Holborn London Underground escalators
The escalator down from Holborn's ticket hall down to the Central Line, taken in 2006. The station was originally built with lifts. Escalators were added in 1933. Ged Carroll via Flickr

A trial at Holborn underground station challenging the decades-old rule that people should never stand still on the left-hand side of escalators on London's Tube network has resulted in a huge increase in the number of passengers leaving the station. The three-week experiment, which began late last year, was ridiculed on social media platforms, but has proved a success according to underground management company Transport for London (TfL).

London Underground staff were instructed to stand with megaphones and instruct passengers stand on both sides of the escalators during the trial. The instructions caused frustration and confusion to begin with, due to Londoner's tradition (and social training) that they should not stand still on the left, in case they get bowled down by a passenger running up or down the moving staircases.

But according to figures released to The Guardian newspaper, the standing-only policy led to a 27% increase in capacity. The paper reported that 12,745 passengers passed up the escalator between 8.30am-9.30am GMT on a normal weekday, the figure jumped to 16,220 when the standing-only policy was introduced. The experiment took place on the station's 23.4m long "up" during peak hours.

The idea for the trial came from Vauxhall area London Underground manager Len Lau who, on returning from a holiday in Hong Kong and witnessing passengers on the country's Mass Transit Railway standing on both sides of the moving staircase decided to take the idea to his superiors, who then introduced the trial.

Holborn Tube station is one of the busiest on the London Underground network and is set to receive a new entrance and an enlarged ticket hall in order to increase its capacity by 80% by 2022. More than 56 million passengers use the station every year: around 153,400 people per day.