As ever with Boris’s announcements, yesterday’s news of “free” WiFi for Tube passengers isn’t all it appeared to be.
City Hall’s press release claimed:
“A contract has been awarded to Virgin Media to provide public access Wi-Fi at up to 120 Tube station platforms at zero cost to the fare or taxpayer.”
But that not really true.
Fare payers WILL have to pay for access because the service will become chargeable to users after a few weeks. Unless Boris is planning to increase the amount of fare dodgers on the Tube network, everyone who pays Virgin Media will be a fare payer.
What the press release really means is that in return for fitting a few travel information screens, something we might think to be London Underground’s responsibility, Boris has granted Virgin Media an apparent monopoly concession to sell its web services to passengers.
But the web access you receive for your money will be pretty limited. The service is only guaranteed to work within stations, once you’re on the Tube you’re likely to lose your signal.
So what Boris is really offering you is the chance to buy some WiFi while you wait for your tube. With the average wait between trains being a few minutes, the only time it’ll be worth paying is when your Tube is seriously delayed.