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  1. Wealth
August 11, 2011

Why No Wi-Fi?

By Spear's

To get my vote Virgin need to find a way to make mobile phones work properly on their trains, and give free Wi-Fi to all passengers

I REFUSE TO go away anywhere for the summer. Why on earth would I want to? So long as rioters haven’t looted the pavilion and despoiled the wicket at Edgbaston, I can drive down to the ground in about forty minutes to watch the Test match — having done a weather check in the morning by simply opening the curtains at 7am.

What makes rural hamlets like Upton Cressett special is that they cannot be reached in under an hour from London. When you get within about an hour and twenty minutes of the capital, the rural character always seems to change. PG Wodehouse was brought up near Bridgnorth and he always said that Shropshire was the ‘paradise of England’. He used the countryside around Bridgnorth — and the narrow parsley filled lanes around Upton Cressett — as the inspiration for Blandings, although he did moan that it took forever to get to Bridgnorth by train from London.

Before the war, the journey took about four and a half hours using the old London-Midlands cross country link. Now, from Wolverhampton, which is about thirty minutes drive from Upton Cressett, the direct Virgin train to Euston takes one hour forty-five minutes. A few months ago, I was celebrating the fact that the HS2 link would reduce this journey to just over an hour (49 minutes to Birmingham from London and then around 15 minutes to Wolverhampton). Yes, it would make getting to London a bit quicker — by half an hour — but would this really change my life very much? No, of course not.

But to get my vote Virgin need to find a way to make mobile phones work properly on their trains, and give free Wi-Fi to all passengers. The current Wi-Fi apartheid is bad for the economy. Because of Wi-Fi discrimination that means that only First Class passengers can access free Wi-FI, hundreds of thousands of people who could be working on the train for an hour or so before they arrive at work, are instead flicking through the Daily Mail or reading a Stieg Larsson novel.

Do they seriously think that only those travelling in First want to send emails or work? The British economy is losing tens of millions as a result of this. The government should step in and introduce the Wi-Fi equivalent of a compulsory broadband installation order on public transport. And anybody within a mile of the new HS2 train link should at least be given a reduced rate on HS2 train travel, if not a nice wallet full of free train vouchers like serving military do, just as people close to wind turbines in Scotland get cheaper electricity.

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