PLANS to attract an investment of up to £1 billion from the private sector to modernise railway telecoms have been unveiled by Network Rail.
The money would be used to upgrade up to 16,000km of data cables which run along railway routes by installing fibre optic circuits. These would be more efficient but also offer more capacity than the industry needs, and the surplus could be used by third parties for their telecom services.
Fibre optic cables would make it easier for Network Rail to monitor the condition of structures, such as bridges and cuttings, without so many costly manual inspections, and also lay the foundations for improving the WiFi service used by passengers on board trains, although related equipment, such as masts and the equipment on the trains would also need to be upgraded.
Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines said: ‘Our telecoms infrastructure requires an upgrade if we are to meet the growing connectivity needs of passengers and the railway itself – particularly to make sure our fibre capacity can handle more data, at greater speed, more reliably.
‘This proposal makes good business sense for all parties. We get a cutting-edge, future-proof telecoms infrastructure; the investor gets a great business opportunity; train passengers in Britain get an improved service for years to come; and the taxpayer saves a significant amount of money.’