Mind the gap
It was introduced in 1969 on the London Underground in the United Kingdom. The phrase is also associated with T-shirts that Transport for London sells featuring the warning printed over the network's roundel logo.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (August 2013)|
Because some platforms on the London Underground are curved and the rolling stock that uses them are straight, an unsafe gap is created when a train stops at a curved platform. In the absence of a device to fill the gap, some form of visual and auditory warning is needed to advise passengers of the risk of being caught unaware and sustaining injury by stepping into the gap. The phrase "Mind the gap" was chosen for this purpose and can be found painted along the edges of curved platforms as well as heard on recorded announcements played when a train arrives at many Underground stations.
The recording is also used where platforms are non-standard height. Deep-level tube trains have a floor height around 200 mm (8 inches) less than sub-surface stock trains. Where trains share platforms, for example some Piccadilly line (deep-tube) and District line (sub-surface) stations, the platform is a compromise. On London's Metropolitan line, a gap has been created between the train and the platform edge at Aldgate and Baker Street stations. This is due to the phasing out of the old 'A' stock trains and their replacement with 'S' stock trains, which have low floors to ease accessibility for disabled people.
"Mind the gap" audible warning are most notably played on the Central line platforms at Bank, the Northern line northbound platform at Embankment and the Bakerloo line platforms at Piccadilly Circus. The markings on the platform edge usually line up with the doors on the cars. This can be useful when catching trains.
While the message is often played on some lines over the platform's public address system, it is becoming more common as an arrival message inside the train itself: "Please mind the gap between the train and the platform."
Origin of the phrase
The phrase "Mind the gap" was coined in around 1968 for a planned automated announcement after it had become impractical for drivers and station attendants to warn passengers. London Underground chose digital recording using solid state equipment with no moving parts. As storage capacity was expensive, the phrase had to be short. A short warning was also easier to paint onto the platform.
The equipment was supplied by AEG Telefunken. According to the Independent on Sunday, sound engineer Peter Lodge, who owned Redan Recorders in Bayswater, working with a Scottish Telefunken engineer, recorded an actor reading "Mind the gap" and "Stand clear of the doors please", but the actor insisted on royalties and the phrases had to be re-recorded. Lodge read the phrases to line up the recording equipment for level and those were used.
At least 10 stations were supplied with announcers manufactured by PA Communications Ltd. of Milton Keynes. The recorded voice is that of Keith Wilson, their industrial sales manager at the time (May 1990). It can still be heard, at Paddington for example.
In March 2013 it was reported that an old "Mind the gap" recording by the actor Oswald Laurence would be restored to Embankment station so that the actor's widow could hear his voice.
The phrase worldwide
"Mind the gap" is used by transit systems worldwide, but most new systems avoid stations on curves.
- The French version, which is an alexandrine, Attention à la marche en descendant du train ("Watch the step while getting off the train"), is occasionally written on signals on the platforms in the Paris Métro and can be heard in RER trains. Some newer Métro trains also play this announcement in French, English, German, Japanese and Spanish.
- In Hong Kong's MTR, the phrase "Please mind the gap" (請小心月台空隙) is announced in three languages, namely, Cantonese, English and Mandarin.
- In Singapore's MRT, the phrase is used in announcements in English, played in the trains whenever a train approaches an underground station after the station's name has been announced twice. It is also played on underground station platforms just after the train doors open, or sometimes, just as the train approaches the platform. Trains also have stickers pasted on the windows to caution passengers.
- The phrase can be heard in New Delhi Metro in two languages (English and Hindi).
- In the Athens Metro, the message "Mind the gap between the train and the platform" is heard in both Greek and English language at the station of Monastiraki.
- In Stockholm's tunnelbana and on Stockholm commuter rail's stations two versions can be heard: "Tänk på avståndet mellan vagn och plattform när du stiger av" and "...när du stiger på", meaning "Mind the distance between carriage and platform when you exit", "...when you enter", respectively. It can also be displayed as text on electronic displays as "Tänk på avståndet mellan vagn och plattform."
- The Tianjin Metro uses the phrase extensively: stickers on train doors, platforms and announcements mention the gap (as well as to "mind the gap") in both English and Chinese. (The Chinese phrase is 小心站台空隙.) Some Tianjin Metro stations are on slight curves. The Beijing Subway uses Mind the Gaps (note the plural). (In the recently opened Line 4, the phrase has gained more prominence, being played in the station every time a train comes in and, in some trains, every time before arriving at a stop.) Both the Shanghai Metro and the Nanjing Metro use versions with slightly mutilated grammar ("Caution, Gap" and "Care the Gap", respectively, although the Chinese is the same).
- In early 2009 the phrase was also being used on Metro Transit (King County) buses in and around Seattle, Washington.
- At the stations of the São Paulo Metro and CPTM in São Paulo, Brazil the sentence that can be heard is "Cuidado com o vão entre o trem e a plataforma" (Mind the gap between the train and the platform).
- At almost all stations of SuperVia, Rio de Janeiro suburban trains, the driver announces "Observe o espaço entre o trem e a plataforma" (Watch the space between the train and the platform), and sometimes "observe o desnível entre o trem e a plataforma" (Watch the level difference between the train and the platform).
- In the Rio de Janeiro Metro, the phrase "Observe atentamente o espaço entre o trem e a plataforma – Mind the gap" also can be heard.
- In the Lisbon Metro at the Marquês de Pombal station on the blue line, the announcement "Atenção ao intervalo entre o cais e o comboio" (Pay attention to the gap between the platform and the train) can be heard.
- The New York City-area Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North use signs that read "watch the gap" on trains and platforms, and, owing to reports of people falling through the gap, a warning is now played at every station and with automated announcements on board the trains on LIRR and MNRR.
- The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which operates both railroads, retained New York personalities including Maria Bartiromo and Al Roker to recite the slogan.
- It is also used on the MTA-operated New York City Subway and the Staten Island Railway – on trains and platforms, and in conductor announcements.
- Plaques on Toronto subway and RT station platforms warn riders to "mind the gap". Announcements about the warning on the public announcement system in each station can also be heard intermittently.
- On most Sydney CityRail stations, there is an automated announcement reminding passengers to mind the gap as well as posters informing riders about the number of people who fall down the gap each year.
- On the Manila Metro Rail Transit System, a pre-recorded message is played at certain stations reminding passengers to "watch your step and watch the gap between the train and the platform as you get on and off the train". This is simplified in its Filipino translation, which simply reminds passengers to be careful in boarding and alighting the train.
- On the Berlin S-Bahn the phrase "Bitte beachten Sie beim Aussteigen die Lücke zwischen Zug und Bahnsteigkante" (Please mind the gap between train and platform edge when alighting) is used, followed by the English "mind the gap between platform and train." (The English is only heard at a limited number of stations.)
- On the Madrid Metro, a recorded warning message can be heard inside the trains when approaching a station with curved platforms: "Atención: estación en curva. Al salir, tengan cuidado para no introducir el pie entre coche y andén." (Caution: station on a curve. As you exit, be careful not to place your foot between the train and the platform.). No warning messages are heard when arriving at a station with straight platforms.
- In Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, "mind your step" can be heard when approaching the end of a moving walkway.
- The standard Amtrak conductor announcement when approaching any station stop concludes with "Mind the gap between the train and the platform."
- On the Buenos Aires Metro, warnings on platform floors and on the door windows in the convoys read "Cuidado con el espacio entre el tren y el andén." ("Mind the gap between train and platform.").
- On many trains in Japan, the message "電車とホームの間は広く空いておりますので、ご注意下さい" is spoken. This means "there is a wide space between the train and the platform, so please be careful."
- The message can be seen on some train stations in Ireland, as well.
- In Thailand, the announcement is used a little bit differently from the London one. On Thai underground trains, the announcement says "Please, mind the gap between train and platform.". Some grammarians argue that as specific and countable nouns, the words "train" and "platform" should be preceded by "the", but up to the present there has been no official change over it.
- Signs on ferry docks in Shanghai render the phrase in Chinglish as "Note that the level of gap."
- The message is the inspiration behind Hans Rosling's 'Gapminder' software's name.
Despite its origin as a utilitarian safety warning, mind the gap has become a stock phrase, and is used in many other contexts having nothing to do with subway safety. For example, it has been used as the title of at least two music albums by Scooter and Tristan Psionic, a film, and a novel, as the name of a movie production company, a theatre company, and a board game. At least four non-fiction titles use "Mind the Gap" as their primary title – the books are about generations, class divides, social science policy and the origins of human universals. It is used in many video and mobile games, including Portal, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Halo, Where's My Water, Amazing Alex, Armadillo Run and BioShock Infinite, and in animated series such as The Clone Wars, usually in an ironic context. A soldier in Captain America: The First Avenger says it, humorously, before they descend via zip-line onto a moving train across snowy mountain peaks. It is also the title of a Noisettes song on their album What's the Time Mr. Wolf?. The phrase is used in the songs "Deadwing" by Porcupine Tree, "Bingo" by Madness, "Someone in London" by Godsmack, Metal Airplanes by Matthew Good and "New Frontier" by the Counting Crows. Emma Clarke, one of the voices of the London Underground, has released a Mind The Gap single. It features spoof London Underground announcements.
It was a prominent utterance by the subterranean cannibal killer of the 1972 movie Death Line. The phrase is also featured in the soundtrack of the game Timesplitters: Future Perfect in the Subway level.
The phrase was used as the name for a campaign in December 2010 to lobby the UK Government to allow Gap Year students to defer their university place and not pay the higher tuition fees in September 2012.
The Karotz wi-fi rabbit occasionally says "Mind the gap!" at random as part of the 'mood' setting.
The phrase has been used to name a combinatorial optimization problem.
- Objects in mirror are closer than they appear, another safety warning that has become a cultural reference.
- "Mind the Gap returns after wife's plea". BBC News. 9 March 2013. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
- By four12 No real name given. "Mind the gap (Seattle style) | Flickr – Photo Sharing!". Flickr. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- "Mind the Gap (2004)".
- "Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Destroy Malevolence" Review".
- "Mind The Gap with Emma Clarke".
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