PM promises free WiFi on all trains (at least the ones that run)

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trainDavid Cameron has announced a roll out of free WiFi on all trains from 2017.

He was responding to a question from Maria Miller, the former culture secretary and said “I am pleased to announce plans that will see the rollout of free Wi-Fi on trains across the United Kingdom from 2017. The government will invest nearly £50m to ensure that rail passengers are better connected“.

All train companies will be expected to offer free WiFi when bidding for new (or renewing) train operator contacts and where contracts aren’t up for renewal the government will stump up the cash. Funds will be used from the fines levied on Network Rail in 2014 for poor running of the network.

What’s not to like?

This all sounds great, especially in the run up to an election. Surely it’s a vote winner? Free WiFi for everyone, what’s not to like?

WiFi FeatWell firstly I doubt very much that “Free” WiFi will be “Free”. We’ve seen how this rolls out with the London Underground network where we were promised “Free” WiFi. It’s only free if you sign up and register with the provider and give them unlimited permission to spam you for the rest of your life. I’m only ever impressed with “Free” WiFi when I can connect without needed to sign up, click a link in my email – free should be connect to the WiFi connection and start surfing with no other restrictions.

Secondly looking back at my last rail journey free WiFi would have been useless. For starters they cancelled my original train. Then when I changed at Reading there was standing room only on the train all the way to Paddington. Coming home I managed to get a train back to Reading only to find that they’d cancelled my ongoing train home and replaced it with a bus. I took a taxi home instead which cost £40 on top of the £55.70 the railways had already relieved me off for a service they didn’t provide.

So imagine how grateful I, or the average commuter, will be with free Wifi whilst standing up squashed against a seat back. Forget trying to balance my laptop in one hand while typing with the other, it’s as much as I could do to check my email on my mobile… which incidentally I did with free (all ready included in my phone contract) 4G.

Forget promising fancy free WiFi for all. If Cameron wants my vote at the next election how about promising (and more importantly delivering) trains that aren’t cancelled, arrive and leave on time. As an added bonus how about also providing a seat to sit on in exchange for the extortionate fifty five quid they charged me for the experience?

Then when they have trains that run on time reduce the fares to a level where it’s actually cheaper to use public transport than it is to simply drive my car and I might use the trains on occasions other then when I intend to have a drink so can’t drive home.

19 Responses

  1. Shame the post takes a totally negative outlook.Free wifi will be of great use to the majority of train passengers in the uk and is much better than having to pay £5 for it and will of course be of benefit to ecommerce. The average commuter will be able to use their phone whilst standing surely, as 3G/4G signal isn’t available on most trains journeys? Anyway, in the North seats can nearly always be found, so it must only be a South East problem, can’t really blame Dave for overpopulation in the South East and the problems it causes can you? Nice to see something of more benefit to areas other than the south east.

    Also the free wifi on buses which I’ve used I’ve never been spammed by, even so a few emails is a small price to pay.

    Surely you can get a refund for the train you didn’t use, although admittedly it will be a hassle.

  2. What is your alternative if not the Conservatives, Chris?

    You’re a businessman, successful and presumably not lazy or an idiot.

    That rules out the Labour party for you then.

  3. >> We’ve seen how this rolls out with the London Underground network where we were promised “Free” WiFi.

    As far as I’m concerned, it absolutely is free. I pay no extra for it, and I use it nearly every day. Customers of Virgin Media, EE, T-Mobile, Orange, Vodafone, O2 and Three all get it for free too. I personally have never received any spam whatsoever since I signed up some 6 months ago, and am very happy with it!

    I don’t think a 5 minute sign up / activation process is that laborious, but each to their own I guess.

    S.

  4. its not free!

    if the companies are expected to provide the service as part of their bid, then the bid includes the price of the wifi.
    the bid is paid for through your ticker price going up.

  5. My local bus company gives free wifi (users have to agree to terms and conditions but are not required to give their email address).

    Whist it is good when travelling on the bus (saves my mobile data allowance) it does cause problems with my phone connecting to the wifi on a passing bus (and then not getting an internet connection because the terms need agreed to).

    For longer journeys train wifi can be useful, it is a slightly odd situation that the long distance services (East Coast, Crosscountry and Virgin) charge for wifi when some of the commuter services don’t.

  6. It isn’t like Tamebay to let their personal views get in the way of an objective take on something.

    The fact is there a rising numbers of train passengers, even if I agree with you on the costs against other transport forms. Personally I’d rather drive. but clearly not everyone agrees, and the fact is that it will enable a huge number of users to use their computers on trains and keep buying and communicating on a device that is more user friendly than an iPhone keyboard. That is the important issue.

    Hi do have some sympathy for the trains. We use our network far more intensively than almost all countries, so a knock on is that a problem anywhere causes disruption quickly and on an ongoing basis. We are running 21st century transport on a fundamentally Victorian network, no matter what improvements are made.

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