It was interesting to hear the Prime Minister at this week’s PMQs inform the House about the government’s plans concerning the roll out wi-fi access on trains to help businesses and individuals.
The Prime Minister: It is vital for businesses and for individuals to be able to access wi-fi, do their work and make other contacts while they are on trains. I am pleased to announce plans that will see the roll-out of free wi-fi on trains across the United Kingdom from 2017. The Government will invest nearly £50 million to ensure that rail passengers, who make more than 500 million journeys every year, are better connected.
Not too long ago the cornerstone of the business case for HS2 was the monetised value of shorter journeys for business travellers as the time spent on trains was ‘unproductive’. Unproductive rail travel has now trundled off into the sidings as we embrace the technological possibilities of the modern world.
Such a fundamental volte-face may not count for too much in the rarefied atmosphere of £50bn vanity projects but the abandonment of key principles – off and on the track (remember the HS1/HS2 being chopped last year) makes for some pretty spectacular shapeshifting. Whether the taxpayer, who has to stump up for all this, is on board is quite another matter.