The entrances at Oxford Circus Tube Station seem to be closed for congestion semi-regularly, especially around 6pm.

Why do the entrances close? Additionally, does closing the entrances actually alleviate or avoid any real problem?

  • I'd say you answered your own question. If the trains are already congested, then it makes sense to keep people out of the station because they won't be getting on a train in the first place.
    – Peter M
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 16:45
  • Would you perfer the Japanese way of dealing with too many passengers? amusingplanet.com/2016/08/subway-pushers-of-japan.html Commented Dec 2, 2022 at 6:38

2 Answers 2


I have seen a series on London transport, pre covid, where they showed the station inside the closed entrances.

The halls and platforms were so busy that passengers ran the risk to be crowded off the platforms and onto the tracks and all trains coming past full to the very limits.

The officials try to close entrances before it gets this far, so people can leave the trains and the station, the one time in the series was exceptionally bad they said.

The system needs improvement but that takes time and causes more busy trains during implementation.

  • Thank you. Out of interest, do you know why they close the station for such a long time? It's often for more than 30 mins. This part is particularly confusing. Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 18:02
  • 2
    With the very full trains it may take that long to clear the station. Better see if you can use a station on an other line or one further along on a line that is likely to be less busy.
    – Willeke
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 18:24
  • 7
    To preempt the "why not just run more trains?" question, many of the lines through Oxford Circus already run at extremely high frequencies during peak times (36+ trains per hour at peak times, which starts to approach the limit of how quickly you can get passengers on and off the trains before the whole line becomes a traffic jam, something extreme crowding makes even worse). In many cases, improving capacity in the core means major expansion projects like entire new lines, such as the Elizabeth Line, now available about ~260m away from Oxford Circus. Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 1:56
  • 15
    Or to put that another way, they did just open a major massively expensive capacity improvement for Oxford Circus in October, but they stuck it in Bond Street and implemented it as an out of station interchange to avoid making the congestion at Oxford Circus worse. Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 2:02
  • 4
    @terdon I suspect that refers to the opening of the Bond Street station stop on the Elizabeth line (a.k.a cross rail) which follows the approximate route of the Central Line through central London.
    – origimbo
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 17:25

The tube was built a long time ago, in an era when safety standards were lower and passenger numbers smaller. Many stations were built in ways that would never be considered acceptable for a new station today.

Public transport is not generally very profitable and building new infrastructure in the middle of a big city is expensive, so funding for enhancements is in limited supply. Major enhancements also often entail closing the line for some time which creates more stress on other nearby lines. Many stations have been upgraded over the years, but others have not, or have been upgraded but the upgrades proved insufficient.

Stations located underground have stricter safety rules than stations on the surface and will be staffed whenever they are open. If the crowds in the station approach dangerous levels then the staff will have to take action.

Realistically they are limited in the actions available to them. Telling trains not to stop would prevent new passengers arriving by train, but it would also prevent passengers already in the station from leaving by train. So it would likely be counterproductive from the point of view of reducing crowds.

So preventing passengers from entering the station is really the only tool they have to reduce passenger numbers in the station back to acceptable levels. Some people may hang around outside the entrances, but in central London it's likely that most of them will go elsewhere.

  • 15
    Always weird that of all public services, public transport is supposed to turn a profit. Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 1:06
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    – JonathanReez
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 14:00

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