Name that Tube stop

A man waits on the platform of St James’s Park Station in London, England.

Local politicians in London have come up with a plan to raise more revenue for the capital’s subway system -- the Tube. As a way of keeping fares down, they suggest station sponsorship. Big corporations with major brands would bid for the right to adopt and rename stations. Oxford Circus might become Nike; Hyde Park Corner could morph into Hewlett-Packard; and Goodge Street into Google.

“A little bit of sponsorship on the Tube isn’t going to hurt anybody,” says Andrew Boff, a conservative member of the elected London Assembly. “And it’s going to mean that it keeps the fares low. It’s a no-brainer."

The Tube faces a cut in its subsidy and without extra revenue the system will have hike its  fares. Boff says that by selling the right to rename stations, the network could raise more than  $200 million -- enough to freeze fares for a year. The old names need not disappear completely. Bond Street might become Burberry’s Bond Street, and Knightsbridge: The Home of Harrod's. And how about Victoria's Secret?

Opponents of the plan say the cost of changing thousands of maps and signs across the network would be prohibitive, and it would cause a great deal of confusion. London politician Val Shawcross says finding your way around the Tube is hard enough as it is.

“People would find navigating the Tube very difficult if stations were constantly changing their names,” she says.    

A spokesman for the  body that runs the Tube summarily dismissed the plan. “Some of these stations are more than 100 years old,” he argued. “We value our station heritage. We’re not going to sell off their names to anyone waving a checkbook and a bad pun.”

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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