London Lantern

Putting the Spotlight on London

A Cautionary Tale And Sensible Advice

26/09/2000, By Maurice Barnwell

Reader Rating: 2.9 from 16487 votes

As a former London resident who now escorts groups to London allow me a few comments. First regarding pickpockets and the London Tube. On my last visit my wallet was taken (most embarrassingly after my "street proofing" talk to the group. This happened at Russell Square tube - be very cautious of being the last into tube elevators.

I was last in, followed by a very smartly dressed guy who whipped my wallet and passed it to an accomplice just before the doors closed.

I grabbed the guy, complained to the Tube police, (who said they had it on video) filled in a report, and as soon as they discovered that I was a Canadian resident, that my two witnesses were from the US and Hong Kong, and that none of us would be in London to give evidence at any trial or proceedings, proceeded to take absolutely no action at all.

The lesson, be ever cautions of rushing to be last in the elevator - there always another one!

And, on the subject of tubes - being a frequent subway user in North America and Asia I am appalled by the lack of safety precautions on the London Underground.

At many of the prime tourist stations the crowds can get quite massive - there is virtually no control on platform loading and one of these days some person is going to give a push and people are going to fall in the path of an oncoming tube.

Once again the lesson is that it may be safer to stand back on the platform and stand on the tube than try to get a seat and risk falling into the path of an oncoming train.

Second thoughts on the tube - I spent several weeks this summer in Tokyo and Hong Kong - both have heavily used subway systems - both have forms of crowd control.

In both cases the newer extensions (to be accurate, I am talking about the train to the new airport in Hong Kong and the new line extension in Tokyo) have double doors. A glass door that encloses the track and does not open until the train has arrived at the station.

You may be aware that here in Toronto we have had at least two circumstances where a disturbed person has pushed a total stranger into the path of oncoming trains with fatal results.

Passengers are now very aware of the danger and keep well away from the track - this of course is not so easy in heavily used systems - and the trains speed has been decreased considerably on entering the station - once again, this reduces the efficiency on heavily used stations.

The double doors seem to be the way to go - even given the high cost.

Maurice Barnwell, Toronto

Editorís Comment:

It is very disappointing that the police do not take the problem of pickpockets on the London Underground more seriously, there has been a rise of 94% in the last year.

Trying to get money spent on the rather creaking London Underground is difficult, but I believe that the new Jubilee Line Extension is the first to have the double door system.

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Re: A Cautionary Tale And Sensible Advice

By Roy Barnacle 20/11/2001, (Rating: 2.9 from 15578 votes)

I am an ex-London, who emigrated to the US in 1960. I have visited London every half dozen years or so since. With each visit, I have been sadly disappointed at the disappearance of those qualities that I always remember made London such a great city. It still is to the visitor, but to those that live there, it is something else.

I certainly agree that any visitor should be extremely alert and careful when in a crowded situation in London. All those stereotypes that existed when I left London are becoming increasingly hard to find - the knowledgeable taxi driver, the witty and wisecracking Cockney, the efficacious London Transport staffer, the ever-cheery and friendly railwayman or woman, the beneficent bobby, etc. I have been around the block a few times, but was still fill with dismay and shock when a ticket collector told my son to f*** off when he asked where the nearest toilet was.

I understand that since this article, LUL has implemented what some consider a disastrous policy, that of closing stations during rush hour etc, to prevent overcrowding on station platforms.

On the problem of crime and police response: I had a video camera stolen at the Tower of London. My young son was holding it while I went to get a snack from one of the carts. The thieves literally tore it from my son’s hands. I reported it to the police.

Several years later, I left a camera on a luggage cart at Logan Airport in Boston. When I returned to the cart, the camera was gone. As in London, I reported it to the police. In London, no officer wanted any information regarding the theft, or my name and address and details of the camera, identity of the thief etc etc. Their comment was that this was common and there was nothing they could do.

At Logan, the officer told me to come in and make a report, which I did. I was asked if I saw anyone near the camera, my address, the value of the camera, and other details.

I never got either camera back, but the police at Logan seemed to show a lot more concern that my camera had been stolen, etc. They gave me other advice about who to contact, such as the parking authorities, and gate security people, etc.
Because of the police concern, and the report, I was able to claim insurance.

People still think of London as a great city, but only from a tourist point of view. My family's view (Romford, Finchley and Tottenham) are completely different.


Roy Barnacle

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