Millions of pounds is to be spent on faster wi-fi for commuter trains across England and Wales.
A proportion of the £90m cost of the scheme will be funded by
the government from a record-breaking fine being handed to Network Rail. (See Focus Blog 9th July 2014)
It is being punished by the Office of Rail Regulation for
missing key punctuality targets on its long-distance services over five
Critics have long questioned the point of fining Network Rail
for poor service, because in the end it is being stripped of cash that
could be used to improve the lines.
Now ministers say they will make sure the cash will be used to help people get online.
The new service, which could be 10 times faster than the service
available at the moment, should be available within three to four years.
Network Rail says commuters will in future be able to get a
connection through equipment installed alongside the track, rather than
the current system of having to find a satellite signal as they go
Train firms will have to pitch for a slice of the money, but
the government has indicated it will favour the busier commuter lines
first of all - the most crowded 30% of the network, which carries 70% of
The fine is being imposed for the late running of long
distance trains on routes including Cross Country, East Coast, First
Hull Trains, First TransPennine Express, Grand Central, Virgin, some
First Great Western, East Midlands Trains and Greater Anglia.
Network Rail could face a potential penalty of about £70m
based on the number of targets it has failed to meet. However, the BBC
understands the fine will be substantially lower than this because the
regulator has made an allowance for recent bad weather.