Monday, December 08, 2008

When indicators mislead...

Baker Street station is one of the more unusual stations on the Underground, in that it has three platforms serving the northbound Metropolitan and one of them is separated by tracks from the other two. So passengers waiting for a train must rely on either announcements or the venerable electronic displays to determine which trains are going where and when they might depart. Not a problem if the information is accurate and timely. Trouble is, it is not. The announcers tend to focus on trains coming up from the city to platform 2. Should there be a train waiting at platform 4 (across the tracks) then passengers have to decide whether to commit to it or take one from platform 2 or platform 1. You may think that there would always be plenty of time to decide. Not so.

This is the usual scenario. The display shows that the first train is coming into platform 2 but there is a train at 4 (or maybe 1) or both. Without warning the train at 4 (or 1) gets a green and with barely a peep of the train warning system the doors shut and it moves off. Nobody wishing to climb the stairs over to 4 has a chance. And I have known the train on 1 to close the doors so fast that it was impossible to get on even though I was but a few paces away.

So you have to play a commuting version of Russian Roulette, going for what seems like the best chance. Typically platform 2 will be crowded and the trains arriving are often full already. So to see that the indicator says that the first train out is on platform 2, and to cross over to 4 and take a seat in an almost empty train that then pulls out whilst the hordes on the other platform can only watch in envy - well, there are some people who enjoy this sort of thing. I have to tell you, gentle reader, that I am amongst their number.

No comments:

Post a Comment