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British People Are Refusing To Stand On The Left And Right Sides Of Tube Escalators

As the new scheme is introduced at Holborn station, commuters ask: "What fresh hell is this?"

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One of the cardinal rules of being British is to stand on the right-hand side of escalators when using the London underground, to allow those in a rush to walk on the left.

Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

But in an attempt to cut queues at Holborn tube station, Transport for London has taken a controversial step: It's allowing commuters to stand on both the left- and right-hand sides of escalators.

At the bottom of one of the "up" escalators, two members of staff with megaphones shouting "stand on *both* sides of this escalator".

TfL says the trial will only be enforced during morning peak hours, not evening peak hours, at the busy station, which is used by more than 56 million passengers every year.

A TfL spokesperson told BuzzFeed News: "It's a very crowded station in the morning, people are even queuing from platform level. The trial aims to reduce that congestion."

She said that as the escalator at Holborn station is "very big" – 23.4 metres long – most people prefer to stand because they "can't be bothered" to walk up the left-hand side.

On Thursday morning, several people passing through Holborn station told BuzzFeed News they'd refuse to abide by TfL's plan.

Another person standing on the left. I couldn't catch him before he left, but presume he's a rule follower.

"It's a bad idea," Vicky told BuzzFeed as she rushed off to work at Holborn. "If people want to dawdle, they can stand on the right. I won't be standing on the left."

She was not alone: A number of other commuters said they would be very upset at the prospect of people standing on the left-hand side, and some even said they would try to push past those standing.

Shalah said defiantly: "I won't stand on the left. What if people are in a rush? How will they get through? Most tourists don't know to walk on the left anyway."

John shared his thoughts on the new scheme with BuzzFeed: "It's a stupid idea."

As the morning went on, commuters continued to move freely on the left-hand side, unaware of the freedom that could be taken away from them.

At the station, a sign tells commuters to "stand on both sides" – but many people said they'd miss it as they walked to the exit because it's "tucked away" in the corner.

I have found evidence of this shocking new test. But commuters continue to stride by, ignoring all the rules.

The trial, which began on Monday and will last three weeks, has shocked Londoners who travel through the station.

Genuinely mortified that Holborn station are suspending the right side standing rule, I get rage when someone in Manc stands on the left 😂😂😂

Anyone that travels on the #tube will know you stand on the right and walk on the left...@TfL what is this standing madness at #Holborn ?

Another commuter added: "It's no exaggeration to say this clearly heralds the end of days."

Not allowing people to walk up the escalators at Holborn is a joke, right? @centralline

Holborn tube is now telling people to - GASP - stand on both sides of the escalators. You may not, I repeat, you may NOT walk up or down.

Despite the criticism, a TfL worker at the station told BuzzFeed News the scheme has been working "surprisingly well" and said he'd "seen people standing on the left" during peak hours.

@RossalynWarren BREAKING: 8.45am this morning, escalator full of compliant standees on both sides. No pics tho. Sorry.

In an attempt to understand the severity of the new scheme, BuzzFeed News decided to stand on the left-hand side of the escalator at Holborn station.

Sadly, the pressure proved too much.

I stood for 10 seconds before a commuter tapped me on the shoulder: "excuse me can I get past." I was too British to say no, so I moved.

Will commuters continue to stand on both sides during peak hours? Will the scheme be introduced across London? Will this horror truly ever end?

Rossalyn Warren is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Rossalyn Warren at

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