Trial to tackle internet blackouts on trains

Research into boosting mobile connectivity on trains by putting antennas on gantries has been launched by the Government.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced £200,000 will be invested into developing the technology as an affordable solution to tackling internet blackouts on rail journeys.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said it has funded analysis which found it is possible to attach communications antennas to infrastructure used where overhead electric wires are installed.

This reduces the need to build additional track-side masts.

More than a third of the 11,000 miles of Britain’s railways are electrified using overhead wires.

Telecom operators are being urged to develop suitable equipment for the research.

Mr Shapps said: “It is just not good enough that passengers’ mobile connectivity experience is still poor, blighting our efforts to work, shop and communicate on everyday journeys.

“By harnessing innovation and updating existing infrastructure, we can build the railway of tomorrow and find affordable solutions to improve travel for passengers.

“I urge telecom operators to match our ambition, and we can commit to working closely together to design equipment and move forward in the next stage of this exciting trial.”

Research published by watchdog Transport Focus indicated that the level of satisfaction with mobile connectivity on trains is generally low, while the expectation of being connected is high.

Chief executive Anthony Smith said: “From helping plan journeys to working on the go, passengers value being able to access internet on the move so they can do something useful during travel time.

“However, Wi-Fi speed and connectivity can be patchy.

“We know from our research that passengers now expect a reliable connection and access to free Wi-Fi on trains, but only three in 10 are satisfied with the connection they experience so they will welcome news of this trial.”

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