The Underground station discombobulation

We are going big this month, very big. 17 miles in fact, which happens to be the length of track that makes up the Circle Line in the London Underground. If you are a regular traveller on this line, in fact on any of the Capital’s underground lines, you will know that at certain times of day it can be horrendously busy, and the joy of travelling – particularly commuting – is rarely seen lighting up the faces of your fellow passengers. 114 million passengers travel the Circle Line every year and the majority of them would probably welcome a better user experience. This month’s challenge is inspired by an architecture firm who looked at the problem and have come up with a solution. It has imagined a scheme whereby travelling on the Circle Line is altogether a more enjoyable and efficient experience.

What would you do? You are restricted only by use of the existing tunnels everything else is fair game. Change the seating, the trains, the way the trains operate – it is up to you, your engineering expertise and your imagination. The solution would need to be at least as safe as the existing system and ideally would be at least at fast – currently the eight trains (maximum at one time) on the Circle Line travel no faster than 20mph.

Next month we will reveal the solution from the architectural company, but in the meantime if you have a solution that is inspired or just entertaining, please send it to the editor at, or leave a comment.

It was a challenge tackled by architectural consultancy NBBJ, whose thought provoking solution was based on the travelators found in many airports.

NBBJ’s concept replaces the Underground trains with three side-by-side electronic walkways, moving at varying speeds to take commuters around the famous circular tube route.

Each travelator increases in speed from its adjacent walkway. Commuters would enter at the slowest speed of 3mph and slowly increase their pace by stepping onto adjacent walkways, up to a top speed of 15mph. When added to an average walking pace of 3mph, pedestrians would actually move faster on foot than today’s Circle Line trains, which must stop for boarding at each station. Consequently journeys would be quicker, more enjoyable and healthier.

NBBJ claims this concept will open new possibilities for putting the fun back into travelling on the Underground, for tourists and Londoners alike. But would it be safe enough? Probably a few design revisions would be needed before we could answer that with any confidence!