We took a step back today as a nation

Escalator etiquette has been thrown into chaos on the London Underground. Picture: Phil Dolby

ANY Australian who has been to London would have quickly learned a hard and fast rule for using escalators on the Tube network — stand on right, walk on left.

In a reversal of the stand left, walk right etiquette that governs escalator use in Australia, the London Underground way of travelling on escalators is a time-honoured tradition that no local nor tourist ever dares to disobey.

As well as maintaining orderly Underground society, the strict left-right philosophy clears the way for commuters to dash frantically to their platform, lest they miss their service and be forced to wait a whole three minutes for the next one.

But now, the entire fabric of the city’s commuter culture has been thrown into chaos thanks to a controversial new move by Transport for London (TFL).

Under a six-month trial at Holborn station in central London, escalators are standing room only in a bid to reduce congestion.

Holborn Station, which is close to the British Museum and Bloomsbury Square in central London, is one of the busiest stations on the Tube network. Picture: Oliver Mallich

Holborn Station, which is close to the British Museum and Bloomsbury Square in central London, is one of the busiest stations on the Tube network. Picture: Oliver MallichSource:Flickr

And Londoners are threatening open revolt against what they see as a total abomination.

The Sun reports that from this week, commuters at Holborn station — one of the busiest stations on the Tube network — will be asked to stand on both the right and left sides of the two upward-moving escalators nearest the Central Line platforms.

A third “up”’ escalator will be available for people who wish to tackle the steps.

TFL hopes the new standing-only rule will make better use of wasted space on longer escalators as most people choose to stand and wait on the right hand side.

Commuters have taken to social media to vent their dissatisfaction with the new rule.

“Asking people to stand on the left goes against everything British. Plus we can’t shout at tourists anymore,” @captainboo tweeted.

A true Londoner knows to stand on the right and walk on the left. Picture: elminium

A true Londoner knows to stand on the right and walk on the left. Picture: elminiumSource:Flickr

“We took a step back today as a nation, standing on the right hand side of the escalator is what made Great Britain Great ... #Holborn,” decried @alexsmith321.

“Asking British people to stand on the left of an escalator is like asking mice on the tube to wash their hands before eating,” said @LondonSnowman.

Twitter user @benjyrabs wanted to know when the madness would end: “First standing on both sides of escalator, then they’ll classify Jaffa Cakes as biscuits. We must resist. #holborn #British #cake,” he said.

Others, such as Twitter user Matthew Hall, chose to flagrantly flaunt Holborn’s new rules.

A previous three-week trial at Holborn in November found standing on both sides reduced congestion by 30 per cent, The Sun reported.

London Underground operations director Peter McNaught said he looked forward to the new pilot trial.

“The etiquette on London Underground is for customers to stand on the right of escalators, allowing others to walk on the left,” he said.

“However, few customers choose to walk on longer escalators such as Holborn, so much of the left-hand side is unused.

“We hope that this can lead to improving congestion at Holborn, making journeys easier for all of our customers.”

The new “standing only” escalators are 23.4 metres, and research suggests few people will wish to climb heights exceeding 18.5 metres, TFL said.

Thankfully, in Australia — or in Victoria, at least — our unwritten rule of standing on the left and walking on the right side of escalators is unlikely to be overhauled any time soon.

Public Transport Victoria has been speaking to passengers about how to improve their experience through its Model Commuters campaign, and found the current train station escalator etiquette was working fine.

“While we are always looking to improve the public transport experience for everyone, we already think most passengers get it right and stick to the left,” a spokesman for PTV told news.com.au.

The spokesman also said talking quietly, moving a seat over and boarding patiently were other good forms of etiquette when using trains.

news.com.au has also reached out to Transport for NSW to see what they have to say about local escalator etiquette.

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