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Alexi asks: Being able to use mobiles on the tube: will it drive us mental?

Posted at 10:15 am, September 14, 2014 in Transport
© Rob Greig

© Rob Greig

Life in London: so many issues. Our inquisitive editor-at-large addresses the ones that nobody else dares (or cares) to. This week: getting a signal on the Underground.

Looks like we may get mobile phone signal on the tube. TfL has just announced plans to pipe phone reception into Crossrail’s underground tunnels and, possibly, eventually roll it out to the tube. Good idea? Bad idea? Hard to say, really. Tricky one, innit? Well, that’s me done. See you next Tuesday! Kidding. As if I don’t have opinions. Here, in fact, are five.

1. It might actually happen this time
I know, I know. Every year it’s ‘Texting in tunnels!’ this, or ‘Chat to your nan in rush hour’ that. This is old news. It’s Old Street. It’s Old Peculiar. It’s Gary Oldman in an Oldsmobile. But this time TfL is actually investing in the technology. Technology that will make the Underground look clapped out compared to Crossrail with its flashy transport hubs and mobile enabled subterranean portals. Inevitable that TfL will use it on the tube, then. No doubt it’s aware that if this were ‘Twins’, Crossrail would be Arnie and the tube would be Danny DeVito. And who wants to ride to work on Danny DeVito?

2. We could do without it
We don’t need it, do we? Not really. My fave case for it thus far was last year’s report by a Tory GLA member, ‘Calling All Stations’, which claimed that our ‘lack of  connectivity’ would make businesses relocate to cities where phones work on the tube. Brilliant. Mainly for suggesting that companies choose office locations via conversations like: ‘Forget it. Not London. Sure, it’s the world’s second biggest financial centre, but what if Dave from accounts needs to text his mom en route to Cockfosters, huh? Dave needs to text momma, guys! Dave needs to text momma.

3. It sounds awful
The tube’s been around for so long without mobile reception that there seems something intrinsically nonphoney about it. It makes the idea of coverage about as attractive as  settling into a cinema seat to hear: ‘Tonight’s film will be accompanied by a live, two-hour performance of “Crazy Frog”. ON VUVUZELA!’

4. But it’s good to communicate
There’s one thing about phones on the tube that benefits everybody: en-route text apologies for tardiness. No more not knowing if your mate’s turning up! No more seeming like an asswad for not texting an apology! Suddenly, everyone’s happy! Well, unless you cherish the rare pleasure of being non-contactable. But if you’re really that bothered, just turn your phones off, dudes. Otherwise, what’s your argument here? ‘Jesus Christ, what do TfL think I bought this mobile phone for? So I’d be easily contactable?’

5. The downsides won’t be so bad
Now, I’m no fan of phones on the tube. Hell, if anything, it’s bad news for me. It will only mean people getting interrupted while reading Time Out, thus distracting you from all them clever words what I typed with my fingers. But let’s not forget: when you tube it beyond the first few zones, the Underground goes overground and mobiles work. And once you get beyond Swiss Cottage, are trains full of weeping, maddened commuters braining each other with rolled up Metros? No. No they aren’t. So maybe it’s not that tricky after all. Maybe – whisper it – maybe it’s… a… good… thing.

Find out more of Alexi’s burning questions including ‘When is it National Bunk Off Work to Bonk Day, huh?!

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