The Joys of Tube Travel

Yesterday I was late getting to the Tube station and unfortunately got involved in this unpleasantness. I arrived at about 7:55am to see a train just pulling out of the station. It turned out to be the last one for about forty minutes.

All of that time, the Underground staff were advising us that service was suspended at that we should use alternative routes. They always say that. No matter how trivial the problem is, as soon as service is suspended for whatever reason, they start to encourage people to use alternative routes.

Now I’ve been using the tube pretty regularly for about twenty-five years. I’ve seen a lot of tube suspensions and in all of that time there have been maybe five occasions where taking an alternative route was the right things to do. Most of the time the right choice is to ignore the tube staff and stay put. Usually the service will restart and get you to your destination quicker than any other option. Think about it. If the alternative route was any good you would probably have taken it in the first place. And now it’s just going to be overcrowded from the people who are talking TfL’s advice and switching from your original route.

And that’s how it worked out again yesterday. Yes I had to stand about for forty minutes. But there’s no way that either getting a train to Victoria or a bus to Stockwell would have been any quicker. They would have both been massively overcrowded.

So that’s my advice. Always stay put. Of course, it would be nice if we could get a bit more useful information from the tube staff. But they always seem to think that the current problem could potentially drag on for ages. And, to be fair to them, sometime it can. But on more than one occasion I’ve been on a tube that has finally been given the signal to move on when the platform announcements are still saying that they can’t say how much longer the problem will last.

There was something else that struck me yesterday. And this might be a bit more controversial. Yesterday’s incident was caused by someone banging their head on a tube. We were told that some had been taken critically ill which might be overstating the case a little. The tube was held up for over half an hour whilst they got medical attention for this person. All that time there were thousands of people waiting for a tube to take them to work. In that situation do you leave the person on the tube waiting for medical attention that might take some time to arrive. Or do you get the person off the train as quickly as possible in order to minimise the effects on the rush hour tube service? Maybe they need platform staff who are better trained to make that judgement call. Personally, I think you need a really good reason to bring the kind of chaos that we saw yesterday to one of London’s main transport routes.

But maybe I’m a bit of a heartless bastard.


  1. I dunno Dave, on First Aid courses the first thing they drill into you is “Don’t move the patient”, so you can understand that if the staff have had first aid training then that’s what they’d follow. Also, while it probably wasn’t a severe head injury, head injuries can be very dodgy indeed, so they were probably just playing it safe.I know if it was down to me and all I’d had was basic first aid training, I’d definitely decide to err on the side of not causing anyone to die.But that’s just provincial old me. If I had regular experience of trying to get to places via tube in That London then I might well feel very differently! Heh!

  2. Hi Dave,thanks for this blog post, a similar thing happened to me on the District line this afternoon. Some was “ill” on the tube and the staff started redirecting people onto another route. I started to follow the crowd/herd.But then I recalled this blog post and returned to the platform. 10 Minute later i was on a sparsely populated train heading in the right direction. If I had followed the staff directions I have no idea how long the journey would have taken!Following the staff instructions on the tube is definitely a newbie mistake. which is tragic in a totally different way.Thanks for the post and the time you saved me today.Lance

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