A call for evidence on how to improve railway Wi-Fi signals has been launched by the UK Government as part of an ambitious plan to deliver improved onboard mobile and Wi-Fi connections.

The move is being pushed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and the Department for Transport, and is being driven by Digital Minister Matt Hancock and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

According to the government, minimum standards for mobile connectivity on new franchises are already being introduced, but new proposals will show how, working with industry, connectivity for passengers on all mainline routes could be dramatically improved by 2025.

Each train could get speeds of around 1Gbps. This, the government claims, would future proof the connectivity, and in practice could ‘allow several hundred passengers to stream uninterrupted video content at the same time’. At least this is what the Ministers will be looking for in the call for evidence as to how they can actually achieve such a result.

Digital Minister Matt Hancock said “We want people to be able to get connected where they live, work and travel. This means improving connections on Britain’s railways now and making sure they are fit for the future. We’ve got a long way to travel but our destination is world-class signal for passengers.

“This will not only make journeys more enjoyable and productive but will help improve the operation and safety of the railway and deliver economic benefits for the whole of the UK.”

A trial of a new trackside Wi-Fi network will be carried out on the Trans Pennine route between Manchester and York.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling insisted the move is part of the government’s pledge to deliver ‘the biggest rail improvement plan since Victorian times’ to improve services for passengers.

However, the Conservative chairman of the Culture Committee Damian Collins said: “The principle of Wi-Fi on all major train routes is important one because so many commuters now work on trains.” He went on “I hope it is delivered before 2025 though. It would prefer this to be a backstop date and we will be able to deliver it much quicker than that.

At the moment, train internet connectivity is largely delivered via mobile phone networks’ masts from afar, meaning coverage is patchy or non-existent in more remote places.

Keith Monserrat of Network Rail will be one of the keynote speakers at this year’s WiFi on Trains Conference – Train Communications Systems 2018.

As ever, onboard Wi-Fi, trackside networks, the growing market for passenger WiFi services and onboard entertainment will be the main subjects of BWCS’s WiFi on Trains Conference.

This year’s Train Communications System Conference will be sponsored by Icomera, Nomad Digital, Fluidmesh, 21Net, RADWIN and BAI Communications