Australia’s Longest Escalator is the Most Dangerous: Parliament Station
Australia’s Longest Escalator is the Most Dangerous: Parliament Station

Australia’s Longest Escalator is the Most Dangerous: Parliament Station

The longest escalator in the southern hemisphere is at Parliament Station in Melbourne. It turns out that it’s also the most dangerous. Here’s what it feels like to ride it and why its caused so many injuries.

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I'm outside Parliament Station in Melbourne. And this is the site of the longest escalators in the Southern Hemisphere. And it turns out they're some of the most dangerous too. I'm gonna take you inside, show you what it feels like, and explain why that is.

This is Parliament Station. And this video is gonna be a little bit different, because rather than featuring in it, I wanna do my best to share what the feeling is like to ride these escalators and explain why they really are the most dangerous in Australia. So on your way to the station, you're gonna be greeted by these bold signs that talk about the risk of these escalators. And the process of using Parliament Station is just like any other in the Melbourne Metro.

There is one thing which is a bit different, though. All of this yellow signage talking about the escalator danger. But let's do it.

And this is what the escalator looks like from the top. That is a long way down. And it doesn't take long to start to feel that you're more in a tunnel than you are on a set of moving stairs. And that is part of the issue. Parliament Station is part of the Melbourne Metro City Loop. And this station opened in 1983. And it has become one of the busiest in the city, with around 10 million passengers per year or around 35,000 people per day in normal times.

At 30 meters, this escalator is long enough to take the title for the longest single-span escalator south of the equator. But it's still a long way off from the world's biggest, with one in the St. Petersburg's Metro in Russia going for a staggering 138 meters. It's also way longer than the world's shortest. The incredibly cute petite escalator in the basement of a shopping center in Kawasaki, Japan, which has a journey time of just eight seconds, long enough to show in full here, which other than scoring a Guinness World Record is utterly useless, as it takes you to more stairs.

And the duration for this one, well, that gets interesting. From top to bottom, it's around 1 minute and 30 seconds. And I say about, because the speed of this is actually variable. It's normal for escalators in the City Loop to go slowly during off-peak times and faster during peak times to increase the number of people through. But in 2019, Metro Trains began a trial to slow the downward direction during peak times with the goal of reducing slips, trips, and falls. And on that note, that's half our journey done.

And once you're here, you can go down another level, you can read the escalator danger signs, or go and catch your train. But I'll share some quick escalator facts. The first operational escalator was patented in 1892 and installed on Coney Island in New York as an amusement.

And there's one study from Switzerland on escalator safety. And they found that falls were by far the biggest cause of injury, in particular amongst the elderly. And the injury types and the body regions that were impacted were much the same across the genders. But there was one key difference. Injuries associated due to alcohol, which I think might be best summed up by this video. The individual was quoted in the "Daily Mail" as saying, "I drunk 10 pints "so I didn't feel any pain until the morning." Metro Trains did a study with RMIT University and found that there were around two or three serious incidents a week on escalators. With this one, one of the most dangerous in the network, with injuries from falls resulting in facial cuts, bruises, and emergency room visits. So let's head back up, and I'll explain why.

Now, as we take this up, I'm going to face downward so I can more clearly explain what's going on. But here's a view from the bottom. The safety study looked at 600 plus injuries and found that around half were due to falling backwards while traveling up on the escalator. And that was around twice as many as falling forward while going down.

So what were the reasons? Well, the length and the fact that this is so busy in rush hour was part of the problem. But design was also a factor. As you can see, the ceiling of the tunnel descends with the escalators, and the stainless steel reflects some of the lights above, which can lead to spatial disorientation. And that leads to feelings of dizziness, vertigo, and a loss of balance. And this is more likely to affect elderly people, who are the most susceptible to falls on escalators. Another factor is that while you're on it, due to those sloping ceilings, and, unlike normal escalators, which are open, there's no real horizon reference point.

See all these lines? They actually run at 90 degrees to the escalator, not a true horizontal and not a true vertical. And this is one of the reasons why 28% of the falls were by people who had firm footings. To solve this, a campaign has gone up with signage around the station encouraging people to hold on and to avoid distractions. Slower speeds have come in, and more announcements. All on this mission to cut the number of injuries.

Now, this escalator might not be Australia's longest for much longer. In Perth, they're constructing the Airport Central Railway Station, which is due to open in 2022, and that's going to include a 35-meter escalator. And let's also hope that some of these safety measures work so it can lose its title as Australia's most dangerous.

I've got more videos about how design is impacting lives, including the world's ugliest colour and how it's saving lives. I'm Julian O'Shea, that's it for me.