Travellers will soon get a much better mobile phone signal and Wi-Fi connection on some busy commuter routes. Thanks to an injection of capital from government, train companies will get the investment they need to build better Wi-Fi into their trains over the next couple of years.
If you travel for business or have staff who travel a lot, this can only be good news. Especially as there is no mention of fare increases to cover the investment. Instead, money is being made available from a fine levied on Network Rail.
While some detractors, including the RMT, say the money would be better spent on health and safety work on the railway, we have to disagree. While improving reliability and safety on our railways is important, it shouldn’t be to the exclusion of everything else.
We all work more and longer, so it’s about time we were able to work smarter too. Being able to remain productive while travelling is a significant boost to anyone who travels for a living. No more working into the evening to catch up, no more having to leave hours earlier to answer emails, return calls and perform all those essential functions we all have to perform to do our job properly.
Early reports say train routes into London from Bedford, Brighton, Kent and Portsmouth will get new Wi-Fi. As will services into Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield. All are very busy business commuter routes and ones that will benefit hugely from this investment.
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.”
Lady Kramer, a transport minister, 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.” (Source)
We hope that the train companies themselves match this investment to widen the scope and not just take this windfall as a freebie. Wi-Fi is now regarded as an essential whether you’re in business or not. If UK PLC wants to compete on the world stage in a credible way, we not only need reliable trains that run on time, we also need to remain connected while we’re on them.