diamond geezer

 Friday, February 20, 2009

I am the King of Holborn station, I am. I've been commuting there every morning for years, and I have the place licked. It can be a real nightmare pushing through the rush-hour crowds in the labyrinthine tunnels. But I know precisely where to go and where to stand in order to beat the crowds. When my Central line train pulls into the westbound platform, I am usually the very first passenger into the exit passageway, leaving hundreds of other less talented commuters trailing in my wake. Trust me, this takes skill and judgement, not brute force and light jogging, and I'm always amazed how easily my fellow commuters allow me to win. So today I thought I'd offload everything I've learnt about my daily tube journey in case any other Bow-to-Holborn commuter should one day find it useful.

London Commuter Handbook: no 6904: Bow Road to Holborn

1) Enter Bow Road station without pausing to pick up a free Metro (because you won't be able to read it during the ensuing crush). Weave through the leftmost ticket barrier, avoiding any comatose ditherers blocking the passage, and head left down to the westbound platform.

2) Pass left along the platform. There's no need to check the 'next train' indicator because you can catch any service going westbound, not just a District line train. Walk approximately halfway along the platform, stopping at its widest point where a trapezium of daylight pours in from the street above. Wait patiently between the two pillars, just to the east of Camera 35.

3) Enter the first train that arrives. Hold back and allow all the other passengers to board first, so that you end up standing immediately inside the closing door. Remember, the last person on at Bow Road will be the first person off at the next station.

4) When the train arrives at Mile End station, disembark. Cross the platform, which should take all of five seconds - this is the world's easiest interchange. At the platform edge move one step to the left to stand directly in front of pillar 16. This positioning is crucial because it allows you to be waiting immediately beside the doors of an incoming train, not immediately in front.

5) Wait for the next Central line train. It's just about possible to read the last few characters on the 'next train' indicator if you poke your head out over the yellow line and peer to the left. If the last letter is an 's', the next train is at least "2 mins" away. If the last letter isn't an 's', the next train is only "1 min" away.

6) When the next Central Line train arrives, you should find yourself standing beside the third set of doors in the third carriage. Be polite and allow all the disembarking passengers out of the train first. Then nip into the carriage sharpish and find a space before the invading hordes nick them all. It may be very hard to squeeze into the jam-packed carriage, but you should have the advantage of a premier position.

7) If possible try to force yourself directly across the carriage to stand beside the doors on the opposite side of the train. These doors won't open until the train reaches Holborn, so squeezing into this spot is of prime importance. Do not 'move right on down the carriage' into the narrow gap between the seats. Hold onto something. Breathe in.

8) Prepare for even more people to attempt to cram into the carriage, especially at Bethnal Green and Bank where the third carriage halts adjacent to the platform entrance. Several people will also attempt to exit the carriage, especially at Bank, St Paul's and Chancery Lane where commuters head to work in the City above. Use all of these station stops to try to edge even closer to the centre of the doors on the left hand side of the train.

9) When the train pulls into Holborn station, you should be in pole position in front of the doors. Smile victoriously at your fellow Holborn disembarkers, who've only now realised that you're standing precisely where they want to be. When the doors open, shoot out onto the platform and stride confidently into the tunnel opposite marked Way Out and Piccadilly Line. Grin smugly, because a huge scrum is about to develop behind you as commuters who weren't in the third carriage queue to reach this particular exit.

10) Turn left, then ascend the short flight of stairs ahead of you. In ten seconds' time this will be a tortoise-speed bottleneck as crowds jam into the narrow passageway to try to exit the platform behind, but right now you're the one at the head of the queue. Turn right at the top of the stairs and almost immediately you'll find yourself at the bottom of the main escalators. First. Congratulations, you are the King of Holborn station you are.

I'm having a great week, because so far I've been the first person off the Central line platform for four days running. If I can win victory again today then this'll be my most successful week ever on the Bow Road → Holborn run. Alas, it'll also be just in time to never ever have to do this journey again. Next week my place of work is relocating, and I'll have to learn a completely different route to optimised success. Where to stand, where to go, where to wait - I'll have to deduce it all again from scratch. I'm sure I'll manage. In the meantime, the role of King of Holborn station is up for grabs. Follow my advice, and it's all yours.

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