How really not to design a sign: Wimbledon station

Yesterday evening I was off to the Merton Liberal Democrats AGM to speak about Campaigning In Your Community, which meant a journey via Wimbledon station.

Wimbledon station faces a problem common to many: the volume of people using it at peak times exceeds its capacity, causing real problems at points such as pinch points such as the stairs.

As a result, a one-way system has been introduced on the stairs, with people meant to use the left side only and extra fencing on the platform to divide the two streams of people.

However, whilst time and effort has gone into the fencing, not so much thought has been given to the signs. Get off the train at one platform and head towards the stairs and you won’t even know there is a one-way system, for there isn’t a sign to tell you. As a result, when I was there, some people were headed the wrong way through the system (not me, but only by chance), attracting angry muttering from others.

So when I then used another pair of platforms for the journey back, I took a close look at the signs there. The good news is that if you get off the train on those there is a sign indicating the one-way system on the stairs.

The bad news is that this is it…

Wimbledon station's confusing sign


Failing to put up a sign is one thing.

But putting up such a bad sign as this one almost requires a deliberate perverse love of bad information.

And the serious point in all this is that it neatly illustrates a point David Boyle often makes about public services – which is the need for the human factor, dedicated people who care and who have the power to do something. Because central diktats about signs only get you so far. What you really need are staff at the station who are passionate about serving the public well and have the power to do something about it.

That way, we might have not only sensible signs from the platforms but even perhaps helpful signs which you can read without the aid of a telescope telling you which exit is which when you get to the top of the stairs.

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