updated 08:59 am EDT, Wed July 9, 2014
National train Wi-Fi upgrade funds stem from punctuality fines
Train passengers in the United Kingdom could see an extension and improvement of onboard Wi-Fi services in the future. In an announcement one month after Amtrak revealed its Wi-Fi ambitions in the US, UK ministers have promised £90 million ($153.9 million) to fund a national train Wi-Fi network, funded in part by a £53.1 million ($90.9 million) fine handed to Network Rail for missing punctuality targets.
The connection will be provided by the installation of networking equipment alongside tracks, Network Rail told the BBC. Currently, rail operators use cellular services to provide Wi-Fi to customers, with the proposed system estimated to provide speeds up to ten times faster than at present, as well as negating the loss of the cellular signal when trains enter tunnels, pass through valleys, or enter remote rural areas. There is also an expectation that the service would be provided to all train users at no extra charge, as opposed to current chargeable services.
The Wi-Fi service is expected to be operational over a majority of the rail network within three to four years. While rail operators will have to apply for funds to upgrade carriages to provide the service, the government will apparently favor funding upgrades for the busier commuter routes before granting cash elsewhere.