The UK government has launched a new plan that aims to improve wifi and mobile connectivity onboard trains across the country.
The Department for Transport and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport are to work together on a proposal to install fibre optic cables and mobile masts alongside rail tracks to improve mobile and wifi services.
Currently mobile and wifi coverage onboard trains is mainly provided from mobile phone masts located away from rail lines, which means there is poor coverage on much of the network around the UK.
The announcement of the plan on Thursday (December 28) is part of the government’s 5G strategy to improve and “future proof” internet connectivity around the country.
Matt Hancock, digital minister, said: “We want people to be able to get connected where they live, work and travel. This means improving connections on Britain’s railways now, and making sure they are fit for the future.
“We’ve got a long way to travel but our destination is world-class signal for passengers. This will not only make journeys more enjoyable and productive, but will help improve the operation and safety of the railway and deliver economic benefits for the whole of the UK.”
The government is already including minimum standards for mobile connectivity within contracts for new rail franchise and is aiming for coverage to be “dramatically improved” by 2025 on all mainline routes.
A trial project with Network Rail looking at how to improve trackside connectivity is being launched on the Trans Pennine route between Manchester and York.
“This will ensure we know how best to make use of existing trackside infrastructure and utilise Network Rail assets, as well as testing suitable track-to-train radio systems to deliver services to passengers under real-life conditions,” said the government in a statement.
The government has also launched a call for evidence to examine further ways that mobile connectivity can be improved on the rail network.