London Underground utilises the Airwave service for enhanced emergency service communication and public safety

The Issues & Challenges

The technology behind radio communication on the surface is very different to that used for enclosed or below-ground locations. London Underground Ltd (LUL) needed a solution to the specific problem of communicating throughout the 125 tube stations and the connecting tunnels.

This action was a direct result of the London Assembly report on 2005 bombings during which it was clear that the Police unable to communicate with colleagues above and below ground and across forces – affecting day-to-day public safety and response to major emergencies. 

To ensure best value for money, the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) approached the LUL to arrange for the Airwave service to be delivered at the same time as its Connect system (also TETRA technology) which is used for communication with the train drivers.

The Airwave Solution

• 2006 - prototype at Caledonian Road Station to prove technical solution, supply chain process, identify potential risks
• Implementation on all 125 below ground stations started Jan 2007 with Airwave installed not in a fixed order, but as and when each station was available
• Utilise Connect infrastructure to save time and money • Emergency Response Vehicles to deliver pinpoint coverage in an emergency if the Airwave network lost

It is a great achievement that not only has Airwave been delivered across the tube network but that it has been delivered five months ahead of schedule.

Tim O’Toole, Managing Director, London Underground

Results & Benefits

• Savings - Airwave was delivered 5 months ahead of schedule and, by utilising Connect an estimated £400M was saved together with many years work.

• Ease of use - The service means that British Transport Police no longer have to carry 2 radios and it is the first time a radio system can be used underground by both Metropolitan Police Service and City of London Police officers.

• Better Communication - Officers can now communicate with colleagues above and below ground. Operational benefits were immediately obvious at high profile events such as the annual Notting Hill Carnival, New Year’s Eve and regular football matches. With one system, different control rooms and services now work better together to coordinate operations more effectively and achieve better results.  

• Increased Safety – Officer safety has been improved as demonstrated by the 30+ ‘emergency messages’ sent each month over Airwave from officers whilst working underground.

• Immediate Public Benefit – In the first month of use by London Ambulance, a first responder was able to summon specialised equipment for a patient that enabled rapid transfer to hospital about 15 minutes quicker than if Airwave had not been available.

The completion of Airwave is good news for Londoners as it further increases the ability of our emergency services to operate on the underground network. Our police service will now have radio coverage at all 125 below ground underground stations, which will allow them to work ever more effectively.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London