Image Source: Toshiyuki IMAI
Chloe Shakesby

Government announces £200k investment in railway mobile connectivity research

The government has today announced a £200k investment in research that will boost mobile connectivity for rail passengers.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps revealed this morning that a £200k government investment will launch research into developing a prototype that could signal the end of internet blackouts leading to more productive rail journeys.

Research funded by the Department for Transport has found that it is possible to attach communications antennas to overhead line equipment (OLE), improving connectivity for passengers as well as reducing the need to build additional track-side masts.

Grant Shapps, transport secretary, said: “It is just not good enough that passenger’s mobile connectivity experience is still poor, blighting our efforts to work, shop and communicate on everyday journeys.

“By harnessing innovation and updating existing infrastructure, we can build the railway of tomorrow and find affordable solutions to improve travel for passengers.

“I urge telecom operators to match our ambition and we can commit to working closely together to design equipment and move forward in the next stage of this exciting trial.”

Charlene Wallace, Network Rail’s director of passenger and customer experience, said: “We are keen to work with government and train and telecom operators to deliver more consistent and reliable mobile coverage that improves passengers’ journeys in an efficient and affordable way.

“Today’s report highlights how the railway can share its electrical infrastructure assets to deliver a better service, and we are delighted that funding has been made available to test solutions at our Rail Innovation and Development Centres.

“This project, together with other steps we have taken – increased seating at stations, improved facilities such as free toilets and new water fountains, and greater accessibility – will help to improve passengers’ journeys on the rail network, particularly as we welcome more people back to the railway in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “From helping plan journeys to working on the go, passengers value being able to access the internet on the move so they can do something useful during travel time.

“However, wifi speed and connectivity can be patchy.

“We know from our research that passengers now expect a reliable connection and access to free wifi on trains, but only 3 in 10 are satisfied with the connection they experience so they will welcome news of this trial.”

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