TfL CIO: Wi-Fi is coming this year on Underground

By Stuart Sumner
07 Feb 2012 View Comments
London Underground escalator

The provision of Wi-Fi later this year on London's underground stations will help improve communication between Transport for London (TfL) employees, as well as offering benefits to commuters.

Speaking to Computing, TfL CIO Steve Townsend explained that enabling TfL's staff to better manage the transport network has been one of the drivers behind the project.

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"We need to get more information to mobile staff. People don't make and control transport from behind a desk," he said.

"The technology has to be mobile to get to staff on station platforms, outside stations, and moving around the network."

He added that staff will be able to access mobile information from their own devices, as the firm is also adopting a bring-your-own-device policy.

"We can't afford to be device-specific. We need to enable any time, any place, any technology," explained Townsend.

"People bring their own devices to work and want to use them, because they're better suited to what they want to do, and we don't want to limit them."

However, Townsend is ensuring that information will be properly governed, following security best practice, rather than just enabling a free-for-all.

"We have to allow consumerisation with regulation and compliance in mind," he said.

"We're running a safety-critical service for London. We need the blend of freedom of any device, including bring-your-own, wrapped around a set of policies that keep the networks governed to the standards desired by the inspectorates."

The Wi-Fi technology will also be available to London's commuters, and to those visiting for the Olympics.

"We also note that the travelling public will benefit from the ability to utilise real-time information on the move," said Townsend.

"At the moment you can do it at some of the overground stations, but not underground."

TfL is currently in the middle of commercial negotiations with several network providers to allow Wi-Fi access both below ground and at street level in underground stations.

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