The Northern Line is commonly called the Misery
Some ASCII art first to show schematically how it works.
Edgware X X High Barnet
X X X <-- Mill Hill East to the west
X X X
XX Camden Town
X X (not to scale)
Charing Cr. X X
X X Bank
So trains come in from Edgware
, Mill Hill East
, or High Barnet
. At Camden Town
there's a kind of lottery. Which branch will they continue down, Charing Cross
? If they announce
the wrong one, you just get off and change platform
s at Camden Town. In theory.
In practice you have the following considerations.
- The dot matrix indicator at the station you start at doesn't match the destination on the front of the train that pulls in.
- The dot matrix indicators don't show anything.
- The dot matrix indicators flash ** CORRECTION ** precisely as the train pulls in, and do this for so long that you have to get on the train because the doors are closing, before you see what they corrected it to.
- Trains vanish.
- Trains reappear. Especially late at night. You come home from the theatre, you're in the West End, you want the Edgware branch, the dot matrix indicators say the next one is 17 minutes away. You're tired, you're bored, there are drunken thugs and loonies roaming the platforms, you want a train to appear now, but it ticks away 17 min... 16 min... 15 min... 14 min... You are more or less guaranteed that one will appear now, a returned Mary Celeste that has just materialized in the tunnels and that the people who put fanciful predictions on these dot matrix indicators didn't know about.
- Trains change destination while you're on them. They started out going on the Bank branch. A few stations later the driver announces they'll actually be going onto the Charing Cross branch instead.
Now an anecdote. I had the misfortune to have to use the bloody Northern Line today. The usual selection of the above happened, but that was standard. The platform indicator
said Charing Cross, the announcement
inside the train said Bank, so I risked it and got on.
A couple of stations later, the driver announced, "I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but this is now going to Charing Cross. I have had the signal for Charing Cross, and been told to accept it."
Okay, who knows how the bods in control rooms decide these things. Some grumbling, some people get off. I decide it's easier to stay on till we get to the interchange at Camden Town and change there. Plus... there's always a chance they'll change their mind.
One station later, driver comes on and makes another announcement. "I'm sorry, correction, this is going via Bank after all."
Your world-weary correspondent isn't surprised, for your correspondent is wise in the confusing ways of the Northern Line. But the next bit of the announcement is a new one to me.
"My mistake. I thought we were at Camden Town."
...This is the driver!