At certain London tube stations, you’ll hear a deep and slightly sinister voice give you the same slightly sinister order, over and over again: “Mind the gap”.
It’s one of those phrases that’s so ubiquitous that it’s become a sort of icon, giving its name to umpteen books, games and (I swear I didn’t know this until googling just now) a type of soft porn aimed at people who like really skinny girls in swimsuits.
Despite this though, it seems that people haven’t been listening. An ever growing number of Londoners, it turns out, aren’t minding the gap at all. Instead, they’re, well, getting stuck in it.
All this comes from those crazy cats over at London Loves Business. They sent a freedom of information request to Transport for London asking how many people had suffered “PTI falls” (“platform train interface”, which is just a jargon-y way of saying “the gap”) in the last 12 years for which figures were available.
TfL duly replied. In 2003, it revealed, 56 such falls were recorded. In 2014, it was 298 – an increase of 432 per cent. In that period, passenger numbers on the network have increased – but only by 34 per cent, so that probably doesn’t explain the increase (at least directly).
London Loves Business has calculated that this means that your chances of slipping between platform and train on any given journey have risen from 1 in 17m in 2003, to 1 in 4.2m in 2014.
So, you’re still not exactly likely to get caught down the side of the platform at Bank station, but you are a hell of a lot more likely than you used to be.
Bank station, where a curved platform means a particularly yawning gap. Image: Cmglee/Wikimedia Commons.
How has this happened? Mick Cash, the general secretary of the RMT trade union, blamed “the poisonous cocktail of station staffing cuts and severe overcrowding which is wrecking the safety culture on London Underground”. Those do sound like plausible causes – that 32 per cent increase in passenger numbers has meant more people standing too close to the platform, perhaps – but it’s worth noting that the RMT tends to blame those things for pretty much everything.
Anyway. Be careful out there, that’s all we’re saying. Listen to the scary voice. Mind the gap.
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