The government has promised free Wi-Fi on trains by 2017

We live in a time where interconnectivity is key, and anytime we are denied access to the internet a travesty. What’s even worse is when we’re told we have to go without, or pay extortionate amounts of money just to get online. Thankfully the government is on our side, and has pledged £50 million to make free in-train Wi-Fi a reality by 2017.

The initiative was announced earlier today by Rail Minister Claire Perry, and the Department of Transport clarified how the initiative will be rolled out. Rail companies are already being asked how they expect to provide the free service to passengers, and any rail company hoping to bid for a new franchise will have to include details about that in their bids.

There are no franchise agreements due for another two years, but by 2017 a small selection of rail companies will be expected to have incorporated free Wi-Fi. Those companies are Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN), Southeastern, Chiltern and Arriva Trains Wales.

That means that in two years time, hopefully, passengers travelling with those services won’t have to rely on the measly data allowance given to them by their network to keep themselves connected on the way to work.

I can foresee a couple of problems, though. Train Wi-Fi is reliant on mobile data connections, so if you happen to be travelling through a blackspot all the free Wi-Fi in the world isn’t going to help you out. Similarly those connections can only deal with so much data, and if you’re on a packed commuter train where everyone is trying to use the internet then speeds are going to be rather poor.

But, free Wi-Fi is always a good thing, and considering the pressure the government has been putting on mobile networks to deal with signal blackspots those problems might have been dealt with by the time 2017 comes around.

Tom Pritchard