Sunday, May 3, 2009

London King's Cross train station platform utilization

In a previous article, Maximizing airport runway & boarding gates utilization at London Heathrow, I talked about the assignment of boarding gates at London Heathrow Terminal 5. They are not assigned until about 40 minutes before departure. I suppose it would only be logical to find the similar approach used on train station platform assignments in London's King's Cross rail station.

As can be seen on the picture above, platforms are assigned only about 15-20 minutes before the train's departure time. They appear to be using a hot platforming system similar to the gates at T5. This has it's advantages and disadvantages though.

It creates a commotion in front of the information board once the platform is finally assigned. Streams of people start to pour away from the information board, which is in the centre of the rail station, making foot traffic rather chaotic. For one train we took, it was so chaotic that the train narrowly managed to depart on time, and it seems likely that delays are sometimes caused. Also, there is always a huge crowd of people waiting in front of the info board at any time, with their pieces of luggage, which again makes foot traffic congested.

Then again, as the crowd of Friday-afternoon-bank-holiday-Monday-weekend travelers pushed to board the KGX to Leeds train, we were met by a team of 8+ ticket checkers who processed us efficiently. These resources only had to be assigned for the 15 minute window between platform announcement and departure. Another possible advantage might be the ability to allow travelers to depart incoming trains before being crowded by outgoing passengers. This suggests the possibility that the platform is known but not announced in order to manage foot traffic, though they are having mixed results given the disadvantages listed above.

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