GLA Calls for Connectivity on the Tube

London needs complete high-speed connectivity underground if it wants to attract new business and remain competitive, says a report from the Conservative members of the GLA.

London is the only one of the 10 largest underground systems in the world without mobile connectivity on at least some platforms, the report highlights. Although it praises advances made with the availability of wi-fi on platforms, TfL has been accused of “dragging its feet”. Cost appears to be the prohibiting factor, although partnerships, as seen on the New York Subway system, have been proposed. One of the latest proposals from Huawei would cost £100m, with the Chinese company putting up half of the money.

The document argues that the technology would improve traffic, as people would be able to more easily avoid delays, and improve safety, with incidents quickly reported. It even provides for those people still using feature phones, proposing a subscription SMS service for tube updates while underground.

Although NFC is likely to be coming to the tube after its deployment on Londons buses, the technology will not be used to its full capacity without full connectivity.

Lagging behind rest of world

At the launch of the Calling All Stations report, Gareth Bacon, Greater London Assembly Member, said: “TfL has been dragging their feet for too long and London is far behind in terms of mobile connectivity because of this. Paris and Berlin have had this technology since the late 1990’s and now cities such as Moscow, Rome, Seoul, and Beijing are able to make phone calls, text, and surf the web underground when we can’t.

The four recommendations for Transport for London are:

1. Accept that mobile connectivity is not only a modern convenience, but also a requirement in top tier transport systems.

2. Seek to include this technology in any new investments.

3. Consider the benefits of mobile connectivity in the Tube beyond merely benefiting from the licensing fees from mobile operators.

4. Look to the private sector to provide a reasonable funding solution to implement mobile connectivity on the Tube as soon as possible.