The UK Department for Transport appears to have thrown down the gauntlet to train companies to prove that on-board WiFi is worth having. The move comes amid a government review of costs as it looks to “reform all aspects of the railway”.
However, leading industry experts have rebuffed the idea arguing that WiFi on trains is now seen as a fundamental service “as important as toilets” and must be maintained to help persuade passengers back on board.
Almost all UK train operators provide free on-board WiFi as standard, but, according to Christian Wolmar’s “Calling All Stations” podcast, this is now being looked at. He reported that the DfT has told its contracted operators in England that they should cease offering it if they cannot justify it financially.
On-board WiFi suppliers say they welcome the chance to have an open debate about the value of train connectivity and look forward to proving the popularity of on-board Internet connections. Furthermore, they argue that the cost reductions would be minimal and that train connectivity is now vital for far more than just passenger WiFi, with ticketing, remote monitoring and recording built into operating systems.
Wolmar, himself called the suggestion a “ridiculous measure”, and said “The DfT actually wants to reduce the quality of the train service by saying to passengers: sorry, you can’t access WiFi. It’s all about saving money. But we’re trying to attract commuters back on to the railway, and people like to get on their phone or laptops.
Bruce Williamson, from the passenger campaign group Railfuture, quoted in the Guardian newspaper this morning, said “One of the great things about travelling by train is that you can work or watch a video or listen to a podcast – and WiFi is pretty essential for that. We should be encouraging passengers to get back on the trains and this is a good example of a move that is going to make rail less attractive.”
There is no doubt that most train travellers simply expect WiFi to be available as a fundamental human right and that there is good evidence that the availability of an Internet connection via WiFi helps drive passengers to choose to travel by train.
BWCS believes it is good have this debate out in the open and invites all challengers to attend this year’s Traincomms Conference in London.
This year’s Traincomms 2023 Conference will take place on the 14th and 15th of November at the Royal Horseguards Hotel in central London www.Traincomms.com.
A very limited number of early booking discount tickets are still available.
The 2023 Conference is sponsored by Huber+Suhner, Westermo, Boldyn Networks, Nomad Digital, GlobalReach Technology, Icomera, Xentrans, Antonics and Polomarconi.
The Full Programme for the 2023 Conference is available NOW via the website.