Train passengers in England could lose access to wifi amid cost-cutting measure
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Train passengers in England could lose access to wifi onboard after rail companies were told to stop providing the service on trains as part of a cost-cutting measure. The move is being pushed by the Department for Transport (DfT) as it looks to “reform all aspects of the railway.”
Most British train services now provide free wifi as standard but the DfT has told its contracted operators in England that they should cease offering it if they cannot justify it financially.
According to The Guardian, the department said it was looking for “value for money” and wifi was low on passenger’s priorities, particularly on shorter journeys.
Passenger groups and business leaders questioned the move, saying the railway should be doing all in its power to get travellers back given that peak commuter traffic is still significantly lower than it was before the pandemic.
Christian Wolmar, who revealed the proposals on the Calling All Stations podcast, said it was a “ridiculous measure”, adding: “The DfT actually wants to reduce the quality of the train service by saying to passengers: sorry, you can’t access wifi.
“It’s all about saving money. But we’re trying to attract commuters back onto the railway, and people like to get on their phones or laptops. They’re going backwards. My view is that wifi is as essential as toilets now – people expect to be connected.”
Bruce Williamson from the passenger campaign group Railfuture said: “One of the great things about travelling by train is that you can work or watch a video or listen to a podcast – and wifi is pretty essential for that.
“We should be encouraging passengers to get back on the trains and this is a good example of a move that is going to make rail less attractive.”
A DfT spokesperson told the Guardian: “Our railways are currently not financially sustainable, and it is unfair to continue asking taxpayers to foot the bill, which is why reform of all aspects of the railways is essential.
“Passenger surveys consistently show that on-train wifi is low on their list of priorities, so it is only right we work with operators to review whether the current service delivers the best possible value for money.”