diamond geezer

 Friday, April 19, 2013

HAMMERSMITH & CITY: Door not in use

Coming soon to a sub-surface platform near you...

As walk-through S Stock trains roll out across the Hammersmith & City line (with Circle and District lines to follow), this small red sign will become a more familiar sight to Londoners underground. The H&C's new S7 trains are seven carriages long whereas their predecessors had only six. These used to stop embarrassingly short at the rear of platforms, whereas the new trains sometimes stop embarrassingly long. Several of the stations along the Hammersmith & City line weren't built with 117m-long trains in mind, so the new trains have to stop with one end poking off the end of the platform, and some doors don't open. It's not ideal.
Before you write in and tell me, yes, I know that selective door opening is nothing new on London transport. Northern line trains don't open every door at every station, and there are five DLR stations where a third of the doors don't open on 3-carriage trains. More to the point, S Stock trains already run a full service on the Metropolitan line, and these all have eight carriages to the H&C's seven. S8 trains are a whopping 134 metres long, and they really don't fit into a number of older stations (such as Farringdon). But today, if you'll forgive me, I'm going to concentrate on the foibles of the shorter S7.
The way it works is this. Before the S7s were allowed into public service, TfL ran test trains along the Hammersmith & City line to determine the best position to stop at each station. They've marked this at the front of the platform, if you look, with a long arrowed board labelled >>>>>S7<<<<< which shows the driver exactly where to pull up. There are similar boards on the Metropolitan line labelled >>>>>S8<<<<<, and some where both lines run simultaneously labelled >>>>>SS<<<<<. The upshot of this level of precision is that TfL know at which stations all the doors can open and at which they can't, and then they've programmed the train's computer systems appropriately.

Take Baker Street for example. The Hammersmith & City line platform is one of the oldest on the underground and therefore a little on the short side. TfL can't just swan along and knock an extra hole at the end of a grade II listed building, so the platform lengths are fixed and trains are unable to open all their doors. Baker Street is a particularly bad case, with doors at both the front and the back staying closed, and passengers are left staring out at the tunnel wall instead. TfL have thought of this, so have pinned special notices to walls advising passengers what to do. "Move along train to exit", they say, with a helpful arrow pointing left if you're at the front of the train and right at the back. If you're planning to travel to Baker Street, be careful not to sit at the very end of the train.

But there's a more blatant alert system than this. Above each door in the front and rear carriages is a small rectangular sign which lights up when a door is not in use. It says "Door not in use", as you might expect, along with a big red cross to make this clear to passengers who can't necessarily read. Added alongside are two permanent stickers which warn passengers that "These doors will not open at some stations". This is to encourage passengers to approach the doors with an air of healthy scepticism, to be aware that they might not open so that it won't be a surprise when they don't.

There's also a written hint to listen out for announcements, because these will tip you off in advance regarding non-opening doors. "The front two doors will not open at the next station. Please use other doors." The announcements only occur at the end of the train where the disruption will occur - nobody else is inconvenienced by having to listen. But cleverest of all, the volume of these announcements is slightly higher than the usual generic "the next station is...". The idea is that you're bound to notice this special message, and then you'll shuffle your way up the train to an opening door to alight. Alas, reality is not so smooth.

What often happens is that people don't listen to the announcements. After a few hours, days or months underground we tend to blot these out, because they don't tell us anything new, and continue in our travelling bubble without engaging. For those who don't speak English, or those plugged into headphones, no early warning signal via the spoken word is going to get the message across. Miss this announcement, as many passengers seem to do, and you'll never know how many doors won't open. Do you need to walk back one set, two sets, perhaps even three? Guess wrong and you'll be standing at a wall when the train stops, not an exit.

But there's a bigger problem, which I'd like to suggest is a major design flaw, should anyone responsible be listening. The red sign above the door only lights up at the precise moment that the door doesn't open. It doesn't light up beforehand to warn you the door won't open, which would actually be useful. The message is "Door not in use", not "Door will not open" - present tense rather than future. Annoyingly the red warning is flashed up only when it's too late, which is bugger all use except to confirm that the door is staying shut. In any rational system the red sign would light up well in advance, ideally as soon as the train left the preceding station, which would give departing passengers ample time to wander up the train to a non-red exit. Instead, instant frustration, even mild panic, in a suddenly desperate attempt to escape.
I had the misfortune recently to be riding an eastbound S7 train being driven by a driver in training. I first got a hint that something was up when we rolled into Farringdon station and the front doors didn't open. They should have, we were alongside a platform, but instead the red "Door not in use" sign flashed up for no good reason and passengers were duly inconvenienced. The front doors did open at Liverpool Street and Whitechapel, where the front of the platform is incredibly narrow, but then stayed shut at Stepney Green whose platform is whopping. Entirely unpredictable and atypical behaviour, as if the driver was pressing the wrong buttons or the onboard computer was playing up.

And then, in a packed rush hour train, we reached Bow Road. Normally every door opens, but on this occasion the front three didn't. We departing passengers stared at each other in disbelief, because we wanted to go home but for some reason we couldn't. We looked down to the next set of doors, also shut, and the next set, hard to see but looking shut too. It seemed likely that the doors beyond that had opened, as other passengers were spilling out onto the platform, but there was no chance we could push through those standing and reach that on time.

And so we were trapped on board, thanks to malfunctioning modern technology or driver error, and the train duly carted us off unwillingly to Bromley-by-Bow. Would we be trapped here too? There were no clues because, as you'll remember, the red sign doesn't light up in advance. Thankfully everything opened here, and we faced no more than an additional ten minutes walk home. It had been a completely one-off incident, entirely atypical, but symptomatic of the chaos which ensues when folk get no warning in a crowded train that the door in front of them is temporarily out of action.
Instead of this laissez faire attitude to selective door opening, where doors "may not open" at some stations, something a little more concrete would be useful. A red sign that lights up in advance, rather than too late. A list of stations where the doors won't open, rather than leaving passengers to find out through experience. Something to help avoid embarrassment and awkwardness on discovering too late that you're standing somewhere you shouldn't. In particular, something to make the system more appropriate for those with accessibility issues who can't dash down the carriage and escape without due warning.

So here's my attempt to list the doors that don't open on the new S7 Hammersmith & City trains. I've only ridden in the front carriage from one end of the line to the other, and it'd take another journey at the rear to get the full list. Maybe you can help me to complete the list, and to check it, but only if you can find one of these rare S7 trains in the first place. And only if the doors open to allow you on board.

Do not open eastbound: Hammersmith (front door), Goldhawk Road (front door), Baker Street (front door, last 3 doors)
Do not open westbound: Baker Street (front 2 doors, last 3 doors)

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
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

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths
exploring urban wastelands

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards