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Tube to be online during Olympics

Eighty stations will offer free wifi during the Games.

Eighty stations will offer free wifi during the Games.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has announced an agreement with Virgin Media that will provide free wifi in Tube stations during the Olympics.

Eighty stations will be outfitted with wireless internet access prior to the 27 July opening ceremony and 120 stations will be connected by the end of the summer.

Johnson said in a statement:

Millions of passengers will now be able to connect to their work, friends or access the latest news and travel information whilst on the move. This is a fabulous new and free resource which will be in place from this summer when London is being showcased on a global stage and playing host to millions.

The Virgin Media wifi service - which will be available on platforms, elevators and stations, but not in tunnels - will be free during the Olympics, and will be offered post Olympics as part of the company's broadband and mobile subscription plans.

Gareth Powell, London Underground's director of strategy and service development, said "this latest innovation is great news for Tube customers, who now have access to emails, web and social media underground for the first time."

In February, London Olympics organizers released a report warning that internet service during the Olympic Games may be significantly slower or even drop out due to increased usage. London last hosted the Olympics in 1948.

Virgin Media's stock was up a fraction of a per cent in early afternoon trading.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.