabled tube and bus users) and its certainly not convivial. That’s a very important word. Compare King’s Cross, say with Euston the next station along, and the difference is clear. There it feels better, more comfortable. Its like having virtual obstacles along the platform at King’s Cross which impede passenger flows and confuse people because there is simply no sense of what the green areas are meant to denote.
Its odd the green lanes goes straight to the out of bounds areas rather then the adjacent exits.
The green lanes consists of hard wearing non slip green plastic sheeting, probably half a millimeter thick. That’s perhaps the only good thing about it. It shows that at least different and better colours and tones could be used, as well as chevrons, arrows and other markings. However I dont think passengers want to be encumbered with signs and colour schemes that would confuse them rather than make the tube more pleasurable to use.
There are other bizarre aspects to this green lanes scheme which I noticed that no-one else has. The first is why does it lead straight to the gated areas which are clearly for train and station staff only? Yes there must be a reason, for example to give staff clear access when the platform is busy, but being right next to the exits it simply doesn’t work because there will be cross flows. What would work better is to control the flow to/from the exits and that hasn’t been done. What does that achieve, except to show bad forethought and planning?
The end of the green lanes a third of the way along just past the exit and ramp area leading to the northern ticket hall.
The other thing is inconsistency. The green lanes only go so far up the platform, about two thirds of the way. Either the entire platform should have it or none at all. Its tantamount to saying the rule applies here but not there. Its like saying the Jubilee Line stations should have platform doors only along half their length. That doesn’t work!
At least a third of the station at the Walthamstow end hasn’t got the green lane scheme!
I visited the station about 18.30pm this is still the peak period although its beginning to abate, so I could see both periods intensive footfall and very brief but much quieter periods, and it seems to me it doesn’t seem to achieve much either way. Yes people stand on them in order to be the first through the tube trains’ doors, but apart from that I didn’t see many particular attempts from anyone to not stand in the green areas. There were people chatting up and down the platforms standing on the lengthwise bit of green lane totally oblivious to what it was for. It seems to me a lot of people think its an area they must stand in but not the other way round.
Passenger flows as a train arrives. Yes some are standing in the grey areas but look at the picture below too!
A few minutes observing the passenger flows on the northbound platform (which was far more intensive than the southbound’s) didn’t show me there was any crucial difference in the modus operandi. Passengers stood ready by the sections where the doors would be because they knew where these were by experience or by the last train that had gone out completely full to the brim, so that shows passengers are jolly well going to stand about where the doors will be, ‘green lanes’ or not!
The northbound platform. The same passenger psychology’s evident even before the doors open. People can only occupy so much space!
I also notice that TfL claim they would make announcements about the green lanes, however this is most outrageous because as a former LRPC panel member, we didn’t want the tube to just rely on announcements and that’s why we compelled the tube to install their first ever dot matrix indicators installed on the tube around twenty five years ago because we wanted passengers to be informed in every way possible, not just aurally. This extends to including better visual information too, something the tube hasn’t got to grips with even now. As I have noticed from other blogs or Tweets, these announcements don’t seem to be made, perhaps that’s out of sheer embarrassment?
The narrowness of the Victoria Line’s platforms make it very hard to introduce this kind of scheme, and that’s a sign its been badly thought out from the start. I am sure there may be ways that it could work but this current set up is just the pits.
Essentially its a scheme that has some best intents but its just not working because of several factors including passenger psychology which can’t be changed. One of the platform staff told me the scheme was rubbish because it was the wrong colour and arrangement for a start and they thought the planners should have another go!
NOTE: The Victoria Line stations were built with narrower platforms than most of the tube system because of the huge costs of building the line. This has unfortunately become one of the bugbears on this otherwise popular and convenient tube route and thus a reason for attempts such as these experimental green lanes to try and ease passenger flows.