back to article London Underground gets emergency phone network

The emergency services phone network, Airwave, was activated at 125 underground stations in London this morning, providing seamless coverage for service personnel working the tube. Airwave is based on Tetra technology, providing cellular services for special handsets and (in theory) allowing emergency services to talk to each …


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  1. Dave Silver badge

    lucky coincidence

    As a report by the London Assembly (or GLC, or whatever they're called nowadays) noted when assessing the aftermath of the 7/7 bombings, the fact that London Underground opted for Airwave was coincidental....certainly not part of some grand design to have LU and the police on the same network. This lucky coincidence meant a financial saving as the police didn't have to fund extension of the Airwave network to the Underground to support police communication...but let's not kid ourselves that this is some joined up thinking.

  2. Dabooka

    I know it's hardly the same scale, but..

    we've been able to use mobiles on the underground stations on the Metro in Tyneside for quite a few years. I believe O2 piloted a system there.

  3. Ben Mathews

    Oh noes...

    I hope they don't roll it out for general use. The tube is bad enough without bankers barking into their phone or some chav scum shouting abuse at their friend.

  4. James Taylor
    Thumb Up

    also in hong kong

    they have the octopus card, like an oyster card...but better

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    My phone must have a really good aerial because I can often use it in stations and sometimes a little way up the track. I just assumed that cell access was being slowly rolled out.

  6. Gulfie

    @James Taylor

    Eight times better?

  7. Chris Williams

    We can't all talk on the tube

    I'm with Ben Mathews all the way. Keep the Tube free of pointless high volume waffle.

    Alternatively, get the entire network kitted out for mobiles and then remove all surface transmitters from London so, if you want to make a phone call, you have to go Underground.

    One or the other, not both.

  8. Tom Smith Silver badge

    Wait a minute...

    A government IT project that's finished ahead of schedule?

    It better have been waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay over budget or something weird is going on here....

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Or in Lisbon

    Lisbon has it's subway entirely covered for quite sometime now, with 3G...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Or in Prague

    Prague too, but only GSM.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @I know it's hardly the same scale, but..

    Ahem, don't forget wearside in that - it goes underground here too!

  12. Chris

    Or in Paris

    Full EDGE coverage here in Paris. Of course the Metro stinks to high heaven, but at least when travelling I can let all my friends know about it.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    tube drivers view

    anonymously - obviously.....

    well if you speak to any member of OPERATIONAL staff (not the muppetts who design and DONT work with the system) they will tell you the truth, in the case of Connect Project (previously Connect 2000 - only 8years late) its a case of 1 step forward and 20 steps back, the system is plain terrible to work with.

    being digital i was suprised that it was that bad, our previous radio on our line worked in full duplex mode, this new one is only half duplex (only one person can can talk, where previously it worked more like a telephone line) and its sounds most of the time like a old 50s radio set. Communication has now become slow an awkward.

    the whole system is split up into talk groups, so if your say at victoria station you would be on that talkgroup, if your driving the jubilee line you would be on thier control centre and so on and so forth. this is all well and good in theroy, but its too easy for station staff to broadcast on the wrong talkgroup and vice versa, thus this can be a serious problem for saftey and needs to be addressed, mis communication during a major incident because someone is on the wrong group could esculate and we could have serious problems.

    the setup of the units are also too complicated to be effective in a major incident, our old system was a couple of buttons, radio and mayday - now there is still a mayday button but there is an assortment of other buttons that dont draw your attention as easily if your in a state of shock. But it makes our cabs look pretty with the pretty blue led desplay ugghh.

    we have all been issued handset (train drivers), which are old fashioned and clunky to say the least, one good thing about them is we can make calls to any internal number - a clear telephone line (wish they done the same with the radio).

    The system is poorly excuited, there is no information on who is calling you other than the pre programed numbers, basically if someone calls me telling me to do something it could be anyone if the number is not pre programed, unsafe, unhappy, total waste of taxpayers money. they didnt need to rip out our old reliable radios they could have issued the handsets for emergancy purposes and left the old systems in place then at least we would have had a back up system when radios go down which connect has done a number of times losing whole lines service for days at a time.

    funny thing is it will probo be perfectly good enough for the police to use, but not the system it was supposed to be designed for

    well i suppose thats progress, i wonder who got the big payout this time........

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Radio systems for emergency services and Underground staff was a key requirement of the Kings Cross report. Yes, Kings Cross, a disaster that happened twenty years ago. So long in fact that when I recently told a teen on the underground to stop smoking and said "remember King's Cross" he had to ask what happened at King's Cross and was supprised when I told him that thirty people died. (His mate told him to put it out and they skulked off...)

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They have underground coverage in Stockholm too

    and hearing and seeing people nattering away seems so wrong to this Londoner. I imagine it would be more so if I could speak Swedish. I would say it was rude as well, but Swedes are so monumentally rude in the first place that it pales by comparison

  16. Jolyon Ralph
    Thumb Up

    Slight off topic, Octopus Card

    The great thing about the Octopus card in Hong Kong is not only does it work on almost all public transport (including the ferries across the harbour, which are something stupidly cheap, like 30p a journey, or at least were last year), but they work pretty damn well as a e-cash system and have done for a few years now.

    Whether you're at a newsagents or a McDonalds or whatever, you can just swipe your card to pay for the purchase. No combination oystercard/debit card nonsense, no second card, no messing arond with pin numbers. Just swipe your card and you're done. As you rarely keep more than about £10-£20 on the card at any time, should you lose it or if it's stolen, no big deal.


    So yes, it's at least 8 times better.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    annoying f***s on the tube ..

    "The rest of us still can't talk on the underground, obviously"

    And long may it remain so, have these phone users any idea of the ANNOYANCE they cause with their endless chatter:


    Someone should explain to them the wonders of modern technology, so there's NO NEED TO SHOUT !!!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What was wrong with the old system....

    Of shouting down the Tube "Oi!! Are you lot ok!?"

  19. Anonymous Coward

    We need to learn...

    When I first went to Prague 5 years ago I took my mobile, but didn't expect good coverage whilst there. I got into Ruzyne and turned the phone on whilst waiting for the bus and got full signal; so I thought I'll leave it on for the journey just to see how bad it gets and promptly forgot all about it . I was rudely reminded by the office calling whilst I was on the underground system shortly before getting to Namesti Miru which is around 50m below street level! To cap it all it only costs around £15 per week for unlimited travel on all public transport within Prague - if it weren't for all the strip joints, brothels and "casinos" I'd advocate sending Buffoon Johnson and all the top brass from TfL on a fact-finding mission to see a well operated, clean, efficient, integrated transport system is supposed to be!

    Mine's the one with six cases of Urquell in the pocket....

  20. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    @James Taylor

    "they have the octopus card, like an oyster card...but better"

    Presumably, if you put them both in your wallet, the octopus card will peel open the oyster card and eat it.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    data rate

    I suspect the data rate is standard TETRA 2400bps.

  22. Lukin Brewer

    Airwave is poor value (are you surprised)

    ...and has more safety questions against it than the humble mobe.

    The obvious choice, in other words!

  23. Mycroft
    Paris Hilton

    Re: Airwave is poor value (are you surprised)

    There may well be technical issues regarding the implementation, coverage and capacity of Airwave's system, but there's no need to bring a bunch of tinfoil hat wearing knobheads into the discussion. Have you actually read the drivel on the site you referenced? I appreciate that most Reg readers are keyboard jockeys rather than engineers, but for a good laugh have a read of If it doesn't have you in stitches and in despair there's no hope.

    And by the way, wtf is 'humble mobe' supposed to mean?

    PH because even she wouldn't be taken in.

  24. Alan Brown Silver badge









    Given carriage noise levels in most underground line tunnels (well above the 88dBa "hearing protection mandatory" under HSA rules for employees in most businesses) I suspect the only place you'd be actually able have a phone conversation on the Underground would be on the platform between trains or when stopped between stations in sweltering summer heat.

    Mine's the one with earmuffs in the pocket.

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