The appearance of shadowy ghosts has plagued some of the Elizabeth line’s central London stations, and now TfL is trying to banish them.

(c) ianVisits

The shadows are appearing behind the seats on the platforms where people are leaning up against the walls and thanks to their appearance, have been nicknamed by some as ghosts.

They are starting to look shabby though, so TfL is trying out an idea to see if it can help reduce the effect or even eradicate it entirely.

One would be to replace all the seats with new designs with backs to lean on, but that would be expensive, so an alternative is to put large decorative stickers on the walls to mask the shadows.

(c) ianVisits

Several designs are being tested at Liverpool Street station, ranging from large sheets to “pawns” that sit behind each seat.

The plain pawns are primarily black, but a blue pawn highlights the accessible seats on the ends of the rows. The other pawns and the solid blocks of sheeting are coloured to match the design of the Elizabeth line seating moquette.

(c) ianVisits

A TfL spokesperson said: “The Elizabeth line has had a transformational effect, providing new journey options for customers, including at new central London stations. At some of our underground Elizabeth line stations we have been exploring new ways to clean the walls behind seating to remove any marks and better protect the walls in future to improve the customer experience.”

(c) ianVisits


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  1. Long Branch Mike says:

    I like the variety of sticker designs, especially the blue one and the abstract Tube line colour bars.

  2. Jon says:

    They need to go a bit lower, you can still see the dirt.
    Also this doesn’t solve the problem of the tunnels getting grimy half way up the wall.
    It was completely the wrong material to use and should’ve been caught in development.

    • Ray White says:

      Well spotted (literally). So they do a poor design in the first place, and then the bodge doesn’t work either. The mind truly boggles…

  3. Steve L says:

    The same shadows have appeared at Nine Elms.

  4. Jai says:

    These seem to have been removed already so hopefully they’ve decided on a design!

  5. Thomas says:

    I do find it funny how much praise Grimshaw and others get for the Elizabeth line architectural design, they won another award a few weeks back, yet during the ‘intensive testing’ they didn’t see the material they’ve covered the stations in was entirely unsuitable for busy public stations.

    They needed to have at ground level hard wearing, wipeable surfaces yet they’ve gone for light-coloured, rough porous cement which shows every single mark and is exceptionally hard to clean. It was obvious from the start it would age badly and here we are not even 2 years in, stations are starting to look grubby already and they’re having to bodge solutions like stickers on walls to make them look clean. I hate to think what these walls will be looking like in years to come.

    It’s poor design and it really should be called out more. Please no more awards.

    Personally I think they should be putting some thought into what coatings they can apply to the lower panels to make them durable and wipeable as they should have been in the first place. Maybe some sort of varnish or even paint which can be rolled out throughout the stations as a long term solution.

    • Andrew S says:

      Very well said. Why weren’t these things thought through at the design stage. It all took long enough to complete.

    • JP says:

      That’s Architects for you. Or Politicians especially in their rôle as law-makers.

      Whenever there’s a spectacular new design of building, or another episode of the wobbly Zaha Hadid roadshow, my mum quietly says
      “And how’s anyone going to dust that bit?”
      Likewise the law of unintended consequences with new Acts of Parliament.

      We used to get these things right, as far as I recall…

    • Tadpies says:

      Here, here to all you’ve said.

  6. Leslie Forsyth says:

    It’s a throwback to the Brylcreem era when the ghostly, yet greasy, outlines of male heads appeared everywhere. Well done TFL for inventing the whole body antimacassar.

  7. John Haines says:

    There was a preference in some quarters for traditional enamelled steel sheets, but there was simply not enough production capacity for the amount needed.

  8. Terry Jones says:

    white carpet syndrome…!

  9. Geoff Cosson says:

    They could, presumably, just clean the walls every so often?

    • ianVisits says:

      Whenever a solution seems obvious, the first thing you should do is ask yourself why it isn’t being done already — there’s usually a reason.

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