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June 6, 2016

Holborn station has enlisted a singing, punning cardboard cutout to stop people walking up the escalator

By Barbara Speed

Holborn wants you to stop walking. The Underground station is trialling a new system whereby passengers stand on both sides of escalators – which, of course, breaks the rule, gospel to all Londoners, that you stand on the right and walk on the left if you’re in a hurry.

In April, when the scheme was introduced, TfL told us that it was designed to reduce congestion, since few commuters want to walk anyway:

“We get a lot of congestion at the bottom because the majority of customers don’t want to walk. The left hand side empty, while everyone is queuing up to stand on the right. By filling up both sides, we can actually carry more people more quickly and clear that congestion.”

However, your correspondent is a daily visitor to Holborn station, and can vouch for the fact that at 9am, at least, nobody is following this new rule. Everyone stands on the right, and walks on the left as normal – even as announcements blare instructions to stand on both sides. For the first week, station attendants with megaphones shouted the new instructions, but even this didn’t do the trick. 

Now, though, TfL has introduced a new intervention: a cardboard cutout of a station attendant, mounted atop a speaker. When I passed this morning, it sang “Last night standing saved my life!” to the tune of “Last night a DJ saved my life” by Indeep. The fact that the words didn’t scan properly was the least of its problems. 

Twitter users confirm that the cutout has a whole repertoire of standing-based puns and songs:

And yet, despite its pleas, commuters kept on walking. It seems that the new rule won’t catch on – Londoners just won’t stand for it.  

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