diamond geezer

 Tuesday, May 01, 2012

It's long mystified me why Next Train Indicators at tube stations perform so very differently. At Bow Road, for example, we get just one minute's advance warning of the next westbound train, and the second train is never mentioned. Mile End, meanwhile, gets up to six minutes advance warning of up to three trains. Why should passengers at two consecutive District line platforms get such completely different information?

Part of the problem is the hotchpotch of legacy systems that make up London's sub-surface signalling, some of which dates back to the 1920s. There are major plans to replace the lot, especially the really flaky sections, but it'll be years until the full upgrade's complete. In the meantime we get to make do with minimal information at certain stations, and rather more at others.

So I've been on a clockwise tour of the Circle line to see how good or bad its Next Train Indicators are. They're certainly a mixed bunch. Most look like one of the two designs pictured here, either the sturdy older version above, or the cheap-looking recent version below. Only King's Cross and Westminster boast sleek black indicators, more usually seen on the deep-level lines. Meanwhile Edgware Road struggles on with some vile red LED display, and High Street Kensington functions with the aid of a 50 year-old lightbox. There is no consistency here, no consistency at all.

I stood on each clockwise platform waiting to answer two questions: "How many trains does this Next Train Indicator display?" (it's invariably 1 or 3) and "How much advance warning does it give?" The latter's quite a difficult question to answer. You need to watch for the moment when a previously invisible train suddenly appears on the display, and the flow of trains doesn't always let you do that. Most of the times in the table are the maximum possible, because I hung around long enough to confirm this, but where I've used brackets, that's merely the longest time I saw.

Next Train Indicators on the clockwise Circle Line
StationAge of
Number of
next trains
→ Paddington
-nilnilThere are no functioning Next Train Indicators here.
Edgware Roadancient11 minBarely any advance warning at all. The signage here is old, faint and atrocious. Anti-clockwise travel is much more complicated.
Baker Streetlate
31 minWhen the display says "1 min" away, that's incredibly optimistic.
Great Portland Street21stC31 minWith only a 1 minute advance warning, it's rare to see two trains on the board, let alone three.
Euston Square21stC33 minsIn the opposite direction, anti-clockwise, over 10 minutes advance warning is given.
King's Cross
St Pancras
modern44 minsNext trains are also announced by a semi-intelligible automated female voice.
37 minsNew Next Train Indicators are being installed - they still have their plastic wrappers on.
38 mins 
39 minsFor some unexplained reason, all the Next Train destinations are in capital letters.
Liverpool Streetlate
3(11 mins)The greatest advance warning anywhere on the clockwise Circle line.
Aldgate-1(6 mins)There are no functioning Next Train Indicators on the platform (yet), but there is a big display above the stairs.
Tower Hill21stC11 minTwo platforms. An illuminated arrow indicates the Next Westbound Train. This often changes without warning. Confuses the hell out of tourists.
Monumentlate 20thC11 min 
Cannon Street21stC3(1 min)Closed at weekends, but the Next Train Indicator still works.
Mansion Houselate 20thC33 mins 
Blackfriars21stC3(4 mins)A brand new station, but not blessed with the newest sharpest Next Train Indicator.
Templelate 20thC3(5 mins) 
Embankmentlate 20thC34 minsFor some reason, the advance warning here is shorter than at the previous station.
Westminstermodern45 minsWestminster's disembodied voice has been badly programmed... "The next train to Circle Line via Victoria will arrive in two minutes".
St James's Parklate 20thC3(6 mins) 
Victorialate 20thC3(7 mins) 
Sloane Squarelate 20thC3(6 mins) 
South Kensingtonlate 20thC3(8 mins)A lot of advance warning... but this tumbles to barely any at the next station.
Gloucester Road21stC11 minWhere the Circle and District lines split, there's minimal advance warning on either platform.
High Street Kensingtonlightbox11 minThe ancient lightbox says "First Train", but these days the destination's only ever "Edgware Road".
Notting Hill Gate21stC11 minSometimes says "Check destination on front of train", even though it must be Edgware Road.
Bayswater21stC33 mins 
35 mins...and then we're back round to Edgware Road again.

In summary, there are three really useless stretches of Next Train Indicators on the clockwise Circle line, all of them at or just after a junction. Edgware Road to Great Portland Street, 1 minute's notice. Tower Hill and Monument, 1 minute's notice. Gloucester Road to Notting Hill Gate, 1 minute's notice. It'll get better before the end of the decade, really it will. But for now it's much easier to discover when the next ten buses are due (above ground) than the next one train (below).

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream