UK-based Network Rail has begun exclusive talks with a private-sector consortium to modernise its telecoms infrastructure.

The discussions will help Network Rail establish a long-term alliance for overhaul of its ageing telecoms infrastructure.

To future-proof the telecoms network, the project will advance the required trackside fibre and mast upgrades.

It will also help improve wireless connectivity on trains and in stations for passengers and enhance data-driven train performance and safety systems.

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By GlobalData

This project, which was launched two years ago, is in line with the government’s levelling up agenda and supports existing goals to enhance connectivity across the country.

Network Rail corporate finance director Harriet Hepburn said: “This is an exciting opportunity for Network Rail, and we are excited at the prospect of entering this long-term partnership.

“The proposal provides a comprehensive package that will deliver real benefits for passengers and the railway, and also significant savings for the UK tax-payer.”

Network Rail Telecom (NRT) is responsible for the management of voice, data and radio networks related to rail services across Great Britain.

The 16,000km of trackside fibre optic cable is used for a range of services including signalling for trains, station information and security systems, train and trackside voice and data comms, and corporate networks for depots and offices.

GSM-R network, which is Network Rail’s train communications system, is based on 2G mobile technology.

Designed to be in line with Railways across Europe, the train communications system has to be upgraded to a 5G-based FRMCS radio solution within the next 10 years.