What changed at the turn of 2013?
There seems to be two key factors at play here. The first is that more people arrived back in to London after Christmas with smartphones then has ever been the case before. This has opened up a wider audience of web app users who are putting themselves in a position to drop their phone and cause a tube delay.
WiFi on the Tube has transformed the Tube experience for these 800,000 people, meaning that the once communication dead network is now open to mobile browsing. Where once books and newspapers reigned supreme, now we have a new wave of smartphone email checkers and iPad web surfers.
One of the worst hit lines is the Victoria Line. As one of the Tubes busiest lines, it sees a constant stream of trains with very short intervals (<1 minute between trains during peak hours). This leaves staff with an especially short window to retrieve any dropped phones between trains, and as a result drops on this line are more costly then say the Circle Line. As a result, trials begin this week with the aim of reminding people to be careful with their devices whilst trackside.
Dean Horler, station manager at Victoria said “We’re asking customers on the Victoria Line to be more careful with their mobile and smart phones while waiting for a train,” .
In the grand scheme of things, a lost phone is not a massive deal. A lost life is though, and TFL fear that this scenario may not be too far away. Station workers are trained professionals who know how to safely work around the live tracks. However, reports show that in some cases, regular passengers are climbing down onto the tracks in order to try to grab their phone.
Dean Horler was at pains to ask people not to climb onto the track in order to try and reclaim their property. “In some instances, customers have put their own safety at risk by attempting to get down onto the electrified track to retrieve their property.” Rescuing lost property doesn’t involve a quick dash from station personnel, there are advanced procedures in place. Trains have to be stopped and protection used in order to go on to the tracks.
TFL run a lost property collection service at the end of each day for lower value items, such as clothing, which often gets swept on to the tracks by the changing air pressures caused by a train approaching or departing.