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Wednesday, 24 November, 1999, 18:51 GMT
Tube phone war fears
phone Out of line: Mobile users irritate many commuters

In a worrying move for many commuters, mobile phones could soon be ringing on the London Underground.

Mobiles have been Tube outcasts, thanks to the deeply sunk train stations being out of reach of even the most powerful radio mast.

Now London Transport is thinking of allowing commercial use of the spare capacity in a new communications network, intended to allow Tube drivers to call for help in emergencies.

This would allow mobiles to be used on platforms, but not on trains.

jail Hang up: Jail is a mobile phone-free zone
Commentators fear that alongside road rage on the motorways and air rage on the airways, we will see mobile phone rage on the "tubeway".

London's newspaper, the Evening Standard, encouraged readers this week "to use the mobile phone with good manners and consideration for others".

Last summer a German businessman became one of Europe's first victims of mobile phone rage.

He infuriated fellow drinkers in a Hamburg beer garden by refusing to turn his mobile phone off. A fight broke out and the compulsive communicator was clubbed to death with a beer bottle.

Where mobiles come to a stop
Planes and hospitals - interference with equipment
Parts of Scottish Highlands and Wales - out of reach
Churches - not on sacred ground
Diving in Antigua
Posh restaurants - for good digestion
Prison - out of bounds

"It was really loud," one witness told the police, "and had one of those terrible melodies too."

In the US dozens of incidents are reported every week of mobiles being snatched or smashed by people fed up with the chattering classes.

At a Broadway performance of The Lion in Winter, actor Laurence Fishburne was furious that a member of the audience had allowed his mobile to ring for 20 seconds.

"Will you turn that f****** phone off!" he snarled, to applause from the audience.

"Tell them we're busy," actor Kevin Spacey told the owner of a ringing mobile during a London performance of The Iceman Cometh.

In Switzerland, the railways have set aside special cars for unrepentant mobile users.

In Japan, the bullet trains have signs instructing people to use their phones in the corridor "even if it is inconvenient".

Earlier this year Virgin Trains began a trial scheme of mobile-free Quiet Coaches on its trains.

Will you turn that f****** phone off!
Actor Laurence Fishburne
"We've been paying close attention to what our customers want, and some people are clearly irritated about mobile phones and how they're used," says Allan McLean, Virgin's public affairs manager for Scotland.

"Of course, as there is no by-law against using a mobile, we can't force our customers to abide by our request, but if the trial works we will roll it out in more trains and over more carriages."

London Underground said it understood commuter fears about mobiles.

Some people are clearly irritated about mobile phones
Allan McLean, Virgin public affairs
"We appreciate that customers would not be pleased if the carriages were full of people barking into the phones.

"It would be OK if they were saying something interesting. But we would never consider them on the trains."

The company would be conducting research among customers on whether to bring in the mobiles, he said.

However, for those who want to have the last say on the matter, there is the so-called "zapper".

A hand-held device, it works like a television remote control.

Simply point and squeeze and, if the offending mobile is less than 20ft away, it interrupts the signal and cuts the communication. It only costs 30, but at the moment is only available in the Far East.

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23 Nov 99 |  Business
Tube passengers to vote on mobiles

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