Following a couple of fires on the London Underground, TfL has decided to impose a ban on all e-scooters and e-unicycles across its entire network and its stations.

From Monday (13th Dec), customers using either sort of device will not be permitted to enter any premises on TfL’s network or travel on any of its services, including on the Tube, buses, Overground, TfL Rail, Trams and DLR.

The reason for the ban being introduced is that there have been two fires in recent months involving the battery-powered devices – one in Stanmore tube station, and the other on a tube train at Parsons Green.

Damaged e-scooter at Parsons Green (c) TfL

Following a review, it was found that the fires had been caused by faulty lithium-ion batteries which ruptured without warning, resulting in fires that caused toxic smoke to be released. Lithium-ion batteries are considered to be a fire hazard, and it often only takes a small manufacturing fault or software glitch can cause sudden temperature rise and often serious fires. Although when used in smartphones, the fire risk is these days minimal as manufacturers have doubled down on battery safety following fires in phones a few years ago, there seems to have been less focus on battery quality in low-cost unregulated e-scooters and similar devices.

So it’s not that the concept of an electric scooter as a form of mobility is a problem — although some may argue that point — the issue is that cheaply made e-scooters seem to be a potential fire risk. And quite big fires at that.

Announcing the ban on e-devices from next week, TfL said that it is concerned that if fires were to happen again and occurred in an enclosed area such as a tube train or a bus, there could be significant harm to both customers and staff, as well as secondary injuries from customers trying to escape the area.

There is also the awkward fact that most privately owned e-scooters are illegal to use on the public streets and pavements anyway, and people shouldn’t be buying them, but they are.

TfL’s own trial of rental e-scooters, which began in June 2021 as part of trials permitted nationally by the Department for Transport (DfT), offers the only e-scooters legally allowed on London’s roads. These e-scooters are also not allowed on TfL services.

The ban will apply to all e-scooters and e-unicycles, but does not include mobility scooters that are permitted on the network or e-bikes. TfL says that e-bikes are generally subject to better manufacturing standards and the batteries are usually positioned in a place where they are less likely to be damaged, and so are less of a fire risk.

Anybody who does not comply may be refused entry, directed to leave the network or face a fine of up to £1,000. The Metropolitan Police has also appealed to retailers to be responsible when selling e-scooters, and has reminded Londoners that the use of privately-owned e-scooter and e-unicycles on public roads, cycleways and highways is illegal.

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21 comments
  1. Brian Butterworth says:

    I’m not sure if I want to venture into Stratford Station for a while then, because I just don’t think I can take the poster from your post being read out by that bossy, know-better-than-you that already admonishes me for things I have never, in 50 years, done in a tube station.

    I’m not sure that the ban should have been all services, given that the risk above ground is manageable. It seems that TfL has taken on a po-faced serious-auntie look these days.

    Why not match the ban to the cycles on, there’s even a map for it (Google cycles-on-public-transport Map October 2021).

    I’m not feeling TfL is doing anything other than minding it’s own interests here, rather than Londoners generally.

    • Les says:

      How is the risk in any way manageable?! A fire on a train, whether above or below ground, is dangerous.

    • Andy T says:

      Let’s take a scenario where the journey is quite long, Chesham to Chalfont for example, the train is open so smoke can spread quite far and fast, nothing can happen until the driver is aware, if the fire is near one end of the train those people could effectively be trapped until the power is turned off. Quite a serious situation.

      Take a busy Jubilee train waiting for a platform in to Stratford, the response should be much quicker, but given it could be a busy train with limited escape routes to other cars, fatalities would be pretty likely.

      Fire itself creates panic, so even if the fire does not cause harm, the panic almost certainly will.

      A potentially deadly situation even above ground.

    • DT says:

      Brian, imagine this at 8am on a busy Tube – either above or below ground the result would be very serious. Those not impacted by the immediate danger are likely to be injured in the panic. It’s just over 20 seconds until there’s serious amounts of smoke and 30 seconds until it flares up. The guy here was outside and ran away. That’s not really an option on the Tube, or even a bus if the thing is blocking your route out. On a Tube train that amounbt of smoke would effectively mean zero visibility and an almost unbreathable atmosphere. Of course, someone would open the car-end window /door and the smoke would then blow through into the adjacent carriage. Great.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HZ7qh_t46w

      Po-faced TfL is minding it’s own interests? Like not wanting their customers to die? How selfish of them!

  2. Mark Harrington says:

    What a stupid comment, do you remember the fire at Kings Cross. Pathetic.

  3. Melvyn says:

    These scooters are already banned on First Essex buses ..

  4. Ash Brown says:

    Quite apart from the fire hazard, they’re a terrible trip hazard on busy deep-level tubes. I’m amazed there hasn’t been more reported accidents.

  5. JP says:

    There’s something jarring about the juxtaposition of the good old London UndergrounD font and the pictogram of the (well fed and long armed) person with the lightning-bolted electric scooter.

    The design looks a bit rushed.
    Inevitable that the censure would come though.

  6. Michael Griffin says:

    General Motors is in the process of repairing or buying back Chevrolet Volts (Vauxhall/ Opel Amperas) due to faulty Li-ion batteries.
    I understand that GM and the battery manufacturer, LG, have come to an agreement over costs.

  7. Mick says:

    It’s a pity they should be banned everywhere, they are dangerous even on pavements and roads, you see two kids on one e-scooter, the only trouble is banning them from tubes, buses etc, more idiots will buy them causing more danger.

  8. Ed Herman says:

    I am a pensioner. I have driven cars accident free for 45 years. I can not wear masks and have a doctor’s certificate. I have been using an electric scooter to avoid the risks to my health from being in closely packed, unventilated underground. Scooters should be made legal, be fitted with ID and require insurance, and a minimum age for getting insurance would bar irresponsible youngsters from the road. I am very scared that now where I can no longer take scooter into overground on route to look after grandchild, where doors open every few minutes and ventilate carriages, that being forced into having to use buses and tube will put my health at risk of harm.

    • Andy T says:

      On modern air conditioned trains the air is refreshed at a sufficient rate regardless of the frequency of doors being opened, this includes the District, Metropolitan and Circle lines and certain National Rail services if that’s of any help to you.

      I do feel sympathy, however you do have to accept that if the next fire resulted in serious harm, which is entirely possible, it would be national headlines, and rightly so.

      Unfortunately laws have to protect everyone which is part of the reason we had the 70mph speed limit imposed. Admittedly not so much for safety now, but that is an entirely separate subject.

      Given the condion of road surfaces and the very small wheels of a scooter, I would be very uncomfortable using one in any case, but that’s your choice, it’s also the choice of people using public transport to want to feel safe also.

  9. Chris Rogers says:

    Are the TfL staff who will be preventing anyone from carrying one onto the network the same TfL staff who will be preventing anyone travelling unmasked? That’ll work well then.

  10. Mike Oxlong says:

    This is a really good idea and so, so easy for TFL to police. As we all know every underground station is over staffed with helpful people already.

    If they prosecuted and banned users for a length of time from using any TFL asset it would reduce their numbers.

    I detest them.
    They come up behind me on the pavement, cross in front, or even scoot head on in my car and they think I’m in the wrong.

    They seem to think they have the right to the gutter, pavement and railway platforms.

    I think they should be required to have proper insurance.

  11. Linda martin says:

    I loved my e scooter, i used it to work as buses got cut. I can understand why they have been banned on tfl services. Health and safety and insurance. Let me remind you we know about recent fires concerning e scooters. No body wants to risk a fire on public trainsport. What i hate is people who ride them and don’t wear crash hats same with the hire one’s. Why is there no saftey hats. In london too. I see people everyday riding them also with earphones on. You cannot hear what’s going on. My e scooter will be used on private land as I’m giving it to someone who helps on a farm. I’ve since got a fold up push bike that i can safely use on tfl.

  12. Simon says:

    Caused of course by this nonsense where all e-scooters can’t be used on public roads, so even the good EU legal ones are lumped with the cheap Chinese crap. After all why buy a good one when they are all equally illegal.

    E-scooter are a great last mile solution, and it’s a crime the government only allow rental variants and not ownership.

  13. vs says:

    If scooters had proper regulations put in place, such as in Germany (more than two years ago!), this would’ve never happened.

    I own an e-scooter and would happily follow any laws to use it on the streets in a fashion deemed safe by the government and I’m sure many other feel the same, because it’s better than being fearful of losing your scooter, getting a 300 quid fine and 6 points. This is even more stupid considering that we somehow have hire scooters on the streets but we’re not allowed to use our own.

    The very fact that people still want to use e-scooters despite the risks shows that this is an effective transport method that not only is convenient but also will keep emissions and congestion down.

    The failure to act and pass regulation on this matter speaks volumes about how little the government cares about improving the lives of their people and actually going the extra mile to mitigate emissions instead of half-assing it.

  14. Psc says:

    UK as always excels at being stupid. Well done banning escooters everywhere – NOT.

  15. Berry says:

    Ridiculous!

    The whole world is becoming a such huge flock of sheep, plenty of nonsense new laws in this new order and totalitarian system, anyway for me it’s even funny!
    Fortunately there’s millions sensible people that will basically ignore all of this new and pathetic rules.

    You all have a great and safe day LOL

    • ianVisits says:

      Hmm, if not wanting to be trapped on a tube train in the tunnels when a fire breaks out in a carriage makes me a sheep, then a sheep I am proud to be. At least I won’t be roasted mutton.

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