Drivers with DAB get London boost

* New transmitters for London * Coverage for 99% of London's roads * No date for digital switch-over...

Drivers with DAB get London boost

London's DAB digital radio-enabled drivers got a boost today when Olympic gold medalist Dame Kelly Holmes pushed the button to kick-start five new digital radio transmitters at the BT Tower.

The new transmitters will boost the digital radio signal in and around the capital, and will mean coverage for 99% of the road network inside the M25.

The Government has yet to announce a date for the analogue radio signal to be switched off in favour of digital. Before it does, 50% of all radio listening must be on digital platforms and the digital signal must reach 90% of the population and major roads.

According to Ford Ennals, head of Digital Radio UK, that could take up to five years, although he added that progress was good, 'when you consider that the BBC has increased its digital coverage from 88% to 93% in just two years, and has pledged to reach 97% by 2015'.

Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, didn't show at the the switch-on event after being hit by a car in a minor accident on Sunday. However, in a statement, he said he was recovering well, adding: 'More than nine million people will receive better digital radio coverage in time for the Games thanks to today's switch-on.'

Digital radio listeners will also get a new, temporary radio station in time for the Olympics - Olympics Extra, which has promised to cover every second of the Games. The new station will also be used to bolster BBC Radio 5 Live's coverage of the event.

Dame Kelly Holmes said: 'Digital radio will have a big part to play in the Olympics. Not everyone will get a ticket and many people have jobs that they won't be able to leave. The radio is a means for everyone to make a connection with the Games.'

Emma Butcher