Rail minister Claire Perry has announced today that the government is planning to require train companies to offer free wifi to passengers from 2017. Hurrah!
The way it will work is that when the different rail franchises come up for renewal, the government will build into the specification the provision of free wifi. For the four franchises that don’t get renewed in that time (Southeastern, Chiltern, Arriva Wales & TSGN) the government will instead dish out £50m of funding to make it happen.
Apparently it is being paid for by the fines levied against Network Rail for late running trains – which cost the quango £53m. Ouch.
It remains to be seen exactly what this means on a technical level: Exactly what technology will be used and what speeds we can hope to achieve, but the fact that this is being talked about is a very good thing indeed.