It IS faster for everyone to stand on the escalator than walk

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Kayleigh Dray

The London Underground is, without a doubt, the least fun place to spend rush hour. There’s the crowds, the shoving, the sudden fluctuations in temperature, and the strange smells.

And let’s not forget all the outraged tuts and sighs of your fellow commuters.

The most frustrating of all, however, are the people who flout escalator etiquette. The rules are made very clear from the get go – stand on the right, and walk on the left. This way, us speedy gonzales’ of the world can sprint up the moving staircase to our destination, while zen folks with more time on their hands can stand and slowly glide.

However, last year, Transport for London (TfL) decided to throw a spanner in the works and demanded that we try out a new regime. A regime which saw sprinters stand still, in a bid to test whether it would be more efficient if people were told to stand on both sides of the escalator.

Would the majority of people get through the station faster as a result?

What sorcery is this?

What sorcery is this?

As it turns out, yes.

It genuinely is better and more efficient to stand rather than walk on the escalator, according to the results of a study obtained through a Freedom of Information request from Gizmodo.

While it may sound like sorcery, the results were undeniable. When Holborn (the guinea pig tubestation) was busy, more commuters were able to travel up the escalator in a given timeframe when everyone stood stock still – a fact that was made clear in the numbers. Standing-only escalators saw up to 151 passengers zooming by per minute, while an escalator where commuters were still allowed to walk saw a measly 115.

“Greater throughputs [a fancy term for foot traffic] are seen on escalators six and seven [the two escalators where the standing-only rule was tested] when there is a low proportion of passengers walking up the escalators,” the report said.

“This indicates that during very busy periods a greater throughput can be achieved when passengers stand on both sides of the escalator.”

Currently, TfL have no plans to roll this rule out across their network, and for that we’re very grateful; old habits die hard, after all. Plus there’s nothing quite like charging up the left-hand side of an escalator to make you feel as if you’re actively doing something to tackle your tardiness.

Images: iStock


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.