Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN), Southeastern, Chiltern and Arriva Train Wales will benefit from the service, who have been challenged to begin installing equipment as soon as possible
Rail passengers will be able to access free WiFi on trains across England and Wales from 2017 as part of a £47.8 million investment from the Government.
Prime Minister David Cameron made the announcement in the House of Commons, responding to a request from Conservative cabinet minister Maria Miller because commuters “are becoming increasingly frustrated that our trains are stuck in the analogue age”.
“It’s vital for businesses and individuals to access WiFi and do their work and make all other contact while they are on trains,” he said.
“I’m pleased to announce plans for the rollout of free WiFi on trains across the United Kingdom from 2017,” he said. “The Government will invest nearly £50 million to ensure that rail passengers are better connected.”
The train operators to benefit are Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN), Southeastern, Chiltern and Arriva Trains Wales, which cover more than 500 million journeys every year combined.
Funding is being released by the Department of Transport (DoT) from fines imposed by the Office of Rail Regulation on Network Rail last July for the late running of services.
Operators are now being challenged by the DoT to begin installing equipment as soon as possible to deliver the services by 2017 and will now work with the department to develop details proposals identifying the most appropriate services and routes to benefit.
They are also being asked to set out how they will meet the commitment to provide free WiFi on trains, with all bidders for the new franchises and direct award agreements having to include this specification. Funding awarded subject to satisfactory proposals being received from them.
The department said that some operators have already installed equipment to provide improved mobile coverage on trains, or are in the process of doing so, and by targeting the investment at franchises that would otherwise have no immediate plans to introduce WiFi, the Government is ensuring that as many passengers as possible benefit.
Rail minister Claire Perry said: “I am determined to improve journeys for rail passengers. 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.
“We are investing record amounts in the rail network as part of our long-term economic plan, and this investment, coupled with major works such as the Thameslink programme, new Intercity Express trains and the Northern Hub, will ensure that passengers will soon have a railway fit for the 21st century.