Is it safe to use crowded trains and ticket barriers when pregnant?

Crowded trains, ticket barriers and busy escalators can all have a risk when you're pregnant. Here's how to use them safely


In a nutshell

It is safe as long as you take care, so we’ve got insider know-how to reduce any risks.


The expert view

It can sometimes feel like you’re on an episode of The Cube or the Crystal Maze when trying to navigate rush hour at a train station or on the Underground. The crowds, the heat, the seat hoggers, the barriers… When you’re pregnant, these things can be the pin that bursts the bloated balloon.

Transport for London (TfL) has shared its expert advice with MadeForMums to make travelling on tubes and trains safer and more pleasant with a bump. 

Ticket barriers – safe ways to use them when pregnant

Insider tip 1: Always use for the wide buggy/luggage gate

According to TfL representative Allan Ramsay, pregnant women should always go through the wider buggy/luggage gate. This isn’t because he’s suggesting pregnant women need more space, it’s because the wider gates close more slowly than the regular ones. This gives you more time to get through them safely, and you’re not at risk of them suddenly shutting on your bump.

“When the wide gate reads a ticket it is timed to open for 30 seconds which is deemed long enough for one adult, a child in a pushchair plus one other walking child to pass through it,” explains Allan.

“After 30 seconds and the sensor beams are also clear, the paddles (the barrier ‘doors’) will close. If the beams record the passage of the above passengers in under 30 seconds and the beams are clear, the paddles will close.”

So how does this compare to the regular gates?

The wide gate actually gives you twice as long to get through the barrier than the regular gate.

“When a standard gate reads a ticket it is timed to remain open for 15 seconds,” reveals Allan. “After that time and if the sensor beams are clear, the paddles will close. If the beams record the passage of the a passenger in under 15 seconds and the beams are clear, the paddles will close.”

Insider tip 2: Always stand back from the barriers when you’re inserting your ticket or using contactless or Oyster card

If there’s a queue at the ticket barriers, for example during rush hour, it’s easy to find yourself standing past the barrier entrance, near the barrier paddles.However, if you do stand too far forward when you put your ticket in the barrier or place your card on the reader, you may actually block the sensor beams. This may mean your ticket doesn’t actually open the barriers – even though your ticket is valid. 

But worse, if the barriers are busy, the paddles may still be open from the previous person. As you move forward, they may then shut on you. 

So always make sure your ticket has worked before moving forward through the paddles. 

It’s another reason why you should use the wide gates – you shouldn’t have the same problem with these, plus the gates close very slowly. 

Using escalators

Your sense of balance can be affected when you’re pregnant so TfL recommends standing on escalators rather than walking up and down them. Or try and use a lift in the stations that have them.

“Always step on escalators with care and attention and hold on to the handrail,” advises Allan.

Safety on the tube train

We’ve all been shoved out of the way in the mad dash for the last seat – but MadeForMums has compiled a list of 8 Ways to Get a Seat When Pregnant to help foil those seat hoggers – including wearing your Baby On Board badge.

Meanwhile, TfL’s Allan adds: “Don’t be afraid to ask for a seat – rarely are pregnant women refused.”

He also gives these tips:

  • If you feel at all unwell get off the train and find station staff or use a help point.
  • Carry water and a snack when travelling.
  • Allow extra time to get to work or appointments.
  • Try not to carry too many bags or heavy items.
  • Wear comfortable shoes when travelling.

Mums in our forum say

“It’s not that I would expect a seat on the tube, after all, being pregnant is my choice and needn’t necessarily become someone else’s problem, but in rush hour it’s actually quite scary how aggressive some people can be, barging their way on etc. And some of my pregnant friends have gone through phases of feeling really unwell. The tube is, in my opinion, by far the most efficient way to travel around London and I don’t see why pregnant ladies (in particular) should have to seek alternatives for fear of being rammed with a briefcase or laptop!!” secretsquirrel


“I must say that the ONLY time i have been offered a seat was buy a young lad, who must have been no older than 13. Bless him, he patted me on the shoulder and said ‘would you like to take my seat Miss?'” BlakeyBluesMummy

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