Passenger Flow on the Tube

Sponsor: London Underground Untitled
Sponsor Liaison: Steve Walling
Student Team: Li-Yang (Edward) Chiang
Robert Crockett
Ian Johnson
Aidan O’Keefe
Abstract: With 400 km of rails, 270 stations, and more than 1.3 billion passenger journeys each year, quickly and safely moving passengers through stations and onto trains is an ongoing priority for the London Underground. The goal of this project was to analyze passenger flow and recommend ways to alleviate crowding and congestion. We gathered qualitative and quantitative data, through interviews with London Underground employees, CCTV observation, and analysis of customer satisfaction data. Our findings suggest that the current patterns of passenger flow and congestion are unsatisfactory and unsustainable and we propose a number of recommendation that London Underground and Transport for London might pursue to alleviate the problems in the future.

E17 London Underground IQP – Report

E17 London Underground IQP – Presentation

Executive Summary

Use of the Tube has grown over time to provide millions of trips in a single day, leading to congestion issues. At its peak, more than 28 million trips were made in one week. Despite the sheer number of passengers serviced, delays can account for over 25 million lost hours in productivity in a single year. One of the key causes of delays that this paper explores is delays due to congestion and passenger overcrowding.

Poor passenger flow and congestion does not only result in lost hours for travelers, but also results in customer complaints and can contribute to safety issues. Transport for London (TfL) has expressed concern about the congestion in stations before, targeting some of the most travelled stations with renovation projects. Beyond this, passenger congestion on platforms can lead to unsafe circumstances where passenger push too close to incoming trains. Crowded platforms and trains also result in lower passenger satisfaction, a metric that TfL seeks to maximize across all modes of transportation.

This project was designed to conduct a detailed analysis of congested stations and customer satisfaction data to provide us with a basis to suggest potential improvements. We started with an in-depth literature review based not only on the science behind passenger flow, but also international approaches to congestion relief. We created station selection criteria, evaluating eight stations recommended to us by station staff and settling on two primary stations to focus our work on- Euston and Liverpool Street. After identifying our target stations, we conducted employee interviews to gain insight on problem areas in the station and common questions and concerns that passengers had, then performed CCTV analysis on these stations during peak and off-peak times.

After our CCTV observation was complete, we performed research into data collected previously by Transport for London in order to look for a correlation between congestion and passenger satisfaction. Previous passenger surveys did not collect data based on station, but the data for each line was used to analyze their associated stations. We did not find a strong correlation between congestion and overall satisfaction, but did notice that some lines suffered more from congestion than the signage and information issues that were also prevalent.

We found that congestion and passenger flow were poor during peak hours of travel on the London Underground. Level of service measurements in ticket halls were consistently poor, as were the areas around escalators. We found that off-peak hours were much more manageable, and do not need to be looked at outside of abnormal operation situations. We also found that passengers were unsatisfied in many ways with signage and congestion in the stations. Passengers were frequently confused as to where they need to go and did not know about delays that occurred during their travels. These conclusions led us to make recommendations that the London Underground should take into account while planning their improvements in the future.

We recommend that some measures be taken system-wide on the London Underground to improve service at all stations. We recommend that CCTV systems be upgraded and standardized system wide to facilitate ongoing analyses of passenger flow and congestion. We also recommend that LU take on a large-scale, one time analysis of congestion to develop short-, medium-, and long-term strategies for congestion relief around the system. Changes to the Oyster system to allow for one-station passes for contractors and cleaning staff to be able to enter and exit fare-controlled areas where they work will help staff members be more efficient across the board. In addition, changes to transfers, help points, and implementing more escalators will improve quality of life at all stations.

We believe that a widespread implementation of dynamic signage is also required to better inform passengers about delays and alternative routes through the station. Currently, the dynamic signage in ticket halls and on platforms is inadequate and does not help passengers find their way to the platform. We believe that most, if not all, static signage should be replaced with programmable signs that can display more relevant information to customers. Beyond this, we would like to see changes in signage to incorporate color-coded lines on the floor to guide passengers, and to move away from the current confusing platform numbering system altogether.

Euston requires many improvements to be able to handle the increased traffic due to projects like Crossrail 2 and High-Speed 2. We believe that Euston should be revamped and renovated to bring disused entrances and tunnels into service in order to provide relief at the cramped ticket hall area and the packed escalators. We hold that increasing the width of major passageways and adding escalators to the current ticket hall will improve the passenger flow enough in the short term to avoid major backups in the station. Moving maps to areas where they are accessible but not in main thoroughfares, eliminating confusing signage, and changing the Northern line into two separate lines for each branch will allow customers to find their way more easily and avoid causing congestion while looking at Tube maps. We would also consider a full station rebuild, moving the glass cubicle in the main ticket hall, and adjusting Network Rail schedules to avoid surges as viable options for improving flow in the station.

Liverpool Street, much like Euston, requires adjustments to avoid becoming a major bottleneck for commuters and tourists. In the event of a shutdown at Ticket Hall B, Ticket Hall C is unable to accommodate the sheer amount of tourists who are trying to purchase tickets to ride the Tube. We believe that adding more ticket machines to Ticket Hall C, the fallback ticket hall, is the best solution to the throngs of passengers who will otherwise line up at the four ticket machines that exist there currently. Expanding each train platform by a meter in depth will allow passengers to wait safely and more comfortably for their trains while abating issues with passengers waiting too close to the tracks. Alternatively, implementing the platform door system from the Jubilee line can also fix the current overcrowding issues. Adding an additional bridge to Ticket Hall A that crosses the tracks can also relieve congestion issues in the station.