Elizabeth Line: Wonky seats & patchy walls

Elizabeth Line: Wonky seats & patchy walls

This is the second in the Elizabeth Line: Filthy Five series! The first in the series was a basic overview of the problems of mucky yuck that could be found on the Elizabeth line. This instalment looks at the line’s wonky seats and those patches that are having to be applied to the gleaming white/cream station walls because – well there’s no other way of cleaning these dirty/defaced panels!

As explained in the first part of this series there’s no doubt most are in awe of the Elizabeth line – and that is the point. Few notice its downsides especially in terms of its airy, bright, ambient atmosphere. There are those who have indeed noticed something, but its usually those black patches on the station walls above the seats and also those dirty escalator uplights which many seem to love sweeping their fingers through the thick dust to make some patterns of some sort. Those two things are very right in one’s eye thus these can’t easily be missed. But the rest, well there’s a long list and this second instalment is a further look at some of the rather less salubrious parts of the Elizabeth line – and its things people don’t even notice…

Thus this is all about the Elizabeth line’s nitty gritty and bringing that to the forefront of public knowledge…

As a full page article in the Evening Standard (15 June 2023) detailed, the whole ethos of the Lizzy Line is as cited: ‘It’s clean. It’s grand, without being ostentatious. It’s pretty efficient… The trains themselves are largely well designed, their salient inner workings occluded, like a washing machine or a phone. After all, no one needs to know how the future works — we just want to enjoy it.’

Exactly! Nobody wants to know the Elizabeth line is anything other than clean and grand and that is all. No further insight need be attained because people just want to enjoy London’s brand new railway.

Its took a bit of time before anyone attempted a ‘2001’ type shot on the line! But that’s what this is – pure whiteness, cleanliness, perfect symmetry etc. Source: Metro.

The Elizabeth line’s wonky seating

In terms of ‘symmetry’ we deal with what can only be the Elizabeth line’s wonky seating! One would think after four years of delays (and Bond Street an extra half year on top of this four years) things would be properly built. Evidently not! Much like the other aspects of the line’s five central core stations (which we look at in more detail as this series progresses) things aren’t ship shape with regards to these seats because if they were, the problems would have been spotted and the seats adjusted accordingly. (In that time too they could have treated the stations’ GFRC panels accordingly!) Clearly there are some botched jobs to be found on the Elizabeth line!

The line’s wonky seats are simply that they’re not level! It must be mentioned a lot of the stations’ seating does look a bit suspect in terms of how level they are. In fact most of them are level, its just the flooring and the black fairing along the bottom of the curved station walls that are wonky! Indeed one can sus from the platform seats that station platforms aren’t quite exactly set square and level – they’re somewhat undulating – and I’m not even sure how that came about! But its this that does sort of cause possibly a second glance at the seats, quizzingly that perhaps these seats aren’t level. But they are! So that’s a problem in itself which means if one is at all attuned to how the seating appears, one is likely to miss those seats that are well and truly not level. In a way its quite easy to be tricked by one’s perceptions because most appear to be out of kilter somehow and when one does check these out – its those perceptions that have been the problem all along.

The platform seats should be absolutely level with the floor and square to the wall panelling.

Even I found that myself and it was sometime before I could ‘attune’ myself to spotting seats that were well and truly out of kilter – thus there are seats which are inclined. As has been said its the platform floors or the back band skirting along the walls that makes these seats look off balance and yet once one becomes accustomed to looking at how the seats and the walls match up, its more likely the real gremlins in the works will emerge!

Farringdon’s platform seating is somewhat different to the other four core stations that they come in pairs and are set somewhat higher than the others. But at least they’re all level! Like all the others the ghostly shapes on the walls are becoming a permanent feature of the Elizabeth line!

But its at Tottenham Court Road the real fun begins…

A casual glance at the seat in question reveals nothing amiss – but look carefully and see how it squares with the station walls. Spotted it yet?

It was in late February 2023 that I spotted the first truly un-level Elizabeth line seat! That is at Tottenham Court Road (TCR) which has a number of other problems too, including signs with mismatching colours (the pantone used is wrong) and these are among many things I’m surprised no-one has noticed!

The first un-level seat to be spotted in the wild is sited approximately half way down the westbound platform (that’s ‘B’) at TCR. Yes so many people sit on it that it gets hard to see there is a problem with it, and I have found its hard to photograph it without anyone being on it! But yes, its much lower at the Bond Street end than it is at the Farringdon end – how the contractors (and the supervisors supervising the installation work) could have missed this is anyone’s guess.

If the first picture didn’t reveal anything this one certainly shall! The seat certainly goes uphill in the direction of Farringdon!

This is not the line’s only wonky seat though! There are others as we shall see in a moment – and again one wonders how these got the okay from the supervisors overseeing the work. Tottenham Court Road has another example which also has some other issues such as poorly fitted module sections and ill fitting foundations etc.

The next nearest one can be found at Bond Street station. Admittedly its not on the station platforms this time but in one of the station’s connecting corridors and its one of many seats on the Elizabeth line intended for people with reduced mobility (PRM). This is located in what I personally describe as the *sewer* passage (the corridor takes a few twists and turns and that is because it follows the course of a notable London CSO (Combined Sewer Overflow) – its the King’s Scholars’ Pond Sewer which eventually falls into the Thames at Pimlico – aka the former River Tyburn which gave the Central London Railway such a headache they nearly gave up on the construction of their new Bond Street station back in 1900!)

The wonky seat which is visible part way down the corridor leading to the Elizabeth line at Bond Street.

The quality of the seating especially for PRM and other train users adjacent to the various Elizabeth line lifts is of interest because many of these seats have some issue or another. Besides the wonky seat at Bond Street, one can find the standards of this type of seating varies from station to station. For example some of the footings (bottom of the seat legs) have a sealant around the base whilst others don’t have any – and in some cases the footings anchor onto the floor quite badly.

This is an example of how the seat legs should be finished. They’re level to the floor and sealant is used to give a tidy appearance. This one is at Tottenham Court Road east side upper level.

The seating on the middle landing at Moorgate isn’t properly matched with the floor surface. Again no sealant used unlike most others.

For example at Liverpool Street (the Moorgate side) the footings aren’t even set into the floor! There’s obviously a spigot (or spindle) at the bottom of the legs and its here that this has been anchored to the floor leaving the remainder of the seat leg raised somewhat above the floor itself which is evidently not standard.

Liverpool Street (Broadgate side) has two examples of what are near enough a wonky seat! The first is at mid-level from the Broadgate entrance/exit. It seems to have been hobbled in with the result that it looks square to the wall but it isn’t because the seating itself is twisted. (This twisting can also be seen at Tottenham Court Road Dean St platform level). Again there’s inconsistency on how the seats should be fixed to the floor! If one assumes its down to the contractor and each station should have an ‘individual touch’ it isn’t because each station had the one contractor (excepting Bond Street) and in some cases the seats are set correctly whilst in others they aren’t – and yet its the same contractor responsible!

Liverpool Street’s mid-level PRM seating with its unfinished floor anchoring.

The next wonky seat at Liverpool Street platform level also has its problems. Again it looks fine from above but underneath its a different thing altogether!

The seat in question at Liverpool Street showing its legs – especially the furthest one which is clearly out of line and that in turn twists the seating frame. The whole thing looks fine from above but it isn’t installed properly. Plus the footings are set above the floor too and no sealant is used.

Note how the seat legs are anchored to the floor in yet another view of our Bond Street PRM seat example – and no sealant is used here either!

In terms of that at Bond Street, its the legs that cause the seat to take on its wonky appearance! These have been anchored into the floor haphazardly and one leg is apparently deeper into the floor than the other. The sealant around the bases is missing too – and those two particular characteristics are what prevail at a considerable number of the Elizabeth line’s central core stations PRM seating!

GFRC panels that cannot be cleaned…

As we are back within the realms of Bond Street Elizabeth line station in regards to this survey mention must also be made of how the much vaunted Crossrail/Elizabeth Line GFRC (Glass Fibre Reinforced Concrete) panelling design has been shown what one could consider to be a failure. So many people/architects/enthusiasts have shouted over the rooftops in regards to this fabled new material – and yet many have not realised the pitfalls of using these panels! This is important because despite the huge accolade for the futuristic look of the stations, these examples show this is anything but – and that for a reason is to do with keeping things clean – but nevertheless failing at that too…

Many articles prior to opening/after opening of the Elizabeth line extolled its ultra-futuristic clean look. This is the heading for one such article featured by the Architects Journal.

As I explained in the first part of this series it appears none of the panels have been treated with a special coating, they’re just plain untreated panels and while the manufacturers say these can be cleaned the recommendation is these panels should be treated with appropriate coatings – which should offer protection against graffiti for example. Anyway since it appears that hasn’t happened, the problem is when graffiti (or blood or other stuff) gets on these particular Crossrail/Elizabeth line panels they’re pretty hard to clean. One can see attempts at various parts of the five central core stations that have been moderately successful – but only moderately. At least a fair number of people have seen the ghostly outlines that have appeared behind these seats that line the station’s platforms – and when they have made that observation its usually assumed then that something is amiss with these GFRC panels.

And therein lies the problem. These are difficult to clean and that for many reasons. Where the GFRC has been cleaned it has caused a blotchy appearance. Thus it seems the modus being employed is rather something akin to a philosophy of ‘let sleeping dogs lie.’ Evidently chemicals in the passengers’ clothing or in their hair, or the chemicals used in the graffiti tags is a factor. And where cleaning attempts have been made it hasn’t made much improvement.

Bond Street is of course the newest of the Elizabeth line core stations (its not even been open a year) but here they’ve found graffiti removal a considerable problem. The station was hit with graffiti almost as soon as it opened, and despite these tags being treated they could not be removed. After months of what seemed to be indecision a different approach was utilised. But first here’s how these panels looked after attempts to clean these…

Graffiti that’s left its mark despite attempts to clean it off the GFRC panel.

Further examples of failed graffiti removal can be seen a little further along the same corridor.

What that means is these defaced panels remained for months as they were – a clear demonstration of the failed attempts to remove the offensive tags or dirty markings. Evidently no way could be found to clean these up. These are not the only tags to be found on the Elizabeth Lines’ core stations there’s more – but these at Bond Street are important in terms of this article. And yes, after a considerable time someone had a bright idea. Instead of cleaning these up why not patch them up instead? And that’s what happened! Compare those pics below with those above.

The ‘patch’ entailed a large sheet of sticky decal that would be placed over the entire panel. So far so good. The one ‘problem’ being these decals were of some sort of metallic/stone washed appearance. Clearly TfL were trying to make these look somewhat like the stainless steel trims that can be seen in various parts of each of the five core stations (as well as Paddington and Woolwich and at the many tube stations that too have employed stainless steel.) Except in this case it doesn’t really work because these look quite out of place.

The panel has been covered with a grey mottled decal in order to mimic the stainless steel panels seen nearby.

Similar treatment for the pair of panels that were defaced further down the same corridor.

Thus one can see the whole ethos of the Elizabeth line’s stations having bright, clean, futuristic station ambience does fall down somewhat because 1) they haven’t found an effective means yet of cleaning these panels and 2) they instead choose to cover these up in the hope the problem will go away and no-one will notice.

Its what one could call ‘sweeping the problem under the carpet’(!)

If one goes down to the TCR end of the platforms at Bond Street and takes a detour down the corridor leading to the lift, there’s the biggest patch so far that I can find on the Elizabeth line. I don’t know what it was like before but evidently it was bad enough to need the same treatment as those other panels we have just looked at. So again an example of how the whole ethos of the station’s clean futuristic look is diminished because no-one seemingly has a solution to how these panels should be cleaned!

The huge patch in the corridor leading to the lift for the Hannover Square entrance.

This flies against the ethos of the Elizabeth line being a sweaky clean railway!

Anyhow, there’s far more than just what has been detailed on this page and there’s other posts to come too covering so many other aspects of that ‘sweaky clean’ image. There’s some yucky bits too as I shall show but on the whole it seems as long as people are considerably bedazzled with the overall futuristic look of the Elizabeth line, certain things are not going to be noticed are they? But these things they’re to be found even if one looks in the most public areas of the Elizabeth line’s stations!

Continued in part three.