Blog by Andrew Sharp, former Director General of IARO
One Saturday recently, I used First Capital Connect’s local train service to go into London. Because of engineering work associated with the Thameslink programme, which will increase capacity and service on the route, all trains were terminating at St. Pancras instead of going through London to Gatwick and Brighton. That was one hassle: my journey would have been significantly easier if I’d been able to ride through.
The second hassle was apparent at St. Pancras, where the train stopped with the back of the train adjacent to the exit. If it had stopped with the second and third car by the exit instead, nearly everyone would have had a shorter walk! Immediately afterwards came hassle 3. There are two escalators from platform to mezzanine level – normally one up, one down.
That day was the same, but the down escalator was barriered off – obviously, trains were terminating at that platform so no-one wanted to go down to board trains. Everyone wanted to go up. The thought, “Why don’t they switch it off and save energy?” was immediately followed by, “Why don’t they run that one up too?”. The answer, probably, is that four times an hour staff needed to go down and meet trains: it was easier for them to have an escalator than to use the stairs!
The fourth hassle also concerned escalators. From mezzanine to ground level there are 3 escalators. These are normally used sensibly, with two running up in the morning peak and two down in the evening peak. Today, there were two going down and one up. Why, exactly? Has no-one noticed that, when passengers arrive at a terminus to catch a train, they do so in small groups, whereas when they leave an arriving train at a terminus they do so 200-300 at a time? So why weren’t there two escalators going up, rather than down? Bear in mind that this was a summer weekend, on a line which serves Luton airport and the Eurostar terminal and normally goes through to Gatwick airport – there were, of course, people with small children, with buggies, with heavy luggage.
A second escalator up would have helped disperse the crowd and got people where they were going quicker. Ok, none of these hassles was a deal-breaker. They were all nuisances, nothing more, especially when you stopped to think that the station staff hadn’t stopped to think. But they all cumulatively added to the hassle of going by train. Only the first one was reasonable: the other three were quite unnecessary. How many other trivial hassles are there just because people won’t think about what passengers want? How about correcting this, First Capital Connect, and leaving the hassle to the airlines?
I hope you enjoyed reading this: I look forward to your feedback.