Scrap train wifi to cut costs – DfT


The Department for Transport (DfT) will review the benefit of free train wifi and whether it “delivers the best possible value for money”.

UK train.

Rail users in England could lose access to train wifi after the DfT finds the service is a ‘low-priority’ for customers, the BBC reports

Train operators have offered free wifi as a standard service on trains in England and Wales since 2017, but wifi equipment, installed in 2015, is now in need of an upgrade. 

On its decision, DfT cited a 2022 survey from the independent watchdog, Transport Focus, that found that train wifi did not rank high on rail users’ list of priorities when travelling. 

Full scope 

The survey, which involved more than 15,000 rail users across the UK, found that the top five priorities for train passengers were: 

  • Price of train tickets – whether they were good value for money.
  • Reliability and punctuality of trains. 
  • Sufficiently frequent trains. 
  • Accurate information on train times. 
  • Getting a seat on the train. 

Reliable wifi and mobile reception ranked 23rd on the list for passengers. 

Poor train wifi

Reliable connection has been a recurring issue for UK rail operators.

A train’s antenna picks up 3G and 4G signals from regular masts or base stations near the train tracks and operators connect passengers via routers installed in the carriages. 

The reliability of this connection depends on the signal and how many users are using the service. 

With these factors, the steel exterior of train carriages, and the speed, which averages at around 125 mph for UK trains, can make it difficult for passengers to have a steady wifi connection. 


“Our railways are currently not financially sustainable, and it is unfair to continue asking taxpayers to foot the bill, which is why reform of all aspects of the railways is essential,” the Department for Transport (DfT) said.

However, reliable connection to wifi is now considered by passengers to be a standard service, according to Anthony Smith, the chief executive of Transport Focus

“Given the post-pandemic need to get more passengers back on the train it would be difficult to justify removing something that makes rail more attractive to customers.”

If you found this article interesting, check out Network Rail’s £44bn five-year plan.

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