Leading Article: Chattering classes

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The Independent Culture
AT LAST London Transport has hit upon a way to give a good name to private finance initiatives - they're going to allow a consortium of telecommunication companies to put the Tube online. Think of it; you're sitting at a Northern Line platform, listening to an incomprehensible announcement about how signal failures mean that your train will be late. What to do?

Well, first you whip out your mobile and call LT to register a complaint, and ask for a refund. Then, you take out your personal organiser to rearrange your morning appointments, which you confirm by e-mail. Finally, you call up some files on your notebook computer from the office network and do some work; or you just relax and surf the Internet. If none of this appeals, you can settle for listening to your neighbours make personal calls in that specially loud voice travellers adopt for public phone calls.

Of course, all these pleasures may be a little difficult to achieve if, instead of sitting comfortably on a none-too-crowded platform, you're pressed arms to your side in a rush-hour train stopped between stations. Unfortunately, improving the transport system itself is much more difficult than creating a virtual reality to take passengers' minds off the fact that they're getting nowhere fast.

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