March 2010 in London Underground
A reporter is concerned that customer service messages are able
to interrupt 'mind
the gap' messages when tube trains arrive at Westminster and Waterloo stations. This happens occasionally at off-peak times - perhaps once every half a dozen trains - on the westbound District platform at Westminster station, and at Waterloo on the southbound Bakerloo platform. During peak times, this is not an issue because staff on the platforms have been instructed to say 'mind the gap' on their handheld microphones.
The issue arises because customer service announcements are
prioritised over the
'mind the gap' messages in the system's message hierarchy. In the reporter's view, safety critical 'mind the gap' messages should sit above the customer service
announcements, but beneath the emergency evacuation announcements in the
'Mystery shopper' type surveys on London Underground place an
whether customer service messages can be heard in different parts of the station.
Interestingly, 'mind the gap' messages do not appear to feature in the surveys - the reporter asks why this is the case? Though the messages can be heard within the train by passengers, they are not as easily heard by those standing on the platform.
And though warning signs are painted onto the platforms, a partially sighted person would not see them.
Could the message system be reprogrammed to reflect the fact that 'mind the gap' messages are more important? This might help prevent an incident where someone slips between the train and platform.
The reporter states that customer service messages are
interrupting 'mind the gap' occasionally at off peak times. This is
typically when customer volumes are lower than the peak times and
therefore the frequency of Platform Train Interface (PTI) crossings
is reduced, resulting in a lower overall PTI risk. LUL take PTI
performance seriously, with the result that that pre-recorded 'mind the gap'
messages are one of a range of technical PTI risk control measures that includes
CCTV, yellow hazard lines and under platform lighting.
The Category 1 LU Engineering standard, Operational Information Systems standard (number 1-142, September 2009), Section 3.2.14, outlines the priority order of live and pre-recorded announcements for platforms. Localised live announcements via the platform Station Announcement Points (SAP) or radio microphone, broadcasted to their respective platforms is assessed within the standard as a slightly higher priority than pre-recorded announcements such as 'mind the gap'. This allows for a 'real time' and 'on-site' decision with regard to customer service and safety announcements to be made, dependent on changing operational conditions without reducing the importance of PTI related announcements.
The Staff Information Survey (SIS) which has replaced the
Mystery Shopper Survey
on LUL focuses on real time information and staff customer service. 'Mind the gap' messages initiated from the SAP or radio microphones are scored in the survey but
pre-recorded messages are not itemised in the SIS because as the reporter correctly mentions that 'mind the gap' messages are safety related, which is why they are monitored by the SQE auditors during their operational audit programme.