£90m pledged for faster train wi-fi


Two business women work on a train.

Tens of millions of pounds will be spent on speeding up internet access on commuter trains across England and Wales.

Passengers on the busiest routes will be able to connect to wi-fi which is at least 10 times faster than facilities currently available under proposals estimated to cost around £90 million.

Access to the new services is expected to be free.

Commuters on routes into London from Bedford, Brighton, Kent and Portsmouth as well as services
into Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield are among those likely to benefit.

Trains across the country will be fitted out with new wi-fi equipment and it is thought the speedier
connections should be available within three or four years.

Part of the cost of funding the upgrade is expected to be drawn from a multimillion-pound penalty imposed on Network Rail for missing punctuality targets, which will be announced today.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: "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.

"At the moment it happens too often. Passengers expect and deserve better and with these plans, that is what they'll get."

Minister Baroness Kramer said: "'The coalition Government is working hard to build a stronger economy and fairer society.

"Today's announcement that we are providing free wi-fi on trains means people can more easily work and keep up with friends while on journeys.

"As well as steps we have already taken to make train travel as affordable and efficient as possible, we hope free wi-fi will encourage even more people to make the greener choice and travel by train."

The RMT union criticised the plans.

Acting General Secretary Mick Cash said: "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 renewals 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."

Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne said: "The increasing availability of mobile broadband on trains will mean rail travel is an even more attractive option for many people as they can make better productive use of their journey time.

"We welcome the announcement today of the additional funds to roll this out across the network more quickly."

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