If you’ve ever taken the train to Manchester from London Euston, you know the routine. Standing in the lobby, neck craned, staring at the departure board, waiting for the last minute announcement of your platform followed by a mad dash to your seat.
Relaxing is definitely not. In fact, the ‘Euston stampede’ has become so notorious that it is often a trending topic on Twitter and is the subject of dozens of TikToks, reports MyLondon.
The reason this happens is that, unlike most other major rail terminals in London, instead of encouraging customers to wait in the area closest to the platform or walk straight to the platform and board / wait for their train, at Euston passengers are asked to wait on the main station concourse until the platform is displayed approximately 20 minutes before departure. Passengers then have 18 minutes to find and board the train, which typically closes two minutes before the scheduled departure time.
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That’s the theory. In reality, it can lead to hundreds of people rushing through the station building to get to their seats first. But walking through one of the busiest buildings in the country with hard concrete floors and 25,000 volt electrical wiring above you probably isn’t the best idea.
Network Rail tells MyLondon that “hundreds” of passengers a year have accidents trying to get to the platform. The good news is that there are a handful of easy ways to avoid a crush, enjoy your trip, and avoid the crowds.
Why does it happen
Euston opened in 1968, with the concourse at a higher level than the tracks to allow for deliveries and underground parking and a new, enlarged London Underground ticket office for the Victoria line which opened the same year. At the time, going to a station in central London seemed logical, but now seems outdated given the congestion on the capital’s streets.
As a result, access to the platforms is via a series of long ramps, which descend to the platforms. While passenger numbers have increased over the years, with Euston now used by around 45 million passengers a year on the national railway alone, this now means that hundreds of people with luggage have to descend the slopes, creating a huge bottleneck. Most platforms then have a gate or manual ticket control.
Network Rail, which owns and operates the station, has undertaken five different improvement plans. These have included moving the station’s taxi stand, rearranging the notorious ramps and creating a larger open space for platforms 8 to 11 from where London Overground trains and trains depart. premises of the London Northwestern Railway.
A Network Rail spokesperson told MyLondon: “We strongly advise passengers not to travel to their trains at London Euston. Every year hundreds of people are injured due to avoidable slips, trips and falls in the stations because they are in a hurry.
“Over the past few years we have spent millions of pounds making more space in the concourse and on the platform ramps so that passengers can more easily access trains. We continue to work with operators and invest in new technologies to announce when trains are ready so passengers can board on time.”
To the physical constraints of the station are added the operational needs of the railway. Often, for passengers, these needs are summed up in the expression “preparing the train”. Avanti West Coast confirmed to MyLondon: “Train preparation involves cleaning the train and loading catering supplies for the onboard shop and first class. To enable this to be done safely and efficiently, access at the platform is restricted to staff only – customers are welcome to wait in the concourse. Trains generally board with more than 15 minutes’ notice.”
How to avoid it
Euston being the main station for trains to Manchester on the West Coast Main Line, it is difficult to avoid it altogether. But with just a few simple steps, it’s easy to avoid getting caught in the rush! Choose from the following options:
- Don’t wait in the main station concourse – departure screens are displayed on the station forecourt outside and there are also departure screens on the mezzanine level of the station where there are several food outlets including a Starbucks.
- If you are traveling on London Overground or London Northwestern Railway trains to Tring, use the shortcut – London Overground trains can only depart from platforms 8-11 and the majority of local London Northwestern Railway services to Wembley Central, Harrow & Wealdstone, Bushey, Watford Junction, Kings Langley, Apsley, Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted and Tring also depart from platforms 8 to 11 as well. So when connecting from the tube, instead of following the signs for National Rail from the tube ticket office, follow the signs for ‘Overground’ instead. You follow a tunnel on your left immediately after the gate which takes you directly to the platforms, bypassing the concourse and ramps entirely.
- Become a geek – if you make a regular journey to/from Euston you may find it useful to use the open source Realtime Trains website which shows live train data which tells you which platforms the trains are using before screens starting point, or OpenTrainTimes Maps. For the latter, you will need to learn the trainhead codes which are the operational designations given to each service.
- Book via the Avanti West Coast app or website – If you do this, you will receive an SMS which will tell you which platform to board from when your train is ready. So you’ll be free to hang out in any of Euston’s nearby pubs, shops and restaurants. This SMS is sent 90 seconds before the announcement of the train in the hall of the station so that you can avoid the crush.
Euston in the future
Euston is set to be completely redesigned over the next few years with the arrival of High Speed 2, which will add additional platforms, and a possible Crossrail 2. This will mean that the station building and its passenger flows will be entirely modified and made much less stressful, in a manner similar to the expansion works that took place at King’s Cross, St Pancras International and London Bridge during work on High Speed 1 and the Thameslink scheme.
This work has already started, resulting in the closure of the westernmost part of the station and two platforms which were used for Avanti West Coast services.