UK rail network to get free, faster Wi-Fi on trains

Around £90m is to be spent on a major expansion of Wi-Fi services on trains in the UK, including significant speed increases, over the next few years. Some of the funding for the improvements will come from a record fine being handed to infrastructure operator Network Rail, after it failed to meet punctuality targets over the last five years.

Network Rail could potentially be fined up to £70m, according to BBC News, as a result of delays to long-distance services on trains operated by Cross Country, East Coast, East Midlands Trains, First Great Western, First Hull Trains, First TransPennine Express, Grand Central, Greater Anglia and Virgin Trains.

However, not all of these operators will immediately benefit from the plans to boost Wi-Fi availability and speeds. The government is reportedly planning to focus investment, at least initially, on the busiest rail routes – the 30% of the network that carries 70% of its passengers. 

Services across parts of England and Wales will benefit from the investment, with long-distance routes and commuter services into London, and major routes into northern cities such as Manchester and Leeds, likely to be among those that see the improvements soonest.

However, it will probably come as no surprise to British rail travellers to hear that it will be some time before these enhancements are fully implemented – it may be up to four years before the plans are fully realised, and even then, there will be still be many routes not covered.

While some train operators already offer Wi-Fi on board, connections are inconsistent and often unreliable, and some service providers restrict free access only to those who have purchased First Class tickets. The aim is to provide speeds that are up to ten times faster than at present, along with more reliable connections, with free access for all passengers.

Transport minister Lady Kramer said it is hoped that “free Wi-Fi will encourage even more people to make the greener choice and travel by train.”

Source: BBC News | Young lady on smartphone on train image via Shutterstock

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It's all started at the station I work at - Maclaren were installing things, that passed to BT, who have passed it to Vodafone.

Antennas and all sorts of things have been stuck on the station.


I don't know why they don't put:

1) WiFi hubs / mobile phone masts on every national grid pylon. They are already an eyesore so may as well use them well!

2) Put the same as above on overhead wire equipment for electric railways.

Cost I hear ya?
Why not franchise out the mobile phone spectrum / gas / electric like railways so companies do have to meet certain criteria or huge fines.
It's not a perfect model but our government (all governments) have been about selling off to raise money instead of RENTING it all out for continued money and investment.

I'm yet to get on a train in the Midlands that has WiFi. Never seen it. The virgin trains might have it but they're like rocking horse ######.

Well up north we barely have trains that work, never mind Wifi..

I'm talking further up North, past Leeds which is where the rest of the country seems to forget exists.

Sometimes I miss living in London. You guys complain a lot, but your rail network is a hell of a lot better than what we have here in Australia!

Most times though, I don't miss living in London :D

Good news if this actually comes to fruition soon. I just wrote a letter to my rail company a month ago to ask specifically for this.

As I get on a semi-fast service, we end up going through fields where the data coverage is poor. I initially suggested free WiFI for season ticket holders but if it's for everyone then great. At least then the ticket prices might be slightly worth it.

The busiest routes won't get this: Southern, South Eastern and South West. Even if they do have some kind of rollout it will be horribly restricted by availability and speed and will not be free.

£90m is chump change. As a comparison, the new roof for Court 1 at Wimbledon will cost £150m. For a roof. There's over 500 miles of track for just the three operators I mentioned.

Edited by mrbester, Jul 7 2014, 8:08am :

Tell me about it. I pay nearly £4000 for an annual ticket and sometimes i don't even get a seat. Not to mention the frequent delays around the London Bridge area. Thankfully my train provider has something called 'Delay Repay' so i can get some money off my next ticket (however little it is) .

Sir Topham Hatt said,
You say "however little" - it can be 100% of the cost if the delay is under 2 hours.
Obviously it tiers up to that.

The maximum i've gotten was around £12 i think. Which is relatively little compared to the ticket.

That's the reasonable and healthy human reaction to a post with a photo like this. Awe for the free wifi would point to some kind of disorder. :)