This review examines the progress by government against recommendations made by the Commission in its 2016 Connected Future report on 5G digital mobile connectivity.
Connected Future: Getting back on track finds that a lack of leadership from government, frequent ministerial changes, and split departmental responsibilities have halted any initial momentum in steps to improve rail passengers’ access to mobile services.
In contrast, UK road users have benefitted from ‘clear, continuous progress’ on connectivity, with UK motorways now offering near universal coverage for voice and data calls and good progress elsewhere across the roads network.
The review identifies four areas in which government must improve progress on rail mobile connectivity:
- Leadership and action – appointment of a ministerial lead and publication by the Department of Transport of a clear plan of action by December 2020
- Access to trackside land – Network Rail must put in place by December 2020 arrangements for third party access to trackside land for the purposes of delivering the trackside connectivity network
- Commercial barriers – government should set out plans for a competitive process for delivering connectivity improvements on specific routes, building on lessons from the active trials currently taking place. These processes should begin no later than June 2021.
- Filling evidence gaps – Ofcom should regularly report on the extent and quality of mobile coverage on the railways, to ensure progress is tracked and to build consumer awareness.