City University professor Jack Levy has patented what he claims is the "first significant rethink" of the escalator since Jesse W. Reno built the first one at Coney Island in 1897.
Levy's invention, dubbed the "Levytator", abandons the traditional form, in which the steps loop around each other, for a version that utilises curved modules, which can be arranged in any shape or configuration. It's a little difficult to explain on a hungover Friday, and is probably best understood by looking at the demonstration video at the bottom of this post.
The press release helpfully suggests the shape of a double helix for a science museum, though an equally good application would be an infinity loop for the queue at the post office. Because no excavation would be required to put the Levytator in place, installation and maintenance would be relatively simple, and it is claimed the device would carry double the passenger numbers of conventional varieties.
London has some form when it comes to escalator innovations. In 1907 Jesse Reno, evidently bored by the lack of ambition shown by New York planners, brought a team to Britain and attempted to build what would have been the world's first spiral escalator, in the inauspicious surroundings of Holloway Road tube on the Piccadilly line. Though it was completed, it never went into passenger use, as it was considered too dangerous. The remains were left abandoned in a hidden part of the station before recently being rediscovered, and it now resides in London Transport Museum's depot; this piece by Tom Hall has the full story and some excellent pics.
See our map of everything that was invented in London.