Orbell Communications

Communicating Your Message

Kings Cross Station chaos

Posted by jorbell on November 26, 2008

I spent today in London in two lengthy meetings. Both went very well I thought but my abiding memory of the trip will be the chaos of Kings Cross Station on heading home.

I’d travelled on the Northern Line tube from London Bridge Station sardine fashion but on arriving at Kings Cross I was struck by the sheer volume of people on the platform. This was 6.00pm and the height of the rush hour so probably not much of a surprise.

What did surprise me was the relative pace of people towards the exits. We were barely moving and once up the first short escalator it ground to a complete halt and we were stood still for over 5 minutes. That’s not that long but the rate of trains arriving at the station meant that there was less and less room for everyone.

Eventually I got to the foot of the second and longest set of escalators. Only one of the three was working but I wasn’t in a position to use it so I had to make the ascent under my own steam.

Every few steps we ground to halt because of the sheer mass of people. The temperature and stress levels were rising all around and at that very moment I thought about the Kings Cross fire disaster in 1987. I wasn’t really in any danger in that sense but I was now keen to be somewhere else.

This feeling only heightened when the one working escalator stopped suddenly sending commuters tumbling to the floor. One woman dropped her pushchair which fell backwards leaving the poor toddler therein in a virtual headstand position. This is precisely why you should fold up buggies on escalator but it was a bit late to worry about that.

Once I got to the top the sirens started and we told to essentially abandon ship. There was simply too many people and it was beginning to get dangerous so to thin the crowds they shut the station to get some breathing space.

In and around Kings Cross it was bedlam but after a quick bite to eat nearby I was able to make my way onto the main overland station platform for my train to Peterborough with a delay of just 40 minutes. Not too bad under the circumstances.

This incident reminded me of when I attended an FA Cup quarter-final game between West Ham and Norwich in 1989. The two turnstiles (yes two) weren’t opened until about 25 minutes before kick-off and I was able to lift my feet off the ground and be carried along without walking. It was a serious crush and there were some very distressed people around.

What happened in the semi-final of that year’s competition? It was the Hillsborough disaster.

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