It has been reported that commuters will be able to access wi-fi that will be up to ten times faster than current facilities on trains across England and Wales under proposals estimated to cost around £90 million.
With regards to funding the upgrade, due to a multimillion-pound penalty faced by Network Rail due to missed punctuality targets, it is expected that a significant part of the cost will be withdrawn from this in order to fund the free wi-fi for passengers.
This new service is set to benefit commuters within three to four years across the entire country on routes into London, Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield from various locations such as Kent and Portsmouth.
The Daily Echo reported that 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 was quoted saying:
“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.”
However, there has been backlash against the new plans as Acting General Secretary Mick Cash of the RMT union has expressed criticism. He 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.”