Free Wi-Fi is coming to train services across England and Wales by 2017

Last year, Network Rail - which manages the infrastructure of Britain's railway system - was fined a record amount by the UK government, after failing to meet punctuality targets for repair works on the network, which resulted in extensive delays on cross-country services.

The Department for Transport promised to reinvest the money raised from the fine back into the network, and committed to spending tens of millions of pounds on bringing free Wi-Fi access to trains across England and Wales. The government has now announced funding of £47.8m for the programme, with the remaining £5.3m of the £53.1m penalty being allocated to the Scottish government.

The funding will be concentrated on bringing internet access to the Southeastern, Chiltern Trains and Arriva Trains Wales franchises, along with the new TSGN (Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern) super-franchise. Together, these parts of the national network account for a total of more than 500 million journeys every year.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said that the funds will "ensure wi-fi is available on selected services from 2017" [emphasis ours]. With only a limited amount of funding available, there evidently won't be enough to guarantee Wi-Fi access on every service operated by these companies, although the operators may also make investments of their own to extend availability further.

The DfT will now begin working with the train operating companies (TOCs) in these franchise zones, to identify which of their rail services will get Wi-Fi access. Many other TOCs which are not covered by this funding have already begun introducing Wi-Fi across their fleets, or have outlined plans to do so.

The government said last year that the program aims to to provide connection speeds that are up to ten times faster than those already available on various UK rail services, along with more reliable connections, with free access for all passengers.

Lady using smartphone on train image via Shutterstock

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