Finally, an age-old mystery has been solved. Passengers on the London Underground always stand on the right and tut in annoyance when anyone does the opposite. An old film recently unearthed for the London Film Festival has revealed why. Unlike modern “comb” escalators, where the end of the moving stairway is at right angles to the direction of travel, older “shunt” escalators ended with a diagonal so that the stairway finished sooner for the right foot than for the left.
The idea was to allow passengers to keep their left foot on a moving stairway as they stepped off with their right. Passengers who chose not to walk down the escalators were asked to stand on the right so that anyone wishing to overtake them at the end would be able to take advantage of the extra section of moving stairway.
Further pointless bits of London tube trivia will be revealed when Bryant & May head for the underground to catch a killer in next year’s ‘Bryant & May Off The Rails’ – the last book in the series (unless my very wonderful publishers take pity on me and choose to commission a couple more).