Campaign for better connectivity on trains

Steam Engine at York Station 1

If you are reading this, you probably know that I spend a lot of time on trains. This is because I travel around a lot in my job, and I live close to a train station, so it makes sense. Usually I can work on the train, and I much prefer to do that than spend dead time sat behind the wheel of a car.

But, I have been getting increasingly frustrated recently about lack of connectivity on trains. I have had a 3G dongle for about three years now, and it seems to me that I am getting more signal problems than ever before. This is exacerbated on Cross Country Voyager trains which have specially re-inforced windows, which are very safe in a crash but terrible at letting mobile signals through. Virgin had the same issue on its Pendolino trains, which I occasionally use between Manchester and London, but they have recently fitted internal signal boosters, which I have found to be excellent in maintaining a signal. I took part in a conference call for the entire journey from Manchester to London a few months ago, and only lost the signal twice, both times when the train was in a tunnel. Virgin have also introduced wifi, but you have to pay for it, a move I am not in favour of. On a Virgin train I prefer to use my dongle picking up the enhanced 3G signal.


I also use National Express East Coast trains between Leeds and London a lot, and they have had free wifi for some time. As well as the anomoly of their use of a Swedish ISP, so Google search results are returned with the offer of a Swedish translation, sometimes the connectivity to the outside world can be non-existent for most of the journey, which makes it just as frustrating as using the dongle.

I remember being told once that the mobile phone companies made it a priority to ensure good coverage on motorways when they were building their networks because, in the early days, car phones were the most prevalent cellular device. What I want to know then is, why hasn’t thinking moved on, and why are not train lines a priority these days? I think that a reliable Internet connection would be a powerful tool in persuading more people to give up their cars and use the train as a mobile office. Surely that would increase revenue for the train companies, make people more productive because they would be working in a train rather than sat at the wheel, and achieve all sorts of environmental benefits.


So; I am starting a three-pronged campaign for:

  • mobile phone companies to make train lines a priority for improved 3G coverage
  • train companies to offer free wifi on board; and
  • those train companies who already offer free wifi to improve its performance and coverage
  • All this would make my life easier; but, more importantly, it would be good for the environment and the economy.

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