/ Technology, Travel & Leisure

Our survey says you want mobile coverage on the Tube

Woman on phone underground

Our research shows this idea is more popular than you might imagine, with six in ten saying they’d like a mobile network introduced underground. Do you agree, or is this just one more annoyance to ruin your journey?

What frustrates you most about travelling on London Underground? From packed carriages to pushing and shoving, there’s a lot to choose from, but soon there could be one more thing to add to the list – people chatting on their phones.

With Transport for London (TfL) expected to announce a deal to bring mobile reception to the tube network any day now, we decided to put this question to the test and ask commuters what they think of the plans.

Of the 914 people we questioned, six in ten were in favour, suggesting that mobiles aren’t as much as an annoyance as you might think. Still, nearly a third were firmly against the idea, proving that there’s a bit of a, ahem, mixed reception over the issue (sorry).

How would mobile coverage be used?

So, how would you use your mobile if this idea takes off? I feel too self-conscious to have long conversations on quiet trains, so I won’t be using it as opportunity to get gossiping with friends, but many disagree with me. Half our respondents said they’d use the time to catch up with family and friends.

So could tube carriages become hot conversation beds? It may be an unwelcome thought, but at least it could bring some life into our notoriously unfriendly underground.

But despite my aversion to chatting for long underground, I’d still find coverage useful for quick calls, texting and catching up on emails, so I’d definitely vote ‘for’. These were popular options in our survey too, with 85% saying they would use it to let people know if they’re running late and around a third saying they’d use it to do work during their journey.

If the deal is signed, the Mayor apparently wants it implemented by the Olympics. Will this leave you sprinting for the quiet countryside or speed-dialling your friends to spread the word?

The research in full

Would you like to be able to use your mobile phone on the tube?

Yes: 59%
No: 32%

If you could use your mobile phone on the tube, what would you use it for?

Letting people know if I was running late to meet them: 85%
Catching up with friends and family: 48%
Planning out the rest of my journey/day: 42%
Catching up on work: 31%
Internet browsing/access/email: 4%
Emergencies: 3%
Texting: 2%
Letting people know how far along the journey I am: 1%
Receiving/making calls: 1%

warrior193 says:
17 December 2010

No,No,no,no,no,no,no,no,no – please No. It’s bad enough on the overground with interminable inane,banal conversations about who did what to whom and how totally bladdered Tracy and Ronald got last night/weekend/month. Please, please, please, please (I’m really begging now) TFL, don’t do it.

Congratulations warrior193! You’re now our Comment of the Week, week, week, week – and will be featured on our homepage for a full seven days! 😀

John Crystal says:
17 December 2010

People want to talk on their phones whilst on the tube, but they are not considering how much that can ruin other peoples’ journeys! Silent use is fine, but if someone is trying to read a book, that would be completely disrupted by someone catching up with family by chatting on their mobile!

Can’t voice calls be stopped somehow, just leaving texts and internet?

Also, I wish the number of audio announcements could be reduced on buses and tubes.

Blueturk says:
17 December 2010

No…but wi fi would be good!! People don’t talk to another enough anyway and it frther isolates the individual in the happy throng!!

Pete Foster says:
19 December 2010

I would want it – surely this will be everywhere in ever major global city and without it London loses out, and think of the benefits for safety and communications when there are problems – even London Underground could text us to tell us what is going on too.

I’m in favour… but banning talking on them I am also in favour of! So texts, internet and the occasional voice chat (limited to 45 seconds – that can be done.)

David Carter says:
19 December 2010

This debate seems similar to that on smoking in public places: it is very enjoyable for those who want it, but can be a nuisance for those who don’t.

If we’re protecting people from smokers, can’t we protect people from maddening mobile phone callers?

Peter Mason says:
19 December 2010

People speaking on mobile phones, and repeated audio announcements about stations and stops, ruin what could otherwise be a very pleasant part of a person’s day, on London Transport, or other services.

Noise pollution like this should be illegal!

Phil Hingley says:
20 January 2011

I’m against. My perception is that people in public places, walking in the street, do so more slowly and with less consideration for others when using their mobiles (especially texting!). If mobiles could be used in stations and passages and on stairs and escalators I would expect people to move more slowly so reducing the efficiency and possibly the safety of the system. My compromise would be for the trains themselves to support use of mobiles.

That’s an interesting point – I’ve never thought about it like that. They could certainly dawdle on their phones. Though I see that already with people playing games on their iPhones!

I’m one of the 87% of the population who don’t live in the capital, so i couldn’t care less.