London Embraces The Future With New Phone Booths And Subway Cars

By Joelle Renstrom | 7 years ago

New TubeThe future looks way cooler across the pond (as if their adorable accents aren’t enough). The iconic London subway is about to get a facelift—at least, a bunch of their subway cars are. In addition to a sleek new look, London’s subway of the future, or New Tube, will be autonomous.

London’s population continues to grow, and the subway system needs to grow to match that increase. The new, fully automated trains will still have an operator on board, but I’m not sure why. I guess to text and nap and not get in trouble for it? Anyway, the service will be faster, more frequent, and more reliable than the current system, in no small part because the doors will all be double sized for easier entry and exit, and because people can move between the cars without a terrifying face-to-face with the track below. The automated signals and controls will make it easier for trains to arrive and depart stations without delay, and the changes in service are projected to boost service on the Piccadilly line alone by 60%. 250 new trains will be deployed over the next decade on that route, as well as the Bakerloo, Central and Waterloo, and City Lines.

There will be a central monitoring and control system (hopefully overseen by a human), and real-time information about arrivals and departures will be readily available. And, for the first time in London’s tube history, there will be air conditioning. The platforms will undergo renovation too, including walls that slide into place so no one can jump or drop their phone onto the tracks and then dive after it. The goal is to advance their tube into the future while still acknowledging the iconic look and history of the system.

And speaking of iconic looks, perhaps no London accessory is as readily identifiable as the red phone booth (or the blue police booth). Those booths are largely ornamental at this point, and many of them are defunct, which raises the question of what can be done with them. The company Solarbox has an answer: transform them into solar-powered cell phone charging stations. The conversion does involve painting the booths green, but hey, the combination just makes London look Christmassy, no?

Solarbox-LondonFor the first round, Solarbox London has opened six green booths on Tottenham Court Road, each available from 5:30am-11:30pm. The 150-watt solar panel on the roof can generate enough energy to charge 100 cell phones each day, and people in a hurry can boost a dead cell phone to 20% in about 10-minutes. Solarbox wants to install another half-dozen by the end of the year. And, of course, there are ads that display as people charge. Even though I understand that they need the revenue, they should really just play Doctor Who episodes instead. Or perhaps they should have privacy shades.