August 2009 in Network Rail and Suppliers
A reporter has expressed concerns over the crowd control arrangements at Kings Cross station, following a recent security alarm. The concern relates to crowd control both inside and outside the station. The main concern raised is that there are no procedures in place to disperse members of the public once they have exited Kings Cross station. It is currently the only exit out of the station due to the ongoing building work inside the station.
The reporter states that Kings Cross station was particularly crowded on the morning of 18 May. That morning the station was evacuated due to a security alarm. The area at the top of the escalators got very congested, but in particular the area just outside the exit got crowded. There were no personnel outside the station to ask people to move on or turn away people trying to enter, and as the crowd built up, it got harder for people still inside the station to exit. People who smoke tend to stop right outside the exit and light their cigarettes, adding to the funnel effect. According to the reporter, the consequences of not being able to evacuate the station in a speedy and organised manner in a serious emergency could be fatal.
The reporter is unsure exactly who is responsible for the area
outside Kings Cross, but believes it might be Network Rail. The
reporter would like to see a system in place whereby staff from
Network Rail, or whoever else is responsible for the area, assist
LUL staff in an emergency by dispersing passengers once they have
exited the station. In general, the reporter feels there should be
more efficient crowd control measures in place within Kings Cross
station as well as outside. Moving the smoking area further away
may help alleviate the crowding issue.
For LUL and Network Rail: Who is responsible for managing the area outside the Kings Cross exit? Can steps be taken to disperse the crowd outside the station during an emergency?
For LUL: Is there any way to improve crowd control measures in the underground area of Kings Cross station?
Network Rail would like to thank the reporter for bringing these issues to the attention of CIRAS.
Although the exit next to the LUL entrance is one of the major entrances to King‟s Cross railway station, it is not the only one. We also have exits out to the taxi rank, out by the suburban shed and a main entrance/exit onto York Way. On the morning of the 18th May, King‟s Cross overground station was not evacuated, although the underground may well have been closed for a short time due to over-crowding. This is something which happens relatively frequently and something we at the station are becoming increasingly used to dealing with.
When the area outside the station becomes crowded, LUL personnel
are on hand to direct passengers to alternative tube entrances at
St Pancras International and also along the road to Euston
Passengers are directed to the alternative locations via pedestrian foot-crossings. In instances such as these where large crowds gather, Network Rail staff from the concourse come outside to assist LUL staff where possible in dispersing the crowds safely. If the station control is informed by LUL control that the underground station is closing due to overcrowding, PA announcements in the station are made to reflect this and make passengers aware in advance. It is unclear from the report whether the reporter was using the railway station or tube, but we can confirm that the gates up from LUL are always manned by LUL staff, particularly in times of crowds when there is usually a minimum of four LUL staff on hand to help direct crowds.
The line distinguishing Network Rail‟s boundary lies under the canopy outside the station, but we aim to work together with LUL to jointly clear the area when any passenger build up results from tube closure or congestion.
If the reporter is not a regular user of King‟s Cross, then it could be that he/she found it unusual to see such a large number of people in a small space. Due to the space constraints we have at King‟s Cross this is something both LUL and station staff are now used to and they work quickly to disperse passengers safely. Under the emergency procedures for the station, should the occasion arise whereby we are unable to effectively disperse crowds, the Metropolitan Police are called and they can close the road and open the road gates to allow passengers safe access to the road and direct them towards Argyll Square - this is the process we would follow in an emergency situation.
It is hoped the above satisfies the reporter‟s concerns.
On the morning of the 18th there were two incidents that happened which caused the station to be congested and to close; the first was a defective train on the Victoria line (which took 25 minutes to reach Kings Cross from Highbury & Islington on the southbound). Please note station control was already in place for the morning peak. During this period staff filtered customers into the station from the main entrance/exit; this does cause a build up of customers trying to get into the station, however, they are kept moving. Inside the station staff were diverting Victoria line customers onto the other lines. At the same time the Victoria was suspended the Piccadilly southbound service was also suspended; this was as a result of a customer going into labour at Russell Square.
The Piccadilly line incident along with the Victoria line suspension caused the station to quickly become overcrowded. The station Congestion Control Emergency Plan (CCEP) provides detailed guidance to staff on what actions to take in the event of congestion. Based on the CCEP and the station supervisor own competence a decision was taken evacuate the station and close.
There were approximately 4,000 customers evacuated from the station that morning using all five exits that were available. The evacuation did cause some crowding issues outside the main entrance/exit. However, some customers boarded buses, walk to other stations in the area, and the area around the main entrance/exit does clear in a short time.
On occasions, as is the case during this incident, some customers will not move away and decide to wait to see when the station will reopen. When this happens assistance is sought from the British Transport Police, which was the case on that morning where the British Transport Police did assist in moving the customers away from the entrance/exit.
The group station manager is always looking for new ways to
improve crowd control issues at Kings Cross. This is discussed at
team meetings, and health and safety meetings. This matter is
focused on at our regular safety committee meetings, by reviewing
incidents/customer flows at peak traffic hours and also
Station management will continue to work with other stakeholders (NR and TOCs) to ensure the continued safe operation at Kings Cross.
Please note the opening of the new Northern Ticket Hall in December this will alleviate many of the congestion problems in the main entrance/exit area.