Commuters To Get Free WiFi By 2017

Rail passengers will benefit from free wi-fi on trains from 2017.

It was announced by Prime Minister David Cameron at PMQ's today.

Train operators are being asked to set how they will meet the commitment to provide this important service for passengers. All train operators bidding for new franchises and direct award agreements will have to include this specification in their bid.

Where there is no new franchise agreement due in the next 2 years, almost £50m of funding will be released from the Department for Transport to ensure wi-fi is available on selected services - including Thameslink and Great Northern from 2017.

Rail Minister Claire Perry said:

"I am determined to improve journeys for rail passengers. Free wi-fi is a priority for many as being able to keep up with work, connect with friends or even check the latest journey information online helps make rail travel more productive.

We are investing record amounts in the rail network as part of our long-term economic plan, and this investment, coupled with major works such as the Intercity Express Programme and the Northern Hub, will ensure that passengers will soon have a railway fit for the 21st century."

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said:

"As someone who regularly travels from the North of Scotland around the country, I appreciate the value of fast, cheap internet connections on trains for both leisure and business travellers. That’s why the government is earmarking around £50 million to provide free wi-fi on trains; this and our other franchising improvements mean that nearly three-quarters of rail journeys will be made on trains with wi-fi provision.

The department is challenging the rail industry to deliver wi-fi on selected services and routes by 2017. However, the department expects the operators to begin installing equipment as soon as possible.

The operators will now work with the department to develop detailed proposals identifying the most appropriate services and routes to benefit. Funding will be awarded subject to satisfactory proposals being received from TSGN, Southeastern, Chiltern, and Arriva Trains Wales.

Some operators have already installed equipment to provide improved mobile coverage on-board their trains, or are in the process of doing so. By targeting the investment at franchises that would otherwise have no immediate plans to introduce wi-fi, the government is ensuring that as many passengers as possible benefit.

The £47.8m funding is money that Network Rail has been required to return to the government for missing punctuality targets set by the Office of Rail Regulation. It is the first time such money has been reinvested into improvements targeted at passengers."

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