Free WiFi coming to UK trains ... in two years

Don't get your hopes up, Brits, leaves on the line could yet slow service

Future operators of train franchises in the UK will have to include free WiFi in their bids, Rail Minister Claire Perry announced on Wednesday.

The bad news is that there are no new franchises up for grabs until 2017. The good news is that the Department of Transport has found £50 million "to ensure WiFi is available on selected services from 2017."

Those services are provided by Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN), Southeastern, Chiltern and Arriva Trains Wales.

"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," says the canned announcement.

The measure's being promoted as a productivity-enhancer, especially for those making lengthy journeys to the North.

There's no word on the nature of the service, what speeds will be expected and/or required or whether service will be required in tunnels or underground. Nor is there mention of whether operators will be permitted to serve ads, gather personal data or do anything more than comply with the directive to provide WiFi. ®

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