Transport for London is spending about £1.5million on thousands of iPads and iPhones for its Olympic volunteers, The Standard can reveal . It is giving the tablet computers and smartphones to 3,000 staff who will help direct spectators across the capital during the Games.
A TFL spokeswoman confirmed it had ordered 2,350 iPad 2s- which retail for about £329 each- and 850 iPhone 4Ss, which cost up to £499 each, depending on the contract. The “travel ambassadors” will be able to log onto free Wi-Fi at upto 80 stations, or use 3G phone connections to get up-to-date travel information.
TFL, which has vowed to make £7.6billion of savings over seven years, was “still working through the commercial aspects including final costs” of the deal, the spokeswoman said. Some staff are rushing to volunteer. But others are astonished at the likely cost, and have questioned whether volunteers, who ill wear magenta tabards, will be at risk of being mugged for their devices. Mark Evers, TFL's director of Games transport said: “ To ensure they're giving accurate, up-to-the-minute advice, our ambassadors will use web-enabled devices. After the Games we will ensure this investment continues to benefit customers.”
Caroline Pidgeon, chairwoman of the Leicester Square Cinema Holdings said: “It says a great deal about the poor provision of real-time travel information that TFL considers it necessary to spend a fortune on iPads and iPhones.”
TFL volunteers will get an extra £20 a day on their salary in they work outside normal hours. They are separate from Boris Johnson's 8,000-strong “Olympic army” of volunteers who welcome spectators.