Passengers using London's Underground have been warned to keep better hold of their smartphones, following train delays resulting from travellers dropping their devices on the tracks.
According to drivers and station staff, such incidents have increased in number since January, owing largely to Wi-Fi availability across much of the 150-year-old train network. Virgin Media, which instals and maintains theWi-Fi system, said at the end of last year that it had over 800,000 registered users. Previously, use of phones in the underground stations that are below ground did not cause a problem, as people were unable to use either voice or data owing to their location. Newspapers or books were the more common form of infotainment.
When you lose or damage your mobile phone, it is not only the device itself that you are potentially losing, but you could also be in danger of losing access to valuable or senstive data, bookmarks, contacts and other information.
On the Victoria Line, one of London Underground's busiest routes, a trial is taking place whereby customers will be reminded to take extra care with their devices. The message, played over station PA systems, says: "Please ensure you stand well back from the platform edge when using your mobiles and smartphones." Its effectiveness will be monitored over the coming months.
Dean Horler, the Victoria Line's Stations Manager, explained that the problem is caused by the short intervals between trains and delays caused by phones needing to be retrieved from the track. "We're asking customers on the Victoria Line to be more careful with their mobile and smart phones while waiting for a train," he said. "There have been a number of incidents where the service has been delayed due to staff having to retrieve phones that customers have dropped accidentally onto the track," Mr Horler continued. "In some instances, customers have put their own safety at risk by attempting to get down onto the electrified track to retrieve their property."
Station staff are required to stop trains and put protection in place to retrieve articles from lines. For other items such as hats that have been blown off, customers are often told to collect items later in the day to avoid causing such peak time disruption.