Rail Passengers Would Accept Fare Increase For Better Mobile Coverage

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Department for Transport report claims business travellers and commuters would pay up for a fifth more if they could get better 4G on board

Commuters and business travellers would gladly accept higher train fares if they were guaranteed a certain level of mobile coverage on their journey, according to a study by the Department for Transport (DfT).

Two thirds of participants, who were either interviewed or invited to participate in an online survey during their journey, said they had used or planned to use the mobile Internet before they reached their destination.

Slightly more than a half said the quality of their data connection was poor and intermittent, while 50 percent were dissatisfied by the speeds they received. Eighty percent used a 3G or 4G connection while the smartphone was the most commonly used device.

Fare increases

mobile phone train signal © Peter Bernik ShutterstockCommuters with a journey greater than 30 minutes were willing to pay the most. Respondents in this category said they would pay a fifth more for a ‘medium’ data connection for most of all their journey and would pay between 22 and 26 percent for a ‘high’ data connection capable of video streaming.

Those with shorter commutes were not as interested, only willing to pay up to 16 percent, while leisure passengers would only fork out up to 18 percent more.

Business travellers were keener, willing to pay up to 21 percent extra for a high speed connection for most or all of their journey.

Given many passengers suffer from crowded services, delays and already expensive tickets, the results appear to show just how important mobile connectivity is train passengers. Mobile data is also seen as more vital, and more of a problem, than calls.

Just under half had made a phone call or planned to, while 53 percent said their quality of service was acceptable. Tellingly, passengers said they would pay an average of up to 15 percent for a 50 percent increase in voice service quality, but almost nothing for a 100 percent increase.

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Existing efforts

A number of rail operators have introduced Wi-Fi services, but the government wants free wireless connectivity to be a condition of any future rail franchise bid, with a £50 million fund available to accelerate deployment.

EE is one mobile operator that has promised to improve cellular coverage along major train routes, but this can be made difficult because signals are more likely to bounce off carriages than penetrate them.Rival Three has suggested train operators should help foot the bill.

“Train coverage has been problematic and there have been various attempts to improve it,” Phil Sheppard, Three’s director of network strategy and architecture, said last year. “I would argue that if you’re going to build a train that has absolutely zero penetration of radio signals, then maybe you might want to help improve mobile signal by putting repeaters in them, because your customers will value it.”

Quiz: What do you know about 4G?


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