Terrified tube passenger - advice?

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HugePilchard

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My other half scares easily. She doesn't like flying, won't go beyond the first rung of a step ladder, and absolutely hates trains.

We're off to London next week. I've managed to get her calmed down about the trip on EC from Durham to Kings Cross, but the notion of going on the Underground has her petrified. I used to visit London pretty much monthly for work, and she'd insist that I called her as soon as I got off the Underground, to let her know I was OK.

I think her main concern is terrorism; telling her that nothing's happened since 2006 hasn't helped. She's also generally worried about trains, and the fact that we watched the film Unstoppable yesterday has probably added to that; I've explained about dead man's switches and the like, but she's still not in the mood for listening to reason!

So, has anyone encountered this sort of thing before? And how did you deal with it/them?

I know if I went on a flying forum, there'd probably be a lot more people with advice, but I'm hoping the good people here will be able to help as it's a bit more on-topic!
 
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ralphchadkirk

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I suggest you find out exactly what she's scared of, and then explain why it won't happen. Travelling by train is incredibly safe.
 

bangor-toad

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Hi there,
I can understand what you're saying. A family memeber will not go on a Tube train at all. They themself have realised it's a bit irrational but they just can't bring themselves to do it.


So, what to do?
It was simplest not to fight it. Getting around London is actually perfectly possible using "normal" trains and buses.

This seems to work fine. They are quite happy to get on the number 1234 bus at the main railway station and then change to the number 6789 bus to get wherever they want to go. This allows days out in London to go ahead and they can be pleasant rather than an ordeal.

Hope this helps,
Jason
 

HugePilchard

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I suggest you find out exactly what she's scared of, and then explain why it won't happen. Travelling by train is incredibly safe.
I think it's the terrorists more than anything; it's quite a difficult one to explain away, that one. At least with actual being-on-a-train type stuff, I can find helpful Wikipedia articles that explain why such-and-such won't happen, but obviously the Met and BTP are keeping exactly what they know about terrorism suspects under their hats, and can't really talk about it much.

Does she drive? If so trains are safer than driving :D
Yup. Tried that argument with flying, and didn't work one bit! Sadly, we're not at home to Mr. Logical Thought Processes.

Hi there,
It was simplest not to fight it. Getting around London is actually perfectly possible using "normal" trains and buses.
I guess that's a possibility, although as the one who's going to be in charge of getting us from A-to-B I can't say that I'm massively keen on getting buses in areas that I don't know. At least the chances of getting massively lost on the tube are very slim, and if you miss your stop then it's easy to backtrack!

Remember the A-team.
Simple knock her out with a sedative which will miraculously wear off when she gets off
Maybe getting her drunk is the way forward.
 

yorksrob

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Some bits of central London can be quite nice to walk and cycle around. I once bycicled from Charing Cross to Kings Cross.
 

Johnny Lewis

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How about travelling on some of the bits of the Tube that actually aren't underground?

Or the DLR - and if you manage to sit at the front of the train, you can pretend to be "driving" it? The views are quite spectacular too.

Equally, the frequency of buses around central London do make it quite easy to get about without having to resort to using the Tube.
 

Mojo

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Some bits of central London can be quite nice to walk and cycle around. I once bycicled from Charing Cross to Kings Cross.
Yes this is very good. Also with Boris Bikes now you don't need to lug your bikes around on the train (if you even own one in the first place).

London Underground has days where it carries more than 4 million passengers per day and over a 1.1 billion per year. Every single station (even Chesham) has its own congestion control and emergency plan detailing the risks at each station and what to do in the event of overcrowding or other incidents, and this is well rehearsed. All stations have minimum staffing numbers in order to carry out a safe evacuation of the station in the unlikely event of an incident.
 

HugePilchard

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London Underground has days where it carries more than 4 million passengers per day and over a 1.1 billion per year.
Nice factoid. Duly committed to memory, possibly with the words "and nothing bad happens to the most of them!" added to the end.

A quick conversation has just revealed that we're now back to being terrified about the ECML as well.

"Trains are dangerous"
"Why do you say that?"
"They just are"
"It's safer than driving"
"Only because there's less trains than there are cars" (Told you it wouldn't work, MCR247)
"Yes, but that means you can fit gaps between them so they don't run into each other. And you don't have to worry about other trains pulling out of junctions in front of you."

I think I may be losing this one. Frankly, unless we walk to London, and then walk everywhere whilst we're there, there's going to be no way around this! It seems that no matter how many other people travel safely by train, she's utterly convinced that it's all going to go horribly wrong the moment she steps onto one. I think I may have to just get her drunk.
 

ralphchadkirk

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Tell her she's got to otherwise you'll leave, or just get her blind drunk. Otherwise, I don't think there's much else you can do.
 

Greenback

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Mrs Greenback wasa also terrified of the Underground. She is much better now, and the way we worked it was like this - we took the bus or walked around London at first. Then I persuaded her to go into an Underground ticket office below street level (I think it was Piccadilly Circus).

When she saw that there was really nothing to be scared of there, I took her on the DLR under the Thames to Greenwich. She decided that wasn't too bad, just a long tunnel. So then we progressed to cut and cover at Gloucester Road, another step forward!

She is now happy to take trips on such things as the Tyne and Wear Metro, despite the underground sections, and will even go on a deep level tube as long as she can hold my hand very tightly! We still mostly use the bus in London though!
 

ainsworth74

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Just explain to her that it is impossible on the modern railway for one train to collide with another for the simple reason that the signalling makes it almost physically impossible. Just tell her the track is divided up unto individual sections, when a train is on a section it's wheels cause a short circuit which forces the signal behind it to show a red aspect which tells the driver of a following train to stop. If the driver doesn't stop the train then the on-board systems will.

Failing that lots of alcohol.
 

jopsuk

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Not going to help in the next week, but perhaps a more sensible long term answer is possibly to see a doctor about it?
 

WestCoast

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There are loads of "fear of flying" course you can go on.

There might be a market for "fear of trains", but then again since so many more people use this form of transport on a daily basis it's probably less common.

The argument about cars is a very valid one. There are correct statistics out there that state how much more likely you are to die in a tragic car crash on the way to the station/airport than you are on an aircraft/train.

Extreme - but what about pictures of car crashes? Talk about the dangers of that and then compare it to other modes which have significantly more safety and prevention procedures.

On planes: there would have to be a 200 passenger airliner crashing every single day for the whole year to kill as many people as on the roads each year.
 

HugePilchard

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Just explain to her that it is impossible on the modern railway for one train to collide with another for the simple reason that the signalling makes it almost physically impossible. Just tell her the track is divided up unto individual sections...
Now, there's an idea. Later this afternoon/evening... Block Signalling and Track Circuits for the Terrified. Location: My coffee table. Anyone want to join me?
 

66526

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My other half scares easily. She doesn't like flying, won't go beyond the first rung of a step ladder, and absolutely hates trains.

We're off to London next week. I've managed to get her calmed down about the trip on EC from Durham to Kings Cross, but the notion of going on the Underground has her petrified. I used to visit London pretty much monthly for work, and she'd insist that I called her as soon as I got off the Underground, to let her know I was OK.

I think her main concern is terrorism; telling her that nothing's happened since 2006 hasn't helped. She's also generally worried about trains, and the fact that we watched the film Unstoppable yesterday has probably added to that; I've explained about dead man's switches and the like, but she's still not in the mood for listening to reason!

So, has anyone encountered this sort of thing before? And how did you deal with it/them?

I know if I went on a flying forum, there'd probably be a lot more people with advice, but I'm hoping the good people here will be able to help as it's a bit more on-topic!
One thing I could add. My Dad was a train driver killed in a train crash ten years ago, I've now become a train driver myself. I have absolute faith in safety procedures/systems in place on both Network Rail infrustructure and the Underground. Could go some way to prove there's not much to worry about?
 

paul332

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Go by bus. Everywhere in London has excellent, frequent and efficient bus services. Arm yourself with a bus map and a 7-day Oyster bus & tram pass for £17.80, see http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tickets/14415.aspx. Then hop on, hop off at will – doesn't matter if you get on the wrong one, just go back or go somewhere else. Far more enjoyable than the tube and you learn a lot more about London's geography.

If you want to go further afield, use main line trains e.g. Hampton Court or Richmond from Waterloo, or the DLR from Tower Gateway – all above ground.

Also the Circle, District, Hammersmith and Metropolitan Lines are main-line size trains, mostly in tunnel in the central areas, but far less claustrophobic than the deep-level tubes, and they run above ground outside the Circle Line area, e.g. west of Gloucester Road on the District, north of Finchley Road on the Metropolitan, west of Paddington on the Hammersmith & City.

Oyster pay-as-you-go will see you through these. But if you're focusing on the central area, stick to the buses.

Good luck!
 

LexyBoy

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The Tube is for noobs! Most places aren't too far to walk, and buses in London are much easier to use than anywhere else in the country as there are maps everywhere, and the buses tell you what the next stop is.

Not only do you avoid the Underground, you get to see interesting stuff and actually get a feeling for where places are - travelling by Tube you know where things are only in relation to the nearest Tube station, not to each other.
 

DaveNewcastle

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Some bits of central London can be quite nice to walk and cycle around. I once bycicled from Charing Cross to Kings Cross.
Yes, I agree.
There are some excellent walks and cycle routes.
The other day I was strolling through the lovely gardens and chapel in Lincolns Inn Fields and paused in Greys Inn Gardens (only open at lunch time)and a few other gardens, including the Gordon's Wine Bar garden next to Charing Cross.

I am no expert but wouldn't recommend trying to change her disposition in just a few days. If anything, its you who's going to have to change to accommodate her dispositions; but that could be just as pleasant! For both of you!

(eg Can you identify the Hawthorne from the Blackthorne on the hedgerows through Lincolnshire?)
 

The Snap

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She's also generally worried about trains, and the fact that we watched the film Unstoppable yesterday has probably added to that
On the basis that that film is a complete load of rubbish, and lacks everything from a signalling system to all kinds of H&S requirements, I think she'll be fine ;).
 

HugePilchard

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On the basis that that film is a complete load of rubbish, and lacks everything from a signalling system to all kinds of H&S requirements, I think she'll be fine ;).
You try explaining that to her!

Anyway... I think we're making headway. I'm going to grab her an Oyster card as soon as we arrive at Kings Cross on Wednesday night, so at least that'll cover us for buses if need be.

I'm not keen to take buses unless I really have to, as a few of the places we need to be are a bit time-sensitive, and I'm not confident in my ability to navigate the bus routes and still get us to where we need to be on time. In particular, we need to catch an early Eurostar on one of the days. Frankly, I'm rather hoping that a few tube trips at non-peak times will help chill her out a little before we go on the tube's big brother to the continent! In fact, I'm going to try and focus her attention on that, as she actually seems kind of excited by the idea, and has even asked me to show her some videos of it at speed.

I'm not sure why she hates the ECML and the tube, but warms to the idea of the Eurostar, mind.
 

jon0844

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I suppose Great Heck, Hatfield and Potters Bar are three reasons.. but I use the ECML every day and I'm not put off.

The train I was on this morning had no internal lights on, and being fast from Hatfield to Finsbury Park there was no way to get off and tell the driver. There are quite a few tunnels from Hitchin to King's Cross, so I hope your train has the lights on at least. :)
 

Oswyntail

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I hate the underground, and, when i first moved to London, I could only wait for trains on the platform by standing by the wall facing it. It wasn't helped by overcrowding or witnessing a couple of fatalities early on. My advice is take it slowly and realise that the fears, though irrational, are real. Get her used to London at first, and that means bus, walk or taxi. Then take her on a very short tube trip, perhaps on one of the larger lines (District). And, if she says she can't cope, believe her and get out. No amount of rationality will work, just gradually experiencing things.
 

dcmbarton

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I really sympathise with this. When I was about 11(c.1994), we went to London at Christmas. We took the tube from Waterloo to Oxford Circus, but when we alighted the train there, there seemed to be some sort of bomb scare happening - absolute chaos. Some staff trying to get passengers up to street level as quickly as possible, and others shouting at people to get back down to the platforms and out on the next train that came in. After that experience, I didn't travel by tube for about 13 years.

That said, I'm more open to it these days than I was, but it's been a gradual process. I started by using the tube lines which didn't actually run underground (particularly Richmond to Turnham Green) just to get used to the experience again. I gradually moved on, and I'll now travel on most of the sub-surface lines. I haven't yet progressed to using the deep-level lines, and I reckon I'd need a lot of persuading!

David
 

HugePilchard

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Well, thanks for all the sage words, everyone. I think we'll take it a bit at a time, and see how we get on. I reckon if we can do the first trip from Kings Cross St Pancras to Earls Court on Wednesday evening, then it's all plain sailing from there. I shall be hiding a bottle of her favourite tipple in my bag, and getting it out somewhere near Peterborough; not enough to get her blind drunk, but hopefully if she's a bit more relaxed then it'll make that first journey a bit less fraught!

If that first one doesn't go according to plan... well, I guess I'll have to get the bus timetable out!
 

SS4

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It may be easier for her to go via Edgware Road using H&C/Circle and District lines as both are sub-surface rather than the deep tube of the Picc unless of course the plan is to get her used to the deep tube of course. TfL suggests the journey is 20 minutes although from my own experiences I find the descent more scary than the ride itself.

In addition the tube is hot all year round so make you have plenty of water
 
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