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ZDnet report that

London Underground stays in mobile dark ages

By Natasha Lomas

Posted on ZDNet News: Mar 16, 2009 8:54:54 AM

A plan to put mobile connectivity on the London Underground has stalled.

Back in March 2007, Transport for London (TfL) put out a tender for a six-month trial of mobile-phone technology on the Waterloo and City line. The aim of the trial -- originally scheduled for 2008 -- was to determine whether it would be technically and commercially viable for coverage to be extended across the entire Tube network.

Speaking at the time, Richard Parry, strategy and service development director of London Underground, said: "We recognize that there is now growing demand for mobile coverage to be extended to deep-level sections of the Tube."

However, two years on and no trial later the conclusion seems to be that mobiles on the Tube are not commercially viable. A TfL spokeswoman told ZDNet UK's sister site,, that three proposals were received by the October 2007 deadline but none were considered commercially "credible".

"London Underground tendered for a trial of mobile phones on the Waterloo and City line but the market has yet to provide us with a credible proposal for enabling mobile-phone use on the Tube," she said.

The high costs associated with the tenders appear to have seen the project shelved.

"While it is technically possible to deploy mobile-phone and data-wireless solutions on the deep-level Underground tunnels and stations, the unique nature and environment of the Tube mean that project costs would be prohibitively high at this time," the spokeswoman said.

TfL is still open to commercial approaches, according to the spokeswoman, but there are currently no active plans to trial or deploy cellular technology -- meaning the Underground mobile-network rollout has effectively hit the buffers.


Earlier this year, the Airwave emergency communication system went live on the Underground -- which means police and other emergency services personnel are now able to communicate wirelessly through 250 miles of Tube tunnels.

It sounds as if TfL have been too greedy in what they were planning to charge the Mobile Network Operators. Nobody could possibly have made any money, or even covered their costs,on the Waterloo and City Line pilot project - it is far too short a journey.

The prospects of "I will see you in a few minutes" or endless other annoying one sided conversations in public, is one which many people will not regret missing out on on the Tube.

The potential risks of mobile phone activated bombs on the deep Tube, are not to be dismissed lightly either.

Hopefully.any Deep Tube mobile phone location tracking surveillance infrastructure (which would have been provided for free, piggy backing on top of a commercial phone service) will also prove to be too expensive to justify financially. Such surveillance infrastructure obviously already exists for much of the above ground sections of London Underground rail lines.

Transport for London contractor Transys crashes the Oyster Travel Card system for the second time in 2 weeks i.e. since Saturday 12th July.)

According to this TfL press release:

Oyster cards

25 July 2008

A Transport for London spokesperson said:

"There was a technical problem with Oyster card readers at London Underground stations this morning which affected Oyster pay as you go cards only. Oyster card readers on the bus and tram network were unaffected.

"The problem has now been resolved and card readers are progressively coming back on-line at London Underground stations.

"Cards have not been disabled and so can continue to be used as normal. We will automatically refund any passengers who may have been charged the maximum £4 fare as a result of not being able to touch in and out at the beginning and end of their journeys this morning. Oyster card holders need take no further action.

"This problem, like the recent issue, resulted from incorrect data tables being sent out by our contractor, Transys (a consortium of the firms EDS and Cubic). Transys has also issued a statement today confirming that they are taking steps to ensure that this does not happen again, that they will undertake a root cause analysis and, like us, apologising for any inconvenience caused to our customers."

The Transys consortium website says:

TranSys statement : 25/07/08.

The technical problem which affected Oyster readers at London Underground stations has now been resolved and all stations are all fully functional. The problem affected pay as you go users only.

Steps are being taken to ensure that this does not happen again and we will undertake a full root cause analysis.

TranSys regrets any inconvenience caused to Transport for London's customers.

As Transport for London has made clear, Oyster cards are not being disabled and automatic refunds will be made to any customers charged maximum fares as a result of not being able to touch in and out at the beginning and end of their journeys. Oyster card holders need take no further action.

How dare they implement software changes to a live production system, without first checking them thoroughly on a realistic test system ?

These repeated failures are indicative of faulty management, who will probably try to shift the blame onto a junior employee. Will any senior management heads roll ?

It appears that security researchers at Radboud University in Nijmegen, in the Netherlands, have extended their previous demonstration of the flaws in their own Phillips MiFare based travel cards, to the similar system used in the London Oyster Card.

See the reports by ZDnet: and the translation of a report about the researchers' evidence to the Netherlands Parliament regarding such transport card vulnerabilities:

They can reportedly use an Oyster Card, and then re-set the monetary balance, something which shows that the system is possibly vulnerable to fraud.

Transport for London claim that they would detect such a scam within 24 hours and so it would only be limited one day's free travel.

However, this assumes that the Dutch researchers, or any criminals exploiting the same vulnerabilities, are using are not spoofing or re-programming the Oyster card's serial number every day, as well as re-setting the monetary credit balance, in which case, this will not be picked up via a nightly accounting reconciliation subroutine on the central database.

If randomly chosen, or specifically targeted Oyster card serial numbers were to be re-programmed, then the Transport for London / TranSys consortium anti-fraud routines could be abused to create a Denial of Service attack on random innocent travellers or specific targets.

More worryingly, it appears that they can also cause a software malfunction in the Tube Gates, which are then jammed shut, after their Denial of Service attack presumably sends the wrong sort of code to the system.

At busy stations during the rush hour, this sort of Denial of Service attack could cause a lot of misery, and could potentially put lives at risk, especially at those stations which have Oyster card barriers very close to the up escalators, where there is a risk of people get trampled by a panicked crowd.

Transport for London must immediately ensure that Tube gates cannot be jammed shut by such a software malfunction. This is a safety issue, and , as such, must be given a far higher priority than any anti-fraud measures.

Transport for London need to actually publicly demonstrate that they have responded properly, to make such potential attacks impossible, and not just issue public relations spin that claim that there is no real problem.

The Daily Mail website has some photos of Saturday night's utterly predictable "Last Orders" alcoholic binge on the the Tube.before Boris Johnson's ban on drinking alcohol came into force.

Pictured: Chaotic scenes as alcohol-fuelled Facebook party to mark the end of drinking on the tube ends in violence

Many began fighting and vomiting, seven Tube staff and two police officers were assaulted, six Underground stations had to be closed and several trains were taken out of service after party-goers began smashing them up.

Police made 17 arrests

Apart from the extra crowds caused by closing the 6 Tube stations, how was this worse than a typical Saturday night, with say, crowds of football supporters roaming the the Tube ?

The only difference was that the Police were actually on the spot, instead of hiding away somewhere, as they normally are.

The problem with alcohol on public transport is not so much what goes on in central London, but what happens on the last bus or tube or national rail train home on a Friday or Saturday night, when the extra alcohol being consumed in transit , in addition to that which people who have been drinking all evening, kicks in.

There are usually no British Transport police riding such tubes, buses or trains .out into to the suburbs, and CCTV does absolutely nothing to deter drunken violent or anti-social behavior.

We will wait and see how this new policy will actually be enforced over the next few weeks and months.

Alcohol on the Tube


Boris Johnson is reported as saying that one of his first actions as Mayor of London will be to order the banning of alcohol on the Tube.

There is already a Byelaw which could be used to ban Alcohol on the Tube:

London Regional Transport Railways Byelaws

Made under section 67 of the Transport Act 1962 as amended by section 37 of the Transport Act 1981 and paragraph 2 of Schedule 4 to London Regional Transport Act 1984 by London Regional Transport and confirmed by the Secretary of State for Environment, Transport and the Regions on 19 December 2000 for regulating the use and working of, and travel on their railways and railway premises and the conduct of all persons while on those premises ("The Byelaws").


.4 Intoxication and possession of intoxicating liquor

1. No person in a state of intoxication shall enter or remain on the railway.
2. Where reasonable notice is, or has been given prohibiting intoxicating liquor on any train service, no person shall have any intoxicating liquor with him on it, or attempt to enter such train with intoxicating liquor with him.
3. Where an authorised person reasonably believes that any person is in a state of intoxication or has with him intoxicating liquor contrary to this Byelaw, the authorised person may:
(i) require him to leave the railway; and
(ii) prevent him entering or remaining on the railway until the authorised person is satisfied that he has no intoxicating liquor with him.


24. Enforcement

1. Offence and level of fines
Any person who breaches any of these Byelaws, except Byelaw 17, commits an offence and shall be liable for each such offence to a penalty not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.


25 Interpretation


"intoxication" means being under the influence of intoxicating liquor, drugs or other substances;
"intoxicating liquor" has the meaning ascribed to it in the Licensing Act 1964 (as amended or replaced from time to time);


A Level 3 Fine is currently up to £1000

Both the Metropolitan Police Service, City of London Police , British Transport Police, and , as of January 2008, Police Community Support Officers are allowed to enforce Byelaws.

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