The government wants Network Rail to open up its network to mobile operators to allow them to provide improved call and data coverage to their customers.
The mobile reception on trains can often be inferior compared to other public places, and the government says allowing mobile operators to place masts and other infrastructure closer to tracks would improve matters for consumers, and businesses that have staff regularly travelling and working on trains.
Culture minister Ed Vaizey told the Financial Times that the Department for Transport was taking the lead in discussions with Network Rail to help improve connectivity on trains.
Vaizey told the FT: “We want coverage on trains. Network Rail’s network is an asset that could be opened if appropriate. We want something done in the next few months.”
Vaizey said Network Rail was already involved in a £1 billion project to build a new mobile infrastructure to improve its signalling system, including better communications between drivers and control centres, so access to mobile operators wanting to improve their own commercial networks along the tracks would be appropriate.
Network Rail has already been able to build mobile masts in areas where planning policy would otherwise have stood in its way.
The Department for Transport told the FT: “We are keen to see an improvement in mobile services for passengers travelling by train and fully recognise the cross government interest in achieving this. We have called on Network Rail to improve mobile coverage along the rail route, and we are monitoring their progress in this area.”
Last month it was reported that Network Rail was deploying a new embedded analytics platform to improve visibility and shared access to key investment, risk and performance metrics in the £2.1 billion London Crossrail project.