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12.02.15

Cameron promises free on-board wi-fi across four TOC areas from 2017

Rail passengers in Wales and the south of England are set to benefit from free wi-fi on trains as David Cameron has announced a £50m plan to have it up and running by 2017.

The prime minister told MPs that internet access was vital for rail travellers.

“Passengers that make over 500 million journeys every year with the four rail operators, TSGN, Southeastern, Chiltern, Arriva Trains Wales, will all benefit from this investment,” he said.

Money for the scheme will also be made available to Transport Scotland, though it will be a devolved decision as to how it will be used north of the border.

There was no mention of implementing the scheme on trains in the north. Northern, TransPennine Express, East Coast, London Midland and Virgin Trains were all left out of the announcement.

The DfT said this is because they are targeting those operators where there is no new franchise agreement due in the next two years. Operators bidding for new franchises or direct award will now be required to include commitments to provide free wi-fi.

The government said: “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.”

The investment will be funded from fines imposed by the Office of Rail Regulation on Network Rail in July 2014 for the late running of services.

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents Network Rail and train operators, said: “It is good news that even more rail passengers will be able to benefit from wi-fi on their train.

“Rail plays a crucial role in keeping people connected to friends, family and jobs and the wider rollout of wi-fi on the rail network will mean people can make even better use of their time on the train.”

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