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Underground Sponsors

Apparently, there are moves afoot
to persuade Transport for London,
which runs the city’s transport networks, to allow corporate sponsorship of
London Underground stations.  It strikes
me as an interesting proposition. 

I quite like the idea of getting
off at Harrods in order to reach Knightsbridge, alighting at Unilever to get to
Blackfriars, or Barclays for Canary
Wharf.   What do those old names mean to us in these
modern times, anyway?  Knightsbridge
harks back to the long-ago days of armour and castles and chivalry.  Blackfriars sounds monastic, and as far as I
know there hasn’t been a monastery in the area for hundreds of years.  Canary Wharf isn’t so ancient, but even that
name goes back half a century, to the days when London was the world’s biggest
seaport, which it can no longer claim.    

And at least we could get rid of
Cockfosters and Tooting.

While we’re at it, why don’t we
also have commercial sponsors for the tube lines that run through the stations?
 Bakerloo, Central and District have
become pretty boring – a clear case of familiarity breeding contempt – and they,
too, are devoid of real meaning.  The
Bakerloo went beyond Baker Street
and Waterloo, the original destinations, donkey’s
years ago, and many lines besides the Central – actually all of them – run
through the middle of London.  District is equally meaningless.    

How about, instead, the Unilever,
Shell and Rolls Royce lines – to select at random a few British companies that
might be deemed worthy of the honour.    

Transport for London, which must approve the scheme, is
said to be opposed to it.  I’m not sure
why, though I dare say they’ve been wrestling with various potential problems. 

For instance, what happens if one
of the sponsors goes broke or is taken over? 
Changing all the station signs and maps and other paraphernalia would be
quite an expensive chore. And what would happen if, say, an acquiring company
declined to continue with the association? 
A new sponsor would have to be found. 
The travelling public would be understandably confused if Harrods overnight
became Peter Jones or Barclays suddenly turned into Goldman Sachs.

This latter example raises the
question of whether TFL should permit foreign companies to participate.  If it decides that there is no choice – Britain being
proud of its status as a global commercial capital, open to all-comers – we
might face the prospect of commuting to work on the Google, Amazon and Starbucks
lines.  Or, heaven forbid, the Tata, Mitsubishi
and DeutscheTelecomm lines.

The sponsors likewise would have
much to think about.  I doubt that any
sponsor of the former Northern Line would be happy to learn that the entire
route had been closed for the day because of signalling problems, as it
sometimes is, or that Bob Crow had called his drivers out on strike for ten
Fridays in succession.  

Ah, Bob Crow!  Where does the head of the National Union of
Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers fit into this proposed restructuring of
nomenclature?  “The RMT will reluctantly consider
these changes,” I almost hear him saying, “on condition that our members, in
return for being retrained to accommodate the proposed linguistic changes,
receive considerable bonus payments, in keeping with those paid by the
sponsoring companies to their senior executives.  Meanwhile, we will be withdrawing our labour each
Monday until further notice to protest against the lack of prior consultation. ”

But the RMT, like the hosts of other
practical issues, are matters that can be ironed out in the course of
commercial negotiations. 

Let the bidding commence, I say.


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