Escalators and moving walks: the state-of-the-art

 In Topical subjects

At the Holborn London Underground station a persuasive voice, accompanied by holograms, instructs people not to walk up the escalators (the escalators tube etiquette usually instructs people to stand on the right, leaving the left hand side free for walkers) and tells passengers to stand on both side of the “up” escalators.At the Holborn London Underground station a persuasive voice, accompanied by holograms, instructs people not to walk up the escalators (the escalators tube etiquette usually instructs people to stand on the right, leaving the left hand side free for walkers) and tells passengers to stand on both side of the “up” escalators.In one of my articles published in Elevatori some time ago, I had deprecated the habit to walk up the escalators, especially because the passenger never holds onto the handrail and in case of a sudden stop, the consequence will be a motion thrust equal to the sum of the escalator running speed and the speed of the passenger.The first results emerged from the experiment carried out at the Holborn underground station report that there have been no significant improvements with regard to accidents (the result is not final because the trial lasted only a short while). However, the congestion was reduced and the passenger flow increased by 30%.“The data collected on customer behaviour showed that the change was only effective while staff were present to encourage the requested behaviour and produced no lasting change”. (“Standing on both sides of escalators, the Holborn journey”, Transport for London, UK, 2016). It is interesting to note how differently the innovation is perceived (which in some Canadian metropolitan stations is now received and digested).  Schematically:

  • Perception by sector experts (engineers, sector technicians): in general there is a positive perception because the beneficial effect on traffic and safety (although not measured in this case) will be unquestionable;
  • Perception by users, probably, this is simply considered as a nuisance (this emotional wave affected the reports of some newspapers);
  • In my opinion each safety innovation should be presented and managed in a firm way and with adequate communication (never giving up). Just think about the introduction of safety belts in cars. At first they were not among the priorities of the car manufacturers, then these were introduced by law and reluctantly applied. Now these are part of a standard and general correct habit: prevention, education and, where needed, fines worked a miracle.

With reference to this news, showing how even small interventions can produce, sooner or later, a beneficial effect on the users, you may ask: what about Italy? Let’s try to summarize some expected and well known interventions in the field of escalators and moving walks.


Escalators and moving walks have always been ruled by the current Machinery Directive (2006/42/EC), thus they are formally similar to any machine, with obvious concerns by technicians operating in the field. Just think of machine tools. A machine usually is operated by a trained operator. While for escalators and moving walks, the user is the passenger who knows nothing about the machine he/she uses, with clear and measurable impacts on their safety. It is therefore the common sense driving those who hope for the arrival of a legislation (for private use escalators not under the management of USTIF, Special Transport Authority and Fixed Installations) requiring at least the following obligations:

  • communication on the installation location and its main technical specifications;
  • compulsory maintenance by a qualified technician (USTIF requires that the maintenance technician is at least qualified for the lift maintenance);
  • compulsory periodic routine maintenance (like “half-year” for lifts);
  • periodic checks by a notified body.

The technical standards, EN 115-1 and EN 13015, include instructions on maintenance procedures, the qualification of the technician operating on the escalator or moving walk, an escalator log; but, obviously, without a binding decree, these are only options that a careful customer might request.


In the foreword of the EN 115-1 it is generally recommended to prefer the use of lifts for the mobility of persons with disabilities. Actually, the problem is far more complex. If we refers to many users such as in hospitals, it is evident that the type of disability affects not only patients but also those going to the hospital to see a specialist (and could suffer psychological disorders in case of use of escalators or moving walks). It would therefore be appropriate to ask for binding rules on the combined installation of escalators/moving walks and lifts. In this regard, the WG11 of UNI Lift Committee – which already years ago dismissed the UNI 11570 standard relevant to criteria for choosing and installing a lift system in various building types – set this problem and is now updating that provision, considering as an optimal choice the installation of escalators and moving walks in combination with lifts.


The WG13 group of the Lift Committee is working to provide a standard (such as the UNI 10411 collection for lifts) regulating the interventions on lifts and moving walks. The aim is to mediate at the best between the system conditions and the safety level as defined by the current EN 115-1, while taking into account the quantity and quality level of the intervention.


We report two types of standards approved by notified bodies as regards the assessment of energy consumption.The first is the ISO 25475-3, giving an energy classification as a function of use cases, but often not consistent with the Italian reality. Applying that rule, most of the currently operating escalators and moving walks falls within the best category and thus there is not any drive to technological improvement. In fact UNI did not approve this standard. Far more relevant and interesting for the Italian context is the UNI CTI TS11300-6 standard which under certain parameters tries to give an immediate picture of the energy consumption. It was drawn up by representatives of the UNI Lift Committee and CTI (Italian Heat Technology Committee, the only body appointed to handle the energy consumption in buildings) and derives from an operational requirement connected to Law 90 of 2013 on the energy consumption of buildings. It is no coincidence that the members of the working group were contacted by ENEA, on behalf of the Ministry of Economic Development, in order to have two formulas designed to define the maximum acceptable power consumption for lifts and escalators/moving walks in a building (this now refers to the service sector, but the calculation will include all types of building). On the basis of the experience in the drafting of TS11300-6 and, for some members, on the basis of the work done for ISO, in September 2016 a simple formula will be available concerning the energy consumption of escalators and moving walks. In any case it must be stressed that it is considered as important to include the customer in the preliminary phase in order to define “how, where, when, what and in which modality” the escalators/moving walk will operate. The aim is to not create false energy saving expectations, as this latter cannot be linked only to the installation of devices and components but also to the evaluation of the use environment. After Holborn and Brexit, it’s now our turn!


Bruno Ciborra

Translated by Paola Grassi