Tube Chat? badges become a talking point for London Underground commuters
Published 29/09/2016 | 12:01
Badges are being handed out to commuters on the London Underground to encourage them to strike up conversation with a stranger.
The Tube Chat? pins, worn to show fellow travellers you are interested in talking, have divided commuters more used to silence in Tube carriages - with some taking to social media to slam the "monstrous" idea.
Transport for London (TfL) said it was not responsible for the campaign and warned there may be a danger that people confuse the badges with the official Baby on Board and hidden disability badges.
A spokeswoman said TfL were trying to get in touch with the organiser, as it did not allow its branding to be used without permission.
Jonathan Dunne, 42, who was behind the initiative, told the Press Association that he had hoped to get a smile out of guarded commuters.
He added that he was not aware TfL wanted to speak to him and was "surprised" by the news.
Mr Dunne, an NHS worker originally from Colorado who lives in North London, said: "I thought it would be fun to break the barriers that people put up in London.
"I thought it would be fun to hand badges out to get a smile or a conversation."
A TfL spokeswoman said: "This is not an official Transport for London campaign.
"We currently only promote two badges to be worn while travelling - our Baby on Board badge and a new trial badge for people with hidden disabilities which encourages passengers to offer those less able to stand a seat."
Baby on Board badges can be ordered from TfL to help mothers-to-be secure a seat without embarrassment.
London mayor Sadiq Khan also introduced a trial of badges for people with disabilities or those less able to stand, which ask commuters to offer them a seat.
On social media, travellers were split by the Tube Chat? pins.
@GlitteryAllsorts wrote on Twitter: "What is this monstrosity?! This is too much. Make it stop. Say no to #tube_chat."
@Miss_N_B added: "I'd rather go on replacement rail than 'chat' on the tube."
But Amy Shaw wrote: "The fact that we are in a society where people have to wear badges so that other people can talk to them is so sad."
Norwich South MP Clive Lewis slammed the "somewhat extreme" response to the badges, adding that it was a "wonderful idea to help breakthrough modern insularity".
Mr Dunne, who handed out 500 Tube Chat? badges at Old Street station on Wednesday, admitted his idea had not been "very well planned" but said he did not regret it.
"People just grabbed them. Some people thought it was a stupid idea but some people smiled. Now it has gone crazy," he said.
He added that he had planned to print more badges, but may now consider a different design in light of the response from TfL.