Tube and other ‘not spots’ to get London mayor’s attention

Natalie Bannerman
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Oldest metro in the world to get 4G as Mayor of London launches measures to tackle poor connectivity areas

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has unveiled plans to address London’s areas of poor connectivity – known as “not spots” – including the London Underground’s tunnels. The Tube’s 5 million daily passengers have no more than Wifi on station platforms and nothing in the tunnels.

One of Khan’s key measures is the appointment of a troubleshooting “not-spot” team, whose purpose is to go out into problematic connectivity spots to work with local authorities and providers to identify and deliver solutions to improve connectivity.

Khan has also announced a City Hall summit called the Digital Connectivity Funding Forum, so that local authorities can come together to discuss the new proposals, sharing ideas and best practice. In addition to offering encouragement and support to them as they apply for the UK government’s Digital Infrastructure Funding and giving guidance on how best to use access wayleaves, to get more fibre in the ground and into buildings.

At the same time, Transport for London (TfL) has announced its plans to mobile connectivity to its tunnels – which form the world’s oldest underground railway. TfL will issue a formal notice to the industry seeking feedback on how best to use its assets and improve connectivity, while monetising partners’ efforts.

The TfL-operated Elizabeth line, due to start service in December 2018, will have mobile service in its tunnels through central London, giving continuous phone coverage and access to the internet, apps and email. It and other TfL trains have connectivity in above-ground sections. 

David Leam, infrastructure director at lobby group London First, said: “Business needs fast and reliable connections across our capital – in the office, for people working from home and when they’re on the move. We should be making the most of existing infrastructure, including the London Underground network, to boost speeds and deliver coverage to areas that have been left behind. But we also need London’s planners to get behind this work, otherwise our digital ambitions risk being strangled by red tape.”

The Mayor, who was elected in 2016, made a manifesto promise to fix London connectivity by tackling areas of poor internet provision and improve access to public sector property for digital infrastructure.

“Our digital connectivity needs to be improved,” he said. “Internet connectivity is now a key public utility, and it is no surprise that some businesses see poor connectivity as a barrier to growth. If we are to remain competitive in the global economy, we need to ensure every Londoner is able to access a fast and reliable digital connection.”

He added: “That means working to boost connectivity across London – tackling not-spots, delivering connectivity in the London Underground and working with local authorities to provide digital infrastructure fitting of a global tech hub.”