'Don't use Tube's new phone network to gossip', etiquette expert warns

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Most Londoners like to think they are well-versed in the finer points of Tube etiquette. 

But the capital’s commuters face a different challenge on the Underground after it was announced 4G phone coverage is to be introduced in the next two years.

Now, an etiquette expert has offered some much-needed guidance on the use of phones in Tube carriages.

Author and coach William Hanson said phone calls should only be made if “absolutely crucial” when the new network coverage launches.

It will signal an end to virtually the last “hiding place” in London for people trying to avoid being contacted on their phones.

Mr Hanson, 27, told the Standard: “In one way it’s a shame because it used to be that you could use your time on the Tube to zone out and focus on what is coming next without being distracted by emails.

Etiquette expert: William Hanson urged Tube passengers to only make phone calls in emergencies

“The Tube is fairly quiet even at busy times and there is a museum feeling. Somebody making a call telling their partner about what they want for dinner is going to irritate many people.

“I wonder whether it will drive business away from the Tube because you will have to listen to everybody’s life and you can’t zone out.”

He urged passengers: “Don’t use the new service to catch up on gossip with a friend or make pillow talk with your partner.”

The etiquette expert also argued that the excitement over being able to use mobile phones on the Tube will probably wear off after a few months.

“Very quickly people will realise they just want to sit there and read their kindle,” he said. “Just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to use it – I personally won’t be. But it’s good to know it’s there in case of an emergency.”

Mr Khan’s plan involves 4G mobile connectivity both in stations and tunnels from 2019, with the capability to move to 5G.

It is hoped London will catch up – or even overtake – other great global cities such as Seoul, Tokyo, New York or Paris.

Debrett’s, a London etiquette company founded in 1769, agreed that mobile phone use should be “unobtrusive and considerate of others”.

The firm told the Standard: “Use headphones if you’re listening to music or watching a film, and ensure that any sound isn’t leaking and audible by others. If you’re using Facetime, Skype or Snapchat, be aware of passengers in the background whom you may inadvertently be capturing in shot.

Tube trains will have full 4G mobile coverage by 2019 (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

“Using your phone shouldn’t impede your awareness of others – passengers should take breaks from their screen to check if anyone else needs their seat, and to make sure they’re not blocking exits or causing discomfort to others.”

Although the aim is for 4G coverage to start before the end of 2019 it is likely to be rolled out over a longer timescale because of the complexity of the technology.

As well as making calls or sending texts passengers will be able to access social media or other websites and play data intensive games.

However, the historic first subterranean calls under central London will be made by passengers on the Elizabeth Line, which will have full mobile coverage when its services launch in December 2018.


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