It is a universally acknowledged fact that getting a good mobile signal on a train in the UK is about as likely as getting Glastonbury tickets three years in a row.
Well now the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has put out a call for evidence on how it can dramatically improve the connectivity over the UK’s rail network.
While the London Underground enjoys free WiFi at all of its stations (and soon 4G signal across the entire network), the UK’s overground network is still hampered by poor signal and intermittent WiFi on its trains.
To combat this the government has proposed laying hundreds of miles of fibre optic cables along the tracks which will then provide wireless connectivity to trains through new trackside WiFi masts.
The new infrastructure would allow every passenger on board the train to stream video (without buffering) and could even allow for 5G connectivity when it eventually arrives to the UK.
Bruce Williamson from Railfuture, a UK advocacy group fighting for better rail infrastructure, said: “Wi-fi has moved from being an optional extra to something essential for the 21st century rail passenger, so we welcome any improvements to capacity and coverage.”
“It should become absolutely standard for all trains on the British railway network to have seamless connectivity, as it’s essential for attracting the smartphone connected generation to rail.”
In an effort to show that this is more than just a call to action, the government has already started work on a trial of these new technologies on the Trans Penine route between Manchester and York.
The trial is a partnership with Network Rail and will look to reveal the challenges and hurdles that will need to be overcome in order to provide a fast, reliable internet connection from trackside masts to what will be an extremely fast-moving train.