UK govt finds £200,000 under sofa to kick off research into improving mobile connectivity on nation's crap railways

Do people still use trains? Anyway, wireless antennas on overhead line equipment looks like the solution


Staying connected on a train in the UK is almost impossible thanks to excruciatingly slow speeds and frequent blackspots. The government hopes to make these gripes a thing of the past by committing £200,000 to research on new track-side antenna technology.

The commitment follows the release of the Mott MacDonald Report, which outlines a feasibility study into the mounting of wireless antennas onto overhead line equipment (OLE) structures.

OLE structures are found on a third of the UK's rail network that supports electrified trains. These routes are primarily the ones connecting major cities like the East Coast Main Line connecting London to Edinburgh; the Liverpool and Manchester Railway; and the West Coast Main Line, which links Liverpool and London.

Network operators are now being urged to develop prototype hardware that can be deployed on a live railway environment. A report describing the findings is expected to be published in March next year.

"It is just not good enough that passengers' mobile connectivity experience is still poor, blighting our efforts to work, shop and communicate on everyday journeys," said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in a statement.

"By harnessing innovation and updating existing infrastructure, we can build the railway of tomorrow and find affordable solutions to improve travel for passengers. I urge telecom operators to match our ambition and we can commit to working closely together to design equipment and move forward in the next stage of this exciting trial."

We're sure that anyone who has spent cumulative days in a Virgin Trains Pendolino struggling to download emails while the sensation disappears from their left arse cheek will welcome this news. Maybe, as a coup de grâce, Shapps can do something about the wait to use the bog too. ®


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