The government is to spend £47.8 million on kitting out all trains in England and Wales with free WiFi.
Despite many major network operators already doing this, Thameslink, Arriva Trains Wales, Chiltern, Southeastern, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) will be required to commit to roll out free wireless Internet access for all passengers as part of new franchise agreements.
The plan is that by 2017, free WiFi will be available on all trains in England and Wales.
Penalties made against Network Rail for late trains in 2013-14 totalled £53.1 million. £47.8 million is now to be spent on the free WiFi plan in England and Wales while £5.3 million, proportion of the penalty paid by Network Rail for late train running in Scotland, is being handed to the Scottish Government.
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 WiFi on trains; this and our other franchising improvements mean that nearly three-quarters of rail journeys will be made on trains with WiFi provision.”
Despite this, it’s not entirely clear how the Scottish Government intends to spend its cash. ScotRail already offers free WiFi to passengers and plans to have free access on 170 trains and 52 stations by April.
Elsewhere in the UK, Virgin Trains has announced plans to roll out free WiFi on its West Coast mainline and South West Trains is currently installing free WiFi on 45 trains. Free WiFi is already available on Translink rail routes in Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile, rail fares across the UK are set to go up by 2.2 per cent this year. This follows a separate government ruling that stops rail operators from hiking regulated ticket prices above inflation.