A huge fine levied on Network Rail for making trains late will pay for faster wireless networking while you’re waiting.
The service is expected to be up to ten times faster than current on-board WiFi, and should be available within four years – probably before your train arrives, then.
The Office of Rail Regulation imposed the £53.1 million penalty on Network Rail after it missed key punctuality targets which included letting one-in-six trains run late.
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.”
The fine is being imposed for failing to deliver on-time trains for commuters in London and the South East as well as on long-distance routes run by Cross Country, East Coast, First Hull Trains, First TransPennine Express, Grand Central, Virgin, and routes with First Great Western, East Midlands Trains and Greater Anglia.
Some of the fine will go towards speeding up WiFi with the installation of £90m of new trackside equipment to provide constant mobile phone-style connections instead of relaying signals via satellite when there’s a clear line-of-sight to the sky.
Train operating companies will have to bid for the money, but the goverment said it will focus funds towards the most crowded commuter lines into London from Bedford, Brighton, Kent and Portsmouth, while busy services in Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield will also benefit.
But Mick Cash, general secretary of rail workers’ union the RMT, said the fine is diverting money from taxpayer-funded Network Rail to the private train operators.
“The public need to be aware of the brutal fact that the fifty million pound performance fine expected to be levied on Network Rail this week will come straight out of safety critical maintenance and renewals budgets,” said Cash.
“Safety and reliability on the tracks will be compromised with the rip-off train companies once again getting a free ride. This is a total con trick instigated by the government that will come back to haunt the travelling public.”