Super-fast wi-fi may be coming to a train journey near you, partly funded by a multimillion-pound fine slapped on Network Rail for falling foul of its punctuality targets.
Passengers on some of the busiest routes to and from the capital are expected to have their wi-fi access upgraded to a speed at least 10 times faster than that currently experienced.
The project is thought to cost around £90 million to install, but the internet service will be offered free to customers once completed in three or four years.
Routes from Bedford, Brighton, Portsmouth, Manchester and Sheffield are thought to be among those that will reap the benefits.
Network Rail’s fine is expected to be announced tomorrow.
Wi-fi services are not currently available on all routes throughout Britain, just on some lines.
For example, East Midlands provides wi-fi on its ‘mainline routes’ to London, costing £4 per journey, £7.50 per day, £299 per year or free for those in first class.
Wi-fi is free of charge to everyone on Chiltern Railways as well as on most First Hull services.
The service is unavailable on c2c, Southeastern, Gatwick Express and South West Trains, though the latter states it “will be in the near future.”
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 plans are not welcomed by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), which said that crucial funds for saf
Acting General Secretary Mick Cash said: “The public need to be aware of the brutal fact that the... performance fine expected to be levied on Network Rail this week will come straight out of safety critical maintenance and renewals budgets and diverted into the pockets of the greedy private train companies to finance wi-fi services on their trains.
“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.”
Additional reporting by agencies