Monday, 12 May 2008

Mobile working back from Cannes - another coverage on trains rant

Following on form my post Mobile working to Cannes, I'm not going to report on the whole trip but I have one observation from the return leg.

For a number of reasons I ended up flying back to Heathrow then getting a cab back to Nottingham. Complete carbon disaster compared to the outbound leg.

Sitting in the back of the cab I fired up the laptop, plugged in the Vodafone USB modem and was greated with very good coverage for a good proportion of the journey up the M1. Given that most cars contain only one person and thus cannot take advantage of this data coverage, this makes the lack of a decent mobile service on the nation's inter-city rail routes even more criminal.

Is the M1 is benefiting from intersecting more urban coverage? It seems wholly wrong that where it is safe to use mobile coverage you can't (the train) and where it isn't (when you're single handedly piloting a tonne of metal and plastic) you have more than you can shake a stick at.

One of the people I met last week, who worked for a UK operator was explaining to me that much of the issue rests with Network Rail and their desire to cream as much out of the network operators as possible for putting rail-cells on their property.

He was actually advocating nationalising the cell infrastructure and let the network operators provide services on top. Not sure of the merits of this given his complaint about a monoplistic player preventing the establishment of the infrastructure.

If this is the issue, I do think there is a case for the government to step in and require Network Rail to facilitate the establishment of a network of cells to give full and reliable coverage to at least the intercity routes. I'm sure the train operating companies would be prepared to get involved if it meant providing better facilities to their customers.

This would also serve to increase the attractiveness of the train as a viable transport option to businesses. Thanks to this nation's obsession with personal transport, trains have to try much harder to attract passengers. Providing customers with the facilities to support proper mobile working would tip the balance for many people.

And who knows, we might just get a few more cars off the roads in the process.

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