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Train passengers will pay more if it means they can get online

Monday, May 16th 2016 by Ellen Branagh

Rail passengers are willing to pay up to 17% more for a ticket if it means they can get better mobile signal and internet access.

The Mobile Connectivity Research Study, released last week by the Department for Transport (DfT), carried out more than 2,000 interviews with rail travellers between November and January to explore how much people value and use mobile connectivity on trains.

Up to 45% had made or received a call or expected to by the end of their trip and 53% of the respondents said their connectivity was always or mostly good.

The research, carried out by Steer Davies Gleave, found people were willing to pay more for their train fare if it meant they would get better phone signal and internet provision.

Divided into groups of business, commute and leisure, travellers were willing to pay 17%, 15% and 13% more respectively to get phone signal at 50% reliability – where it’s possible to make or receive calls for around half of the journey.

To up that to 80% reliability – where it’s possible to make or receive calls for most of the journey – travellers said they were willing to pay between 6% and 8% more.

And while commute and leisure travellers didn’t put a value on boosting their signal to 100% reliability, or the whole of their journey, business travellers were prepared to pay 4% extra in fares to guarantee a good signal.

'Unusable'

65% of the study’s respondents had either used the internet during their trip, or expected to do so by the end of their journey, with 79% of them doing so via 3G or 4G networks.

54% of internet users saw the quality of their connection as poor or intermittent, while 49% were dissatisfied with the speed, describing it as ‘unusable’ or ‘slow’.

Again the study found that people in all groups were willing to pay between 9% and 17% higher fares to get a basic level of internet provision.

The Broadband Stakeholder Group, which advises the government on broadband, said the research will hopefully play a role in determining how connectivity is improved on trains.

Last year Phil Sheppard, director of network strategy and architecture at Three, said rail companies and mobile operators should work together to improve signal on trains.

Speaking at the Connected Britain conference in London, Mr Sheppard said reliability is the most important factor for consumers when it comes to their mobile network.

"If you ask customers what they want, reliability is the key thing,” he said.

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