The Government has pledged to spend £90 million in providing faster wifi on commuter trains with some of the funding coming from a £53.1m fine imposed by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) on track operator Network Rail for late trains.
For the first time, a penalty from Network Rail will be ploughed back into improving passenger services with the roll-out of mobile broadband on trains to London, Leeds, Manchester, Bedford, Brighton and Portsmouth.
With passengers increasingly fustrated by signal drops, ministers said they wanted to encourage more people to travel by train with the new wifi service allowing them to work while travelling. With the project costing around £90 million, the governement expects to offer the service for free to rail passengers.
The work will kick off immediately, and is expected to be completed by 2017. Carrianges will be fitted with the new wifi equipment for seamless mobile broadband connections, officials said, with a service that is at least ten times better than currently available to passengers.
Last year, more than one in 10 commuter trains in London and the south-east ran late compared to a target of 93% running on time. Meanwhile, almost one in six long-distance trains ran late last year against a 92% punctuality target. Mark Carne, CEO of Network Rail, said the company accepted it had fallen short of the regulatory targets for train punctuality.
The Department of Transport said the investment would radically improve broadband access on trains. Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: 'Passengers expect and deserve better and with these plans, that is what they'll get.'