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Best and Worst UK Train Operators Ranked by Internet Reliability

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018 (6:57 pm) - Score 2,100

A new survey of 27,819 train passengers, which was conducted by Transport Focus during autumn 2017, has revealed that just 30% of commuters are satisfied with the reliability of their on-board internet connection (56% dissatisfied and 14% undecided). Southeastern came bottom (18% satisfied).

The very fact that trains are themselves a mobile platform, which are almost constantly in motion [insert pun about strikes / delays here] and frequently passing through areas of weak signal strength (e.g. tunnels, rural areas), means that sustaining a reliable broadband connection while on-board is usually an exercise in frustration.

Improvements are on the way and clearly some rail operators are doing far better than others, which is likely to be due to a mix of reasons rather than an issue of poor investment (e.g. some trains will run on routes with stronger local connectivity than others, such as in certain urban areas). Meanwhile the study itself is fairly basic and doesn’t differentiate between internet connectivity gained via on-board WiFi hotspots or a 3G/4G based Mobile Broadband connection.

Best and Worst UK Train Operators – Internet Reliability Satisfaction
Heathrow Express – 71%
Grand Central – 68%
Hull Trains – 61%
Chiltern Railways – 51%
c2c – 49%
Gatwick Express – 49%
Virgin Trains East Coast – 46%
ScotRail – 42%
Arriva Trains Wales – 41%
London Midland – 41%
TfL Rail – 40%
CrossCountry – 33%
East Midlands Trains – 33%
Virgin Trains – 31%
Great Western Railway – 29%
TransPennine Express – 29%
Greater Anglia – 28%
Thameslink – 28%
South Western Railway – 28%
Northern – 27%
London Overground – 25%
Merseyrail – 24%
Southern – 22%
Great Northern – 18%
Southeastern – 18%

At the end of 2017 the UK Government began consulting on proposals that could help to make WiFi and Mobile (5G) broadband speeds of 1Gbps available across all mainline train routes by 2025 (here). So at least there’s a good chance that connectivity should improve and some operators, such as ScotRail (here), are already working on similar upgrades.

Now if only the tickets weren’t so expensive (on some routes it’s already cheaper to take a domestic flight) and we could find a spare seat..

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Keith is a computer engineer and website developer from Dorset (England) who also assists, on a part-time basis, in the general upkeep of ISPreview.co.uk's systems and services. He also writes the occasional editorial and special offer article. Find me on Contacts.
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6 Responses
  1. Avatar occasionally factual

    Well London Midland no longer exist so hopefully their replacement* will spend some dosh on the travelling public and not the shareholders.

    *West Midland Trains

    • Avatar 3G Infinity (now 4G going on 5G)

      The transition from South West Trains to South Western Railway brought with it a significant improvement in internet connection (ie ability to actually get a connection and sign on), this has however started to deteriorate over last month most probably because with more connected devices the bandwidth per device has shrunk.

  2. Avatar New_Londoner

    Call me old fashioned but I’d rather the train companies and Network Rail concentrated their energy on running good train services.

    All they need to do in order to improve internet access is to make it easier for the mobile operators to site their transmitters alongside the railway and ensure the rolling stock doesn’t block reception, eg due to reflective coatings on windows.

    It’s nice having Wi-fi on the trains but punctual services and good mobile reception would be even better.

  3. Southeastern *is* pretty bad, but bear in mind that a lot of this is because it’s in built-up and hilly areas, where there are many tunnels and cuttings. The layout was designed to keep an originally very polluting (and still quite noisy) service out of the way of the townfolk, but unfortunately it also gets in the way of signal.

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