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Bank tube station is well known for its ‘Mind the Gap!’ announcement but these days it seems people should mind the indicators too – as well as the gap!! Anybody trying to work out what these indicators are denoting might not be looking where they are going….

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Mind the doors, mind the gap! And mind the indicators! Note the apparent express service on offer…

The station’s new (and somewhat crappy) indicators were installed about the second week in September. On the westbound platform the new ones have been put right next to the old ones so it is very difficult to see what is actually being said especially if anyone wants to see what the third train’s destination happens to be.

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The old ‘uns are certainly more legible. At least with the temporary arrangement one can see the first four trains listed.

On the eastbound platform they are distanced well away from the current indicator, in fact the eastbound only had one indicator previously due to the straighter nature of the platform, and currently it has been replaced by two nearer the far ends of the platform.

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Eastbound at Bank. Two new indicators and one old one. The latter is more legible.

The new indicators are, in my view not very good. They can display scrolling information as well as the destinations of two or even three trains and are like those on the Victoria Line and London Overground and elsewhere. However its the quality of the display that is of concern.

One thing that surprises me with these indicators is TfL’s new express tube services. These have obviously been introduced without so much as an iota of publicity. A train for West Ruislip, according to the displays, runs non stop to West Ruislip, similarly those destined for Ealing Broadway, White City North Acton, Northolt etc, those stations being their first and only stop lol. This information is seen only on the westbound platform. Clearly its a quirk in the system which as yet cannot display the stations en route only the final stop. On the eastbound platform no such information is shown.

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High speed express tube? West Ruislip service – is its first stop really West Ruislip??

Apparently this was previously a feature a few years ago when they installed some old style replacement indicators at Tottenham Court Road’s eastbound platform. Trains were advertised as non-stopping all the way to their destinations such as Epping! See this post.

The text size on these indicators in my opinion isn’t good. Its too small for the distances required. The old indicators were of a slightly different brightness and colour plus they were larger so the text could re easily readable. With the new ones they are much smaller and even brighter thus in certain situations they are less readable.

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Surprising how the old ones stand out so much better. Different font and spacing too!

The new ones have the same number of dots (or LEDs) per letter as the old ones so are technically not any better because the spacing between the letters is considerably less. These new indicators are essentially half the size of the old ones but are expected to display more than twice the amount of information and the letters bleed into each other creating a discernible blur. This is why they have put two on each platform, because they cannot be viewed over such great distances as the old ones. The different case doesn’t help either because it means the various elements of the lettering is even more closer together.

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Old one more legible, new one considerably less legible.

The examples shown in TfL’s and associated companies’ literature do show a better space all around the lettering and a different font which means its considerably less squashed unlike those in practice that have been installed since 2012. TfL apparently do not issue a standards in relation to dot matrix indicators and TfL point out these are not generally part of the standards for signs but rather “fall into the category of destination information.”

I can find no documents anywhere which actually displays TfL’s current standards for these. The only standards I can find are for London Overground. Ironically LO have a standard style of destination indicator which is quite popular (even though its not absolutely perfect.) It seems the the tube are now basing theirs based on the LO style of models, but inexplicably London Underground are using a different font and spacing which is not so legible.

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Victoria Line s/b at Finsbury Park. Notice the less than optimal indicator.

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Piccadilly Line s/b at Finsbury Park. The indicator with different lettering is more legible at a distance than the Victoria’s.

The next two pictures are 100% crops of the two above pictures. Neither has been processed. Despite being much further away the Piccadilly’s indicator is more legible. Note the different style font and letter spacing whilst the Victoria’s indicator (same as that at Bank) is brighter too.

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Piccadilly Line indicator – at least a full carriage’s length distant – more legible.

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Victoria Line indicator – merely half a carriage’s distant. Considerably less legible.

This thread at District Dave’s discusses these indicators as they were introduced on the tube for the first time. Quite a few obervers claimed these new ones were so bad they couldnt be read from more than a few yards away.

Diamond Geezer also discussed these (note the blurb in the post’s URL ‘requisitioned by cretins’ lol)

It is somewhat interesting the tube has basically used the same style of dot matrix indicators since the late 1980s which means some of these are now almost thirty years old (and which after a number of experiments, a standard style was settled upon in agreement with our LRT disability panel [the chair of whom was Eric Midwinter, secretaries Sarah Greenwood for the disability panel and Ron Brewer/Rufus Barnes for LRPC], Andrew Braddock the boss of LT’s Unit for Disabled Passengers, and the then LUL general manager – at the time I think this was Brian Harding and it was our panel that were responsible for evaluating and testing these indicators during the second half of the 1980s.) Just as a matter of note some of you may know Rufus Barnes was later chief of The London Transport Users Committee.

There has been a long standing debate as to which font, colour and size suits people best. Technically everyone has their own preferences. Diamond Geezer and others have bashed those red LED indicators at Edgware Road as being useless, however a number of people with visual impairments do actually like these, not only that in certain conditions the red is more legible than the usual gold LED’s. I conducted a series of experiments with photographs here to show the differences between the red LED indicators and the usual gold LED indicators for a future post on the tube’s dot matrix indicators. One may remember many of London’s buses adopting yellow destination blinds but it turns out white is ultimately better in many conditions and yellow only in a few. It may have been somehow ironic the first deregulated buses in London on the 173 had white liveries thus prompting the use of yellow blinds. With all of London’s buses now having red liveries regardless of operator, almost all have reverted to white destination indicators. I do remember during bus deregulation there was enormous debate as to which was better and the yellow was settled upon for London.

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The new, smaller, indicator at the western end of the Liverpool Street bound platform.

The one at the western end of the eastbound Bank platform seems a little better than the others, possibly because it is placed in a much higher position and nearly over the tracks thus the glare becomes less critical. From these it does seem that certain locations are more beneficial.

TfL are now dispensing with their long held use of larger size indicators and using these much smaller ones. Whilst these smaller boards are used on London Overground one must remember these are clearer and the trains are much shorter too so people are not a long way off as they are on tube platforms. Its a good reason why these new ones at Bank, and elsewhere do not work as well, and its totally confounding that the underground wishes to adopt a font which is more tightly packed.

UPDATE 28 September 2018: I took pictures this a.m of the indicator on the eastbound platform at Holborn Central Line. Its a somewhat smaller one that the old ones but slightly bigger then the new ones at Bank and elsewhere. And what a difference! Its far more legible and can carry three lines of information like those blasted new ones but render the text so much better….

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Better and more legible indicator at Holborn eastbound platform

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West Hampstead Thameslink yellow and white LED displays. The yellow may be more legible but the white is better under a number of conditions.

Thameslink and other companies now abide by liquid crystal displays at many core London stations, but still rely on dot matrix indicators for stations outside of the core. The liquid crystal displays are more popular and clearer although some say the blue colour is an issue. I have seen Thameslink experimenting with while dot matrix indicators these are fine, in fact they are better than the yellow in certain conditions. Not only that given the vast range of visual ability, for some with limited fields of vision the white is also better. One more thing – I find is the indicators are generally made by Trueform. In their specs it is said the displays are DDA compliant. Its not the DDA anymore, but the EA 2010 that is now in force!

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