Monday May 22 2023 4:19 pm
LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 15: A Virgin train prepares to depart Euston Station on the West Coast Mainline route on August 15, 2012 in London, England. Virgin Rail has been given the go-ahead by FirstGroup, the UK’s largest train operator, to run the West Coast mainline franchise, which it has done for the past 15 years. FirstGroup won a GBP 5.5 billion bid to run the lucrative route between London and Scotland through the West Midlands, serving 31 million passengers annually. FirstGroup will take over control of the franchise from December 9, 2012, and operate the service until 2026. (Photo by Olly Scharff/Getty Images)
Train passengers are missing out on free Wi-Fi access as part of cost-saving measures.
The Department for Transport (DFT), which controls the finances of most operators in England, has said it is reviewing whether the service “offers the best possible value for money”.
Most train services on UK railways offer free Wi-Fi, allowing people to connect their electronic devices to the internet without paying for data.
But the DfT cited a survey by passenger watchdog Transport Focus which indicated it was a lower priority among commuters than value-for-money fares, reliability, punctuality and personal safety.
Wi-Fi access was first reviewed by railway historian Christian Vollmer on his Calling All Stations podcast.
Mr Vollmer said: “What angers me is that we are trying to get people to use the railways.
“We’re trying to attract passengers back to it. What do people like to do on trains? They like to take out their laptops and their phones and check away some emails or whatever work they have to do. Let’s do it.
“If they can’t get on the train reliably, they might consider using their car.”
A DfT spokesman said: “Our railways are not currently financially sustainable, and it is unfair to continue to ask taxpayers to foot the bill, which is why reform of all aspects of the railways is essential.
“Passenger surveys consistently show that on-train WiFi is low on their list of priorities, so it is only right that we work closely with operators to review whether the current service provides the best possible value for money.”
The Dft said that on short journeys many passengers prefer to use their phones without connecting to the onboard WiFi.
It added that equipment installed in 2015 would need to be replaced or upgraded in order to continue providing WiFi on many trains.
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