Frequent falls on Parliament Station escalators prompts Metro Trains safety campaign
The direction of the lights above the escalators are thought to be disorientating. (ABC Radio Melbourne: Nicole Mills)
The dizzying heights of Melbourne’s Parliament Station escalators, which Metro Trains says are the longest in the Southern Hemisphere, are causing problems for disorientated patrons.
Two to three serious incidents are occurring each week at Melbourne’s busiest railway stations, new research says, and Parliament Station has the highest risk.
More than 600 escalator-related incident reports at the stations in the past nine years were studied.
Of those caught on CCTV, almost half were due to people falling backwards while travelling up the escalator.
This was twice as likely as falling forwards while travelling down the escalator.
Thirty-nine per cent were carrying bags.
It takes almost one-and-a-half minutes to complete the journey. (ABC Radio Melbourne: Nicole Mills)
Metro Trains safety and security general manager Anthony Fewster said his team commissioned RMIT University design experts to look for explanations and what could be done to prevent further incidents.
The research found a lack of vertical lines in the building was one potential cause.
“Some of that came through in the study and certainly that’s what we’re hearing anecdotally,” Mr Fewster told ABC Radio Melbourne.
“Even the direction of the lights make it a little bit more disorientating as you’re looking up.”
Design leading to disorientation
At Parliament House, the first section of escalators takes one minute and 25 seconds to travel from top to bottom.
Then there’s a second escalator to lower platforms.
The ceiling of the tunnel descends with the escalators and the stainless steel panels reflect the lights above, which can lead to spatial disorientation including feelings of dizziness, vertigo and loss of balance.
These symptoms occur more commonly in elderly people.
“Certainly there’s some evidence to show that at Parliament they’re a little bit more likely to get injured on the escalators,” Mr Fewster said.
“You’ve just got to make sure that you’re holding on and looking forward. It is a bit of a disorientating place to be.”
Images are placed along the escalators which give patrons something to focus on. (ABC Radio Melbourne: Nicole Mills)
Metro Trains has installed signs around the station to remind people of the dangers. It also plans to resurface the escalator steps.
“We had a trial about a year or so ago and it seemed successful,” Mr Fewster said of the resurfacing.
In 28 per cent of cases, people fell mid-escalator after having gained a solid footing.
In 22 per cent of cases, those who fell were with another person, which sometimes resulted in both parties losing balance and falling.
Renovations recommended to reduce risk
The report quotes a physiotherapist who recommends that people who suffer vertigo on escalators should concentrate on a stable object and never close their eyes.
It also recommends the lighting within the Parliament Station escalator tunnel be reviewed and refurbished to include a concealed light source and handrails be given a matt surface to minimise reflections.
One ABC Radio Melbourne listener texted to say they loved the Parliament Station escalators because it was “like a mild Luna Park ride”.
Breakfast presenter Sami Shah said looking backwards as you travelled up the escalator made the vertigo kick in.
“I must admit when you actually look up from your phone — as most people do not do — and look up at the escalators, it is a very intimidating sight,” he said.
“It is very steep.”
This photo shows the escalators during the construction phase. (Supplied: Public Record Office Victoria)