Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has announced plans to improve mobile broadband speeds and reception on the UK’s rail network.
McLoughlin expects that 70 per cent of the British public that use the railways to be able to connect to faster speeds by 2019.
Working with Network Rail, which is already upgrading its own broadband network, the government wants to work on solutions that will ‘alleviate the barriers to good signal on board a train.’
McLoughlin said: “There are few things more frustrating than trying to phone a friend or access the internet, only to be thwarted by bad signal.
“Passengers deserve to have the best mobile technology and that is why I am pleased that industry is coming together to make that a reality.
“Be it hardworking commuters preparing for the day on their journey into work or leisure travellers making final plans for their weekend away, today’s announcement marks the beginning of the end of poor coverage on our railways.”
How funding will be raised for the project is not clear. McLoughlin is calling on industry figures to help plug not spots along rail corridors and deliver a consistent mobile service while customers are on board trains.
Network Rail backhaul, which is being used by rural broadband project Fibre GarDen, could supply the backbone for future mobile cell towers.
It’s possible that the government’s Mobile Infrastructure Plan could help realise this ambition. The £150 million project is aimed primarily at providing better mobile coverage across the whole country and plugging rural not spots, but masts could be repurposed to extend coverage in commutter blackspots.
McLoughlin, a keen advocate of the HS2 high speed rail plan can’t have failed to notice that the grand – and expensive – project is becoming less popular with the public and that the money might be better spent on providing superfast broadband for everyone.