back to article Violence, vandals and vomit: London's naughtiest tech Tube stations revealed

New figures from Transport for London reveal just how much naughtiness goes on at the Tube stations nearest to London's technology firms. At Old Street station – serving London's Silicon Roundabout tech district – there were two fights major enough for London Underground staff to log them as formal incidents, while on a …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    SPADs, TDFs, what a cornucopia for disaster

    Reading this list of errors really enlightens one on just how badly things could be going.

    400+ cases of trains passing a red light ? And there wasn't one collision for it ? Miracle.

    More than a thousand cases of signal failures, and no associated loss of life ? Miracle.

    Train Detection Fault. The mere notion should cause a shiver down the spine. The fact that so many occur in a year is downright terrifying.

    A real heads-up for when the PR bods trot out the old "automation is safer" line.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: SPADs, TDFs, what a cornucopia for disaster

      I bet most of the SPADs were in the depots. And the old red light, block signalling system does have a tripcock just in front of the aspect which automatically applies the emergency brakes if the front of a train passes it.

      The system does "fail safe" - the most common track detection fault is a drinks can falling into the gap in the rails which marks one signalling block from another. Fixed block is a rather simple system that passes a current through the axle of the train via the wheels - so anything on the rails in that block is detected - car, train, big clips joined by a wire... and then there's the traction current short-circuit system, which kills the power if there's a short. There's a big bar that staff stick across the supply rails to make an area safe - huge red light on the the top if there's even a whiff of voltage. Makes a lovely bang as it's dropped on - not a job I'd like to do!

      1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Re: SPADs, TDFs, what a cornucopia for disaster

        Very few of the Cat A SPADs were in the depots: just 14 out of the 440, or 3%.

        There is one Cat B SPAD that I've seen (quick trawl by eye, day job donchakno, etc) which was out on the line.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: SPADs, TDFs, what a cornucopia for disaster

          I'm surprised that's such a low figure. But good that you checked. Thanks.

    2. kline

      Re: SPADs, TDFs, what a cornucopia for disaster

      >Miracles everywhere

      Alternatively, take a slightly different point of view and realise that the policies and procedures on the tube are sufficiently safe that even in the face of failure, the built in margin was enough to avoid catastrophe.

      I don't see this as much different to the sometimes significant overlap of red lights at intersections so that even people passing late are unlikely to hit people putting the pedal down as soon as they see amber in anticipation for green.

    3. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: SPADs, TDFs, what a cornucopia for disaster

      A real heads-up for when the PR bods trot out the old "automation is safer" line.

      I wonder how many trains ran a red light on the DLR?

      Ah.....thought so.

    4. AdamT

      Re: SPADs, TDFs, what a cornucopia for disaster

      Not sure if this is relevant but I recall an article from a few years ago that actually explained that many SPADs are when there has been some other signalling fault and the line controller authorises the driver to proceed across a red light over the radio. This still triggers the emergency brakes and is still recorded as a SPAD but is actually part of a defined procedure to avoid shutting the line down for every single little failure (i.e. not dangerous and not some driver just piling through a red light at 30mph because he wasn't looking). You know if you've been on a train that's done this because you'll crawl slowly out the station, suddenly stop, pause for a few seconds and then accelerate off as normal.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: SPADs, TDFs, what a cornucopia for disaster

        That's true, yes. It's classed as an authorised SPAD. I don't know if that's recorded in the data. They had a huge spate of them on the Northern Line in 2010 I think it was when the depot could no longer get hold of the rope they used to use which tied the tripcock lever to the rest of the systems - they used a close replacement which was fractionally thicker and jammed in the holes that the rope ran through, leading to endless problems resetting the circuit. Somehow, I have more faith in a bit of grease-soaked rope tied to a vacuum release valve than in a couple of relays and a solenoid wired up to a PLA. I don't know why - it just feels more immediate.

        1. AdamT

          Re: SPADs, TDFs, what a cornucopia for disaster

          @TRT - yes, that's when the article was from. They were doing authorised SPADs but discovered that, at low speeds, the automatic brakes were not triggered (because of the string/rope thing). Cue much tabloid hysteria about the tube trains failing because of the wrong sort of string...

    5. Earth Resident

      Re: SPADs, TDFs, what a cornucopia for disaster

      And signal lights out due to failure? Time to replace with long-lasting LEDs fer crying out loud.

  2. Bury the Hammer

    Old Street is also very close to Shoreditch, which is a very popular location for going out drinking for all sorts of people, including those from the city. Doesn't really prove that techies themselves are causing the issues, does it?

    It'd be a bit like saying there was lots of naughtiness in the stations around Soho, and then blaming that on media post production companies, who happen to also be concentrated in Soho.

    1. BigAndos
      IT Angle

      I think it was a flimsy attempt to find the IT angle!

      1. Just Enough
        IT Angle

        London-centric piffle

        We can look forward to a breakdown of all train station incidents throughout the UK next? IT people use them too. Some of them even have a drink in them at the time.

  3. muddysteve

    Baker Street

    Baker Street tube only just serves Fujitsu - it's still a 15 minute walk.

  4. Dabooka Silver badge

    Blown bulbs?

    Surely a move to LEDs would greatly reduce the instances of those occuring, even my local traffic lights appear to be LED now.

    I will add I have no clue as to such matters and appreciate even LEDs can fail

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Blown bulbs?

      They'll be swapping them for TBTC at some point. On the Northern Line that's the pair of big red leaky feeders between the rails that swaps sides every 25m. The swapping of the cables is what's detected by the onboard computer. Coupled with unique positioning beacons every now and again, and counters which detect the number of axles passing a sensor - usually at pointwork where they count up on one side entering a section and count down again on the other leaving the section; the normal reading being zero - the system knows to within 25m the position of every train on the track. Add in a braking profile curve and a motoring profile curve (I believe they now do coasting as well, but the option was originally left off due to cost) and trains can run much closer together. The system on the Central Line fails if it's raining, foggy, windy or if the day ends in a Y, so drivers are usually operating in one of the manual modes. The Northern Line is a bit more reliable, but the drivers still take the trains in and out of the sidings on manual. The DLR is fully automated, though, even in the depot.

      1. Robin Bradshaw

        Re: Blown bulbs?

        TRT Its all well and good counting axles just dont do what the swiss did and hold the count in a single byte :P

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Blown bulbs?

          Classic FAIL!

    2. Putters

      Re: Blown bulbs?

      The safety case for LEDs in signal lamps took ages to get though (changing anything in safety critical kit is a right royal PITA).

      Also there's one hell of a lot of bulbs out there to be changed. Simpler to wait for them to die and change on a casualty basis.

      And don't underestimate the cost of getting drawings updated. Real example, from my Central Line days again. There was an error in the fuse discrimination (ie a higher level fuse blowing before some lower level one, taking out more kit than necessary) for some of the new (this was back in the 1990s) Westinghouse kit. ~50 Signal Equipment rooms to have fuses changed - about 50 quids worth of kit + 50x 5mins for a Technical Officer. Peanuts in cost. Cost for Westinghouse to update master and prints for 50 Signal Equipment rooms - a cool £1M quoted ...

  5. Nathan 13

    Really interesting and fascinating comments. I use the tube most days and never give a second thought about how it all works. I didnt even know my line (Jubilee) was automated, must be a bit boring for the "driver" just sitting there.

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      ...must be a bit boring for the "driver" just sitting there.

      There is always the not insignificant consolation of knowing that their boredom is well remunerated.

      If fellow commentards will forgive the Torygraph reference see

      I wish I had been that bored before I retired...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The only reason they have bored staff is because the unions won't let them be fully automated.

      1. Putters

        The main reason for not fully automating is that the bored bloody drivers main purpose on the train is not to drive it (as the ATO does that perfectly well when it is working) but to be there as when the train fails to proceed. A significant part of the training is for technical fault finding. When you have a train stopped in a tunnel that has no real access for someone else to get to it (no side footway - or a long time to get there) you need a competent person on board. Preferably one who can diagnose the fault and is not fazed by then going back though a 1000 pissed off punters to effect an isolation or cut out to get a train moving to the next station. Even the DLR has the train captains for the same reason.

        Drivers on ATO lines are a bit like nuclear power station control room staff and airline pilots - you want them to be doing nothing as much as possible ...

  6. Scroticus Canis Silver badge

    291 vomit-related incidents in a year?

    The yoof of today either don't know how to party properly or Uber cabs must be getting more than their fair share.

    1. F0rdPrefect

      Re: 291 vomit-related incidents in a year?

      Shouldn't that be ONLY 291 vomit-related incidents in a year?

      I went up to London 3 for 3 evenings in last 12 months and each time had to leave a carriage because some drunk chundered.

      Mind you the train didn't stop for this and I just waited for the next one.

      So that would be 291 where someone pulled the emergency leaver.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Taking Of Pelham 123....NOT!

    Being Health & Safety approved and after doing a full 'Risk Assessment',i've decided to cancel my plan for taking a tube train and its passengers hostage for a sizable ransom as its just far too dangerous......and unhygienic!...yuck!

    1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: The Taking Of Pelham 123....NOT!

      The original wasn't a bad film. But I've always wondered if the concept was a Springtime for Hitler plan. "This is a hijack! Take this tube train to Mogadishu!" has an air of implausibility, even if you substitute Cockfosters.

  8. phuzz Silver badge

    "and another [...] dared to stand too close to the edge of the platform"

    Some people just want to see the world burn

    1. The First Dave

      Can't find it now, but the wife pointed out a story only yesterday where some bloke had stuck his head out of train window at wrong place/time and consequently made a bit of a mess. Rarely will "died instantly" have been more true.

      1. macjules Silver badge

        On the Gatwick Express no less. I think that bringing in an air ambulance was a cost factor that might have been taken into consideration a bit better as well: somehow you need a head still attached to the body for an ambulance to be of any effect.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Did once have a conversation with control room:

          "Confirm that you are doing CPR"


          "You must do CPR until Ambulance arrive"

          "I'm not fit enough"

          "You must do CPR"

          "The torso is one end of the platform, I'm with the head at the other end. It's a long sprint between them."

        2. 's water music Silver badge

          you need a head still attached to the body for an ambulance to be of any effect.

          AIUI the decapitation angle was simply a made up tabloid trope. Still, not a very pleasant sounding event nonetheless.

  9. Christoph Silver badge

    Doesn't include the worst sort of delay

    That doesn't seem to include the figures for One Under, which tends to cause extreme delays while they clear out the bits of the poor sod who jumped and find another driver to replace the one who may never be able to drive a train again.

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Doesn't include the worst sort of delay

      There are figures for both actual suicides and attempted suicides, but as I'm going for a light-hearted pisstake here...

      That said, the whopping 2 minute delay caused by an "attempted suicide" at Harrow on the Hill did make me giggle. Presumably the delay was the driver opening the window to shout abuse at whoever it was dipping a toe over the platform edge.

  10. Shaha Alam

    "...and another rebel without a cause dared to stand too close to the edge of the platform."

    oh they had a cause. cleaning the gene pool.

  11. IsJustabloke Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    You know...

    given just how busy the the tube is, I think those numbers are surprisingly small.

    1. Putters

      Re: You know...

      Indeed - back in the mid 1990's when the Central Line ATO was being implemented, the failure rate was horrendous (about 6 failures a day IIRC).

      I was asked to provide some idea of how long we (I worked for Central Line Line Engineering - no that is not a double type) would have to run a test train to prove the system sufficiently reliable (they actually wanted somewhere around 1 a week)

      A quick calc of the number of times a Central Line trains stops each day gave 72 trains (the max service at the time) * an average of 11 trips per day * 40 station stops average per trip. 6 failures a day meant the unreliable system was 99.98% reliable. 1 failure a week was 99.9995% reliable ...

      I had to report that running a single test train with a reliable version meant that they would have to wait somewhere around a year for a failure :O)

      Oh - and you know when your train is delayed for defective doors ? On the Central Line alone with it's current service levels, there are about 3.3 million individual door operations a day ...

  12. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    Ever had something like this?

  13. handle

    "a collision, or worse"

    Ooh do tell us - what's worse?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  14. David Glasgow

    Further FOI application required

    Were any of the Voms El Reg neck-fillers?

  15. Shadow Systems Silver badge

    The Tubes are too boring!

    You need to redesign them by someone addicted to the game "RollerCoaster Tycoon"! Nothing makes a Tube ride more fun than loop-the-loops, high-G hair pin turns, & making the passenger's think they're gonna get wet just before the car whooshes off sideways. You could install picture taking points & sell the photos back to the riders as proof of them being there. You could make the insides of the cars cleanable with a simple spray of the hose, thus reducing the time any car has to be out of service due to someone blowing their lunch. You could sell souveniers at all the Tube Stations like t-shirts, travel mugs, or keychain fobs. People would turn out in droves to queue up to take a ride if you gave each car a different name like "Vomit Comet", "Panty Pretzler", or "Corkscrew Crazy". Show videos to the current rider's of the actions of previous ones, so everyone gets to see how badly someone reacted to that really long plunge in 3... 2... 1... NOW!


    I'll get my coat, it's the one with the "Lifetime VIP Rider" pass in the pocket. =-D


    1. Michael Dunn

      Re: The Tubes are too boring! @ Shadow Systems

      The story <'A Subway named Mobius" comes to mind.

  16. PhilipN Silver badge


    Is that the best London's finest can manage? No running battles, firefights, explosions, flimsily clad damsels, daring rescues.... At this rate (with a nod to the above poster's mention of The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 -- (The Taking of Peckham 1-2-3 doesn't quite have the cachet, does it?)) we shall never have a Disaster-on-the-Tube Movie sub-industry. No Schwarzenneger, Willis, Stallone....

    Oh wait a sec ..... Thank God for that.

    1. Putters

      Re: Pathetic

      The best incident I ever came across (and I used to see the details of quite a few being involved in Incident Attribution - basically assigning who was responsible) was one where a bloke ran into Hyde Park Corner Station to get staff to call for an ambulance as his mate was impaled and caught by the scrotum after slipping whilst attempting to climb the railings of the park ...

  17. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Hot, smelly, urine soaked, rat infested and noisy

    I still love the London Underground.


    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Hot, smelly, urine soaked, rat infested and noisy

      Cozy init?

  18. JohnMurray

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019