Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mobiles on the underground

I can't believe that they're really going to make it possible to use mobiles on underground trains. They're starting with Glasgow, a system with so few stations you would have thought that people would be able to wait until they'd completed their journeys to make a call.

Presumably they're already measuring up London. I think it's potentially disastrous. The only thing that gets millions of people back and forth to work in London every day is the Metropolitan Omerta. It's this code of silence that keeps Londoners sane. I may have my nose jammed up against your armpit but the fact that I am not talking to you is the best guarantee that I will not engage in any acts of open aggression against you. Out of town visitors are instantly recognisable because they're talking, usually to say something like "I couldn't do this every day". (To which all Londoners assent between gritted teeth, we wouldn't wish you to.)

Imagine a rush hour train in the stifling heat of the Victoria Line. That's bad enough. Now imagine that carriage full of people engaging in gormless phone conversations with unseen friends, business colleagues, boyfriends, insurance companies and call centres in Mumbai. I genuinely fear for the thin skin of restraint once you add that kind of provocation.

I think this is an issue that our new mayor should take the lead in. "Progress" stops here. If you want to talk, walk.


  1. Sometimes "because we can we must" gets a bit tiresome we don't need mobile access on the tube the way we don't need animated adverts on the side of football pitches or buses that tell you where we you are every 2 minutes etc,

  2. Voice on the tube might be a bit much but i'd like it if it was data only.
    texts, internet etc and a lot less intrusive. its hardly going to destroy the conversation is it...

  3. Too right, but I am sure it will happen. There are so many people who spend every free second on their mobiles, purely because they can I am sure: why are people so bothered by silence?

  4. Mobiles have been used on the Paris Metro for years and it isn't a huge problem.
    To be honest, most people on the Tube seem to switch to MP3 mode and then blast out their music as loudly as they'd be talking anyway...

  5. The Tube is the last bastion of peace and quiet (i.e., no phones), transport wise.

    Let it remain that way.

    On a different note, can we do something about cyclists wearing headphones. Surely there's nothing more dangerous than this.

  6. There was a plan to do precisely that - put mobiles on the tube.

    Fortunately, it seems to have gone by the by. Investing in things like air-conditioning is probably a more important priority. In any case, can you imagine how much shouting you'd have to do to make yourself heard on an underground train?

  7. It's the same problem on buses in Edinburgh - I really don't want to know what other people are having for tea that evening, and whether a job offer in Surrey is worth taking (all culled from one journey the other day)...thank the Lord for the return of the Word Podcasts.

  8. I can't use mine on public transport, I just get too self-conscious, and I can't beleive how loudly some people talk about their personal life when it's quite obvious that other people are listening. Surely the conversation can wait until they're off the bus!!