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10:23am on Wednesday, 18th March, 2009:

Keeping Calm


I'm sitting in the departure lounge of Heathrow Terminal 5. It's my first flight from here; I can see how come it took them so long to build it...

Part of my journey here involved taking a tube train from Liverpool Street to Paddington, and something odd happened when we arrived at King's Cross. The doors opened, passengers got on and off, but then the doors stayed open and a very calm voice over the station's public address system began repeating the words: "Attention passengers: due to a reported emergency, leave the station immediately.". No-one on the train paid it any heed, and although people on the platform were looking confused, none of them made any effort to "leave immediately" unless you count running to make it to the train. After a minute or so of this, the train's doors closed and we pulled away. None of the announcements at other stations made any reference to any emergency at King's Cross, so I have no idea what it was about.

So, why did people decide not to leave despite being instructed to do so be a pre-recorded voice? My guess is that it was too calm. If there were a fire raging that everyone could see, OK, a calm voice might save lives; however, when there is no emergency in evidence, you need something a little more urgent-sounding to get people to react.

As for those of us on the train, well we were waiting on the driver's instructions. If he'd said to leave, OK, we would have done; as it was, he just changed the train from Hammersmith Line to Circle Line (and never explained why).

I hope I don't get back home on Saturday to find there was a major bomb blast at King's Cross this morning...

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Copyright © 2009 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).