London Mayor Boris Johnson cautious on Tube mobile network
14:37 22 February 2011
2009 Getty Images
Extending mobile phone coverage to underground sections of the Tube network is “the way to go”, London Mayor Boris Johnson has said.
The Tory politician extended a cautious welcome to proposals to install transmitters in time for the 2012 Olympics.
But he warned that engineers face enormous technical challenges because of the narrow tunnels trains operate in.
Mr Johnson added that some passengers may not welcome the change.
He said: “It is commercially difficult, it is technically difficult and I am urging caution.
“In the long run, if you look at other big cities, they all have mobile phones working on Tubes.
“We have been unable to do it because our tunnels are so narrow, but in the long run it is progress.
“We have got to be clear, a lot of people will not be completely enthusiastic about having mobile phones on the Tube.
“I think it is the way to go and we have got to give people the ability to text and perhaps have some coverage for voice telephony.
“The issue is not so much the Chinese company that is offering to help or security issues.
“The issue is the technology given we have got very old and narrow tunnels.
“I am not ruling it out but I am not ruling it in either. It is on the way but do not count your chickens.”
Chinese telecoms firm Huawei has reportedly offered to install a £50 million phone network for free as a gift from one Olympic nation to another.
Transport for London (TfL) officials said discussions are under way but private companies must foot the bill with no additional costs for passengers or London taxpayers.
Digital emergency service radios work underground after new technology was installed as a result of recommendations made after the July 7 attacks.
But one MP, Conservative Patrick Mercer, warned a public network could help terrorists by allowing them to detonate a device underground remotely.