Engineering There is an escalator at Liverpool Central underground station which has never worked. When I was a kid I used to run up the thing, trying the beat the moving escalator to the top. It's the tallest one as well, so if both are out of action, calamity reigns. The London Review of Books delves into the mechanics of the escalator and asks Why do they take so long to repair?

"Things getting caught between the moving parts is a problem inherent in the design of the machine, and one which may never be entirely eliminated. Lines of yellow paint on the outside edges of escalator steps, below-step lighting and brush strips which nudge feet away from the wall-step boundary improve safety, but are essentially psychological defences. A spring-loaded plate which fills the gap has recently been developed in America, where brushes have not yet been generally accepted, perhaps because they look untidy - there is good evidence that brushes work and it's hard to see any reason other than looks for rejecting them. Work has also been done on reducing friction between step and wall, to make it less likely that anything that slips into the gap will get caught."

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