Tube accidents soar as passengers too afraid to hold escalator handrails

·2-min read
Commuters travel on the London Underground escalators - Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency
Commuters travel on the London Underground escalators - Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency

Escalator falls have soared in Tube stations because passengers are too afraid to hold handrails over fears they could catch Covid.

A London Underground chief has warned falls caused by people not holding handrails “due to a perception they are not clean” is currently one of the biggest safety risks facing the network.

There were 12 serious injuries on the Tube network between April and June and 23 on buses, which Transport for London (TfL) said was “a total greater than any quarter throughout 2020/21”.

It is believed that the number of accidents on escalators is also being worsened by the end of lockdown, which has seen the return of large numbers of drunken revellers travelling on nights out.

Speaking at a TfL panel on safety this week, Andy Lord, the managing director of the London Underground, said escalator falls were “our biggest risk from a personal injury perspective”.

Elderly passengers are among those most vulnerable if they fall while failing to hold the handrail, which often happens when they are trying to manoeuvre luggage onto the escalator, he said.

Mr Lord told the hearing: “The two biggest risks we have are falls on escalators caused by people who don’t hold the handrail. There is an issue with the perception that the handrail is not clean because of the pandemic.

“The other bigger issue is actually intoxication. We have seen a significant spike as the various stages of lockdown have been reduced, with particular spikes initially on Thursday and Friday evenings and then weekends.”

Public hesitancy to touch the handrails on escalators persists despite researchers from Imperial College London finding little trace of the virus on any shared surfaces they swabbed in stations.

TfL is also installing UV light devices on handrails at an increasing number of stations, which kills the virus on the surface.

Mr Lord continued: “We’re spending a huge amount of time and money and resources cleaning the handrails, as well as the UV cleaners which are being steadily rolled out across the entire network.

“We are looking at what further communications we can do to raise awareness of that for our customers.”

An accompanying report on passenger safety published by TfL this week revealed the number of customers injured per million passenger journeys was currently “above our target”.

It said: “Very sadly, the number of people killed or seriously injured has increased in line with the return of customers to the network.”

The report added: “The rate of injuries which happened on stairs and escalators have remained relatively high. There has also been a slight uplift in the rate of injuries where intoxication was a factor, compared to the preceding quarter.”

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