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Economy Economy

Guarantee WiFi internet service on all main line trains

Last updated: 02:26pm 22 November 2019

By the same date [2022], all major roads and main line trains will enjoy full and uninterrupted mobile phone signal, alongside guaranteed WiFi internet service on all such trains.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.78

Our verdict

The 2017 Conservative Party manifesto committed to all major roads and main line trains enjoying a full and uninterrupted mobile phone signal, alongside guaranteeing WiFi internet service on all such trains by 2022. This pledge also stated that mobile phone coverage would be extended to 95% geographic coverage of the UK.

Initially, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in his 2017 Budget a £35 million scheme to install infrastructure along a section of the Trans-Pennine route between Manchester, Leeds and York. This was a pilot scheme, the first step towards realising this manifesto pledge.

However, in January 2019, Digital Minister Margot James cancelled this pilot scheme, with a report on the discontinuation stating that:

“There are no credible means to deliver the planned passenger trials to a suitable standard within the available budget and within a reasonable timeframe.”

Furthermore, the report, published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport stated that:

“…the construction costs and complexity of the radio infrastructure required along the Trans-Pennine route are significantly greater than expected.”

She continued in her letter to Cabinet, stating that”the commercial terms of participating in the passenger trial are not attractive to the telecoms industry, particularly given uncertainty over the Government’s longer-term strategy.” She therefore decided to end the trial before “significant public funds” were spent on the scheme, adding that the there was “no realistic prospect” of it yielding value for money.

We have marked this policy as ‘broken’, based on the cessation of the pilot scheme which was the first step towards fulfilment.

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