Yesterday morning, you may remember, was wet. It rained during the rush hour, and the temperature struggled. Not the perfect moment, then, for TfL to launch a special heatwave-related bottled water promotion. It's a interesting idea to give out bottled water on the Underground, indeed some of us might have suggested the same thing recently. But dishing it out on a cool day when there's plenty of free water falling from the sky, that's not so clever.
As the hot weather returns to the Capital this week, Transport for London (TfL) has teamed up with the UK's most ethical water brand B*** to give out bottles of water to customers, helping to emphasise the advice to carry water while travelling on the Tube during this particularly hot spell.
You've got to feel sorry for whoever put this campaign together. Someone had the great idea to run a campaign promoting safe travel advice and free water, and then the August weather failed to rise to the occasion. It's not been especially hot for the last three weeks, with the chances of a late summer heatwave rapidly declining. So someone must've spotted a heat spike this week and decided to go for it, pencilling in Thursday as the day to commit resources and launch. And then Thursday refused to play ball, turning out to be the coolest day of the working week, overcast and proper wet to boot. Never mind, TfL's press office circulated the press release with the phrase "this particularly hot spell" anyway.
B*** has provided London Underground with 43,500 bottles of water, which will be given out at some of the busiest stations on the network.
Well I didn't see any. The tube sees up to 4 million journeys a day, so yesterday's escapade will have touched less than 1% of the travellers on the network. A mere drop in the ocean, you could say.
The company is the exclusive bottled water partner of WaterAid, the international charity that transforms lives by providing access to clean water and sanitation to some of the world's poorest communities. B*** give all of their profits to WaterAid, and have committed to giving £1m by 2020
That a nice idea, to link a bottled water with an international sanitation charity. But I'm not sure where the idea came from that B*** is "the UK's most ethical water brand". I don't see how any bottled water brand can be ethical, what with all that pointless transportation of liquid from one place to another when you could just turn on a tap, and the unnecessary production of one-off plastic containers. More to the point, whilst I trust TfL to give opinions on transport-related matters, I don't think they're in any position to decree one bottled water brand more ethical than another.
B*** give all of their profits to WaterAid, and have committed to giving £1m by 2020
That's not true, that first part, it's a blatant lie. If you read further down the press release to the "Additional information", you'll see that B*** donate only 10% of their profits to WaterAid. The other 90% they pocket, as indeed any good business would. But by making out B*** to be 100% altruistic in the main body of the text, TfL are badly misleading their ethically-minded customers.
WaterAid will be holding bucket collections over the coming weeks at stations across the Tube network.
This is to be applauded. It just seems strange that the bucket collections didn't take place on the same day as the bottle giveaway. All that free water being given away, but no takings collected, so nobody benefits.
Phil Hufton, LU's Chief Operating Officer, said: 'We know travelling around London during the summer months can be uncomfortable, we are making real headway towards cooling the Tube and providing station cooling, with new air-conditioned trains being introduced on 40 per cent of the network by the end of 2016, but we know there is still work to do and cooling the deeper lines of the Tube remains a considerable engineering challenge.
There's an understatement. Cooling the deeper tube lines is verging on an impossibility, given the enforced narrowness of the trains. New surface level trains are a real boost, and are making conditions much more bearable without the need for bottled water. But the main factor keeping the Underground cool is the British weather. It just doesn't get especially hot in Britain very often. Like it didn't get hot on Thursday, for example.
'We are very grateful to B*** for supplying our customers with bottles of water. I'm sure it will be welcomed by customers as temperatures are set to rise, and I hope that it gets across the advice that we are giving to customers to carry water while travelling on the Tube. If this proves popular, we will look to develop similar partnerships for the benefit of our customers in the future.'
Customers always welcome a freebie, but I'm not convinced that many will have saved their bottle of water for today when it might actually be useful. And what's this about the possibility of future giveaways? Is this TfL edging closer to a more commercial-friendly outlook? And there was me thinking my Underground Water post was satire.
Karen Lynch of B*** said: 'It's essential to keep hydrated when commuting in the heat.'
Now stop right there Karen. Obviously it's important for the human body to contain water when travelling, otherwise we'd drop dead. But it is not essential to imbibe liquid on trains - millions of people manage non-drinking commutes every day without dying. Karen's product is a bottle of water, not an underground essential.
'We're excited to be working with London Underground and to be able to show Londoners that by buying B*** you can demonstrate you care about people and the planet whilst on the move.'
See how Karen slips in her brand message there. And again, she's talking b*****ks. Waving this particular bottle of water in a train carriage doesn't make you an eco-warrior, it just means you've paid over the odds for a natural resource.
Anissa Msallem from WaterAid said: 'The heat wave conditions we've been experiencing really bring home the importance of safe, clean water.'
Poor Anissa. She submitted her quote some time ago, expecting it to be released at London's sweaty peak. Instead her words limped out during a tepid rush hour, and her desperate non-sequitur has hit the deck.
'Together with B*** we want to raise awareness of the millions of people who still live without access to this essential resource. Hopefully from today, Londoners will think of choosing B*** as their bottled water choice, and help some of the world's poorest people to access clean drinking water.'
You have to be a true PR dunderhead to use a phrase like "choosing B*** as their bottled water choice" in a press release. As it is, I suspect 45000 people said thanks yesterday for a free bottle of water, and they won't be back, and most probably threw the bottle into landfill.
TfL gives the following advice to customers travelling on the Tube in the summer months:
• Carry water with you
I still have problems with this advice. If it's a very hot day, and you're on a long trip, and there's a risk your train might linger underground, then maybe. But I refuse to believe that London is populated by dehydrated wusses who can't survive fifteen minutes underground without gulping down half a litre of water. In particular TfL's recommendation to "always carry a bottle of water with you" smacks of official endorsement for pre-packaged H2O, so perhaps their latest press release should come as no surprise.
If it gets a bit warm on the tube today, as the last minor heatwave of summer kicks in, for heaven's sake don't waste your money on a bottle of B***. Fill a recyclable container from the tap instead, and send your donations to WaterAid direct.