By Jay Jay
Prime Minister David Cameron has revealed a £50 million plan to enable free wi-fi access on most train lines in England and Wales in the next two years.
Cameron's announcement came in response to a query by former culture secretary Maria Miller who said that commuters were getting increasingly frustrated at being able to access limited or no wi fi across rail networks.
Addressing concerns that most travellers are unable to work online while on the move, Cameron emphasised that most telecom operators are stuck in the 'analogue age' and they need to do more to ensure complete access to internet data across the railway network. The project will be funded through fines collected from the railway management for delays in service. Whitehall aims to bring in, among others, Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern, Southeastern, Chiltern and Arriva Trains Wales within the free wi fi network.
Speaking on the announcement, Rail Minister Claire Perry said, 'Free wi-fi is a priority for many as being able to keep up with work, connect with friends or even check the latest journey information online helps make rail travel more productive.' Free wi fi will be a novel concept for the country's Railways. Operators that do offer wi fi currently are the East Coast, East Midlands and Virgin Trains. Charges vary from £4 an hour to up to £360 a year on subscriptions.
The Government aims to increase the wi-fi coverage from an abysmal 20 per cent to 70 percent by 2017. Stressing that work has aleady begun to that effect, the Department of Transport said, 'Where there is no new franchise agreement due in the next two years, almost £50million of funding will be released from the Department for Transport to ensure Wi-Fi is available on selected services from 2017'.
'Some operators have already installed equipment to provide improved mobile coverage on-board their trains, or are in the process of doing so. By targeting the investment at franchises that would otherwise have no immediate plans to introduce Wi-Fi, the government is ensuring that as many passengers as possible benefit,' it added.
This surely is good news for reglar commuters, especially those who would require regular internet access while on the go. However, there is still way to go before they can enjoy wi fi speed comparable to that of the Eurostar.