£90m Wi-fi Upgrade For Commuter Trains on the Horizon

Tablet browser on trainThe Department of Transport has unveiled plans to boost wi-fi speeds on trains by up to 10 times with a £90m investment.

The service, which is expected to be free to access, will be installed by around 2018 once the work to fit the necessary equipment to trains is completed. The first routes to benefit from the faster wi-fi will include those into London from Beford, Brighton, Kent and Portsmouth, with services into Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield also scheduled to receive the upgrade.

A significant proportion of the money for the upgrade is coming from a multimillion-pound fine due to be levied against Network Rail for missing its punctuality targets.

“We all know how frustrating it can be to have our phone calls and internet use constantly disrupted by poor signal while travelling on trains,” said Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin. “At the moment, it happens too often. Passengers expect and deserve better and with these plans, that is what theyll get.”

Not all greeted the news as positive however – speaking to the Northern Echo, acting general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) Mick Cash criticised the plans. “The public need to be aware of the brutal fact that the… performance fine expected to be levied on Network Rail this week will come straight out of safety critical maintenance and renewal budgets and diverted into the pockets of the greedy private train companies to finance wi-fi services on their trains.

“Safety and reliability on the tracks will be compromised with the rip-off train companies once again getting a free ride. This is a total con trick instigated by the Government that will come back to haunt the travelling public.”