PM promises free WiFi on all trains (at least the ones that run)

By Chris Dawson February 13, 2015 - 9:51 am

trainDavid Cameron has announced a roll out of free WiFi on all trains from 2017.

He was responding to a question from Maria Miller, the former culture secretary and said “I am pleased to announce plans that will see the rollout of free Wi-Fi on trains across the United Kingdom from 2017. The government will invest nearly £50m to ensure that rail passengers are better connected“.

All train companies will be expected to offer free WiFi when bidding for new (or renewing) train operator contacts and where contracts aren’t up for renewal the government will stump up the cash. Funds will be used from the fines levied on Network Rail in 2014 for poor running of the network.

What’s not to like?

This all sounds great, especially in the run up to an election. Surely it’s a vote winner? Free WiFi for everyone, what’s not to like?

WiFi FeatWell firstly I doubt very much that “Free” WiFi will be “Free”. We’ve seen how this rolls out with the London Underground network where we were promised “Free” WiFi. It’s only free if you sign up and register with the provider and give them unlimited permission to spam you for the rest of your life. I’m only ever impressed with “Free” WiFi when I can connect without needed to sign up, click a link in my email – free should be connect to the WiFi connection and start surfing with no other restrictions.

Secondly looking back at my last rail journey free WiFi would have been useless. For starters they cancelled my original train. Then when I changed at Reading there was standing room only on the train all the way to Paddington. Coming home I managed to get a train back to Reading only to find that they’d cancelled my ongoing train home and replaced it with a bus. I took a taxi home instead which cost £40 on top of the £55.70 the railways had already relieved me off for a service they didn’t provide.

So imagine how grateful I, or the average commuter, will be with free Wifi whilst standing up squashed against a seat back. Forget trying to balance my laptop in one hand while typing with the other, it’s as much as I could do to check my email on my mobile… which incidentally I did with free (all ready included in my phone contract) 4G.

Forget promising fancy free WiFi for all. If Cameron wants my vote at the next election how about promising (and more importantly delivering) trains that aren’t cancelled, arrive and leave on time. As an added bonus how about also providing a seat to sit on in exchange for the extortionate fifty five quid they charged me for the experience?

Then when they have trains that run on time reduce the fares to a level where it’s actually cheaper to use public transport than it is to simply drive my car and I might use the trains on occasions other then when I intend to have a drink so can’t drive home.

  • 3 years ago

    The government will invest £50 million….

    = bill us £50 million then call it free.


  • John R
    3 years ago

    Shame the post takes a totally negative outlook.Free wifi will be of great use to the majority of train passengers in the uk and is much better than having to pay £5 for it and will of course be of benefit to ecommerce. The average commuter will be able to use their phone whilst standing surely, as 3G/4G signal isn’t available on most trains journeys? Anyway, in the North seats can nearly always be found, so it must only be a South East problem, can’t really blame Dave for overpopulation in the South East and the problems it causes can you? Nice to see something of more benefit to areas other than the south east.

    Also the free wifi on buses which I’ve used I’ve never been spammed by, even so a few emails is a small price to pay.

    Surely you can get a refund for the train you didn’t use, although admittedly it will be a hassle.

    • 3 years ago

      The average commuter might be able to use their phone while standing, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re not getting the seat they’re paying an extortionate price for.

      To put it into perspective for a thimble full of petrol and £1 per hour parking I can drive to Queensway, use the NCP and jump on the Central Line underground. It’s as quick as the train and a damn sight cheaper, if I’m travelling with someone it’s a quarter the price.

      The only reason I’d use the train is as I said if I may be having a drink and so can’t drive, but other than that they’re abysmal and I’ll carry on having a totally negative outlook until trains run on time and I get a seat.

      Just something to look forward to… no trains in or out of Reading for two weeks after Easter and cancelled trains every evening for the next six weeks is what we’ve been promised. WiFi might be a nice little extra, but that’s all it is and it’s useless without a train to use it on.

  • James
    3 years ago

    What is your alternative if not the Conservatives, Chris?

    You’re a businessman, successful and presumably not lazy or an idiot.

    That rules out the Labour party for you then.

    • 3 years ago

      Voting in this country is rubbish no point me voting Labour as where I live they haven’t a chance so it’s a wasted vote. Traditionally it’s always been Conservative or Liberal in the Newbury area. Potentially it might be Conservative/UKIP/Liberal this time around but they’re my only choices if I want whoever I vote for to win.

    • tinker
      3 years ago

      little point in voting conservative in Scotland or Wales
      so its not just labour that is effected ,your MEANT TO VOTE FOR WHO OFFERS YOU THE BEST CHOICE NOT THE BEST CHANCE OF WINNING

    • 3 years ago

      It is still too early to know exactly who will be standing where. Many Candidates have been announced but not all those who are announced will actually stand. As an example at the 1997 General Election I was a Nominated Parliamentary Candidate but my on going health problems flared up again and I had to withdraw. Others will no doubt withdraw for other reasons.

      So until the Close of Nominations we will not actually know who is standing. Just in case anybody says that is not true may I ask them if they have been through the Nomination Process? My guess is that they have not.

      You can be disqualified for all sorts of reasons. Take just one. Somebody who has signed your Nomination Paper has also signed somebody elses Nomination Paper. The Law says that you can only sign One Nomination Paper. So most Candidates lodge more than one Nomination Paper in case one is ruled out. But if you lodge only one and you have a duplicated signature then unless you are the first to be nominated by that signature then you are no longer a Candidate.

      As far as it not being worth voting unless the Winner is the one you want. Every Candidate has to lodge a Deposit of £500. They only get their Deposit back if they get more than a certain percentage of the Vote.

      So if you are A Labour Voter in Thatcham you should still Vote because it could save the Labour Candidate his Deposit. Also of course every Voter, even for Labour in Thatcham, gives the Labour Party potential Members and even Activists and supporters who could work for future success of the Labour Party locally.

      The UK is a Democracy. Over the centuries a large number of people fought and many died to give us that Democracy and also to extend the Vote to everybody. So today the Vote is not just for Male Landowners as it was a century or so ago. Now when you go to Vote you often go with your Wife and any late Teenage Children. So on May 7th go out and Vote for the Candidate and Political Party that you believe will most represent your views in Parliament…you never know he, or she, might be elected.

    • 3 years ago

      I agree with most of what you say… barring two things….

      Labour will never get in, in 2010 Conservatives beat Lib Dem by over 12000 votes and Labour were nowhere to be seen (Con – 33,057, Lib – 20,809, Lab – 2,505). UKIP got 1,475 and I’d expect that to dramatically increase. The other three parties lost their deposits. A vote for Labour really is a wasted vote in Newbury and Labour have never won a general election in Newbury (not even going back to the 1800s!)

      Secondly I have to take you to task on the “go out and Vote for the Candidate and Political Party that you believe will most represent your views“. That’s often impossible. I can either vote for whoever I believe is the best candidate, or I can vote for the political party I think would be best for the nation. However the best candidate (locally) might not belong to the best party (nationally) and that’s my biggest problem with politics at general elections (and also why many councils are not controlled by the party the local MP belongs to).

    • 3 years ago

      There is a lot of truth in what you say. However there is one very simple answer. That is to get involved with the Local Branch of the Political Party that you support and which you feel has the same policies and ideals that you have. Then get on the Candidates List either for the Local Council or indeed the National List and stand for election.

      It is often difficult to decide just which Political Party to Join. Many Policies appear in just about every Political Parties Manifesto. Somebody once said that it was every Political Party supported Apply Pie.

      One of the greatest weaknesses in British Politics at present is the generally abysmal standard of the Candidates, certainly at National Level.

      Few Politicians have any real experience. As an example Red Ed was asked this question at a Press Conference and found it impossible to come up with any real experience.

      Go back a few years and there were Hands On Farmers, ex-Members of the Armed Forces, Workers in Industry who actually had got their hands dirty, even Trades Union Officials who had actually worked before becoming a Shop Steward. Now what you have is Public School, University(usually doing a PEP Course(Politics, Economics and Philosophy) Then Research Assistant and then to round off the ‘Experience’ Fought a Safe Seat.

      What we need is people who have real experience of life. I would guess that you qualify.

    • 3 years ago

      By the way the Lib Dems are not a Liberal Party. If anything they are an Anti Liberal Party. A few years ago they tried to change their name to The Liberal Party but were refused permission to(Political Parties have to Register their names)because there already is a National Political Party in the UK with the name ‘The Liberal Party’ and you cannot have 2 Political Parties with the same name especially as one(currently called the Lib Dem Party) is really a sort of soft Socialist Party with strong Quisling Tendencies.

  • Simon M
    3 years ago

    >> We’ve seen how this rolls out with the London Underground network where we were promised “Free” WiFi.

    As far as I’m concerned, it absolutely is free. I pay no extra for it, and I use it nearly every day. Customers of Virgin Media, EE, T-Mobile, Orange, Vodafone, O2 and Three all get it for free too. I personally have never received any spam whatsoever since I signed up some 6 months ago, and am very happy with it!

    I don’t think a 5 minute sign up / activation process is that laborious, but each to their own I guess.


  • James
    3 years ago

    its not free!

    if the companies are expected to provide the service as part of their bid, then the bid includes the price of the wifi.
    the bid is paid for through your ticker price going up.

    • Simon M
      3 years ago

      >> the bid is paid for through your ticker price going up.

      Which I’d have to pay regardless of whether I used wi-fi or not … so it’s free.


    • james
      3 years ago

      the ticket price will go up, yes.
      the ticket price will go up MORE if it includes “free” wifi.
      the difference between they two is the cost of your wifi.
      you will still pay for the “free” wifi this way whether you use it or not, yes.
      – and i can tell you right now, this will in the end be significantly more in total than if everyone who actually needed wifi on the train just paid for it.

  • Mark
    3 years ago

    My local bus company gives free wifi (users have to agree to terms and conditions but are not required to give their email address).

    Whist it is good when travelling on the bus (saves my mobile data allowance) it does cause problems with my phone connecting to the wifi on a passing bus (and then not getting an internet connection because the terms need agreed to).

    For longer journeys train wifi can be useful, it is a slightly odd situation that the long distance services (East Coast, Crosscountry and Virgin) charge for wifi when some of the commuter services don’t.

  • Martin
    3 years ago

    It isn’t like Tamebay to let their personal views get in the way of an objective take on something.

    The fact is there a rising numbers of train passengers, even if I agree with you on the costs against other transport forms. Personally I’d rather drive. but clearly not everyone agrees, and the fact is that it will enable a huge number of users to use their computers on trains and keep buying and communicating on a device that is more user friendly than an iPhone keyboard. That is the important issue.

    Hi do have some sympathy for the trains. We use our network far more intensively than almost all countries, so a knock on is that a problem anywhere causes disruption quickly and on an ongoing basis. We are running 21st century transport on a fundamentally Victorian network, no matter what improvements are made.

    • 3 years ago

      Don’t get me wrong, I think free WiFi on trains is great… but I’d rather they concentrated on simply making trains run and then maybe even run on time.

      The free WiFi smacks of typical electioneering promises. Coincidence that it’s announced just a few weeks from election date? I think not, we can expect more similar promises from the parties to try and gain our votes.

    • 3 years ago

      Up to and including May 7th 2015 Any Politician will promise you anything. On May 8th suddenly they will announce that Taxation has to go up, What they were promising only the day before suddenly is so expensive that the Country can no longer afford it and not only that but the Belt Tightening has to get a lot worse and for far longer because the Country is not only broke but is on a par with Greece.

      Yet every General Election Politicians know that whatever promises they make will be believed and Voters will go out and Vote based on those promises(and before you say ‘What does he know about it?’. I have been a Parliamentary Candidate and am still active in Politics(Chairman of a Constituency Party, and on the County Executive as well as on my Political CV is Member of the National Executive(a few years ago now).

      How do you know a Politician is telling Lies?…His Mouth is moving.

    • James
      3 years ago

      This is why I think it is always better to vote for inherently right wing (economically) parties.

      We all know that politicians lie and say and do whatever they can to ensure they get or stay in power. There is no desire to genuinely help or progress the country – politics for these people main exists to ensure power.

      In that sense any party that feels that less government is better (even if it isn’t for dogmatic reasons ) is a better bet.

      The Labour party is a shambles (they always have been) – a party pandering to the feckless, lazy and irresponsible in the country.

      Election after election their manifesto is based on lies, half truths, propaganda and simple and complete misunderstanding of economics/business due to a lack of experience. They literally feed of the votes of uneducated, misinformed and lazy people. Who wants a party like that running the country – where their support base is full of the worst in society.

      The Conservatives are only marginally better – but they are better. Lesser of two evils is the choice here.

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