The London Assembly Conservatives are still flogging the horse of tube sponsorship. Earlier in the year, they released a report suggesting companies could sponsor tube stations to help freeze fares. This prompted much chuckling about Mudchute sponsored by Andrex or Durex Cockfosters, so they've come back with an even more determined attempt to convince us.
One of the points Transport for London makes about changing station names is that it costs a fortune to do all the infrastructure resigning: it says the cost of changing station signs, tube maps, ticket office posters, bus spider maps and timetables, website and journey planner changes, cycle guides, project managing all the sponsor approvals and more, then changing it all back at the end of the deal, would cost over £3.8m. The Tories dismiss this estimate as "spurious", saying it cost £8,500 to change signage across the network twice when Blackfriars was closed. TfL responds that the Blackfriars situation, which was a name temporarily crossed out rather than permanently altered, isn't comparable.
If Londonist has learned anything over the last couple of years, it's that when it comes to TfL finances nobody can agree on them. The new report gets more interesting once it's finished kicking TfL, going beyond the idea of simple rebranding and suggesting companies pay for improving infrastructure (in return for their name being associated, of course). We might be resistant to the idea of H&M Oxford Circus appearing on the tube map, but what about platform drinking fountains brought to you by Evian? Underground mobile phone coverage by Vodafone, much like the Virgin wifi deal? Or desperately needed upgrade works at Bank paid for by one of the actual banks based nearby?
London Assembly Member Gareth Bacon said:
As the Mayor is about to make another announcement on fare increases, it is time he forced TfL to seriously consider costed and realistic ways to bear down on passenger fares. In addition to helping curb fares, tube sponsorship can help revolutionise the tube system for Londoners. Transport bosses must start proactively seeking sponsorship and inviting expressions of interest from firms, making clear they are open for business.
Graeme Craig, TfL’s Director of Commercial Development, said:
We are, and always have been, open for business and have taken advice from IMG, the biggest sponsorship agency in the world, on what sponsors would be prepared to pay. The Mayor has always said that the sponsorship of Tube stations and other assets can happen if the sponsor is appropriate and the price right. We are always interested, of course, in talking to potential sponsors about how we keep these to an absolute minimum, however, we would also have to take into consideration the impact it would have on our advertising estate which generates over £100m each year.
With tube stations already plastered in advertising, would we notice much difference if extra amenities appeared emblazoned with a logo? Or has the corporate creep into public space already gone too far?