London North Eastern Railway (LNER) has confirmed plans to partner with phone operator O2 to improve network coverage on a 45 mile stretch of the East Coast Main Line between Newcastle and Edinburgh.
The boost will improve coverage for passengers on board train services in the North East. It will also help communities in North Tyneside and Northumberland with currently no or limited signal.
Planning permission for the first of 12 masts has been approved by Northumberland County Council, with the final phase of the project seeing 5G available in Newcastle station by Summer 2021.
The project between LNER and O2 will also improve coverage from the current mast network thanks to enhancements to the current signal.
David Horne, Managing Director of LNER, said: “We know how vital our connections are between the great towns and cities of the LNER route. We also know how vital mobile connectivity is for our customers, so we’re proud to be radically improving this for those who travel on our trains and also work and live along our route.”
The locations of the masts follows a year of extensive planning to find the optimum location to provide 4G and also be 5G ready.
The project will follow Government Coronavirus guidelines.
Brendan O’Reilly, Chief Technology Officer of O2, said: “This is an important project for us as we seek to boost network coverage and capacity around the country. We’ve always looked to prioritise areas our customers need it the most, and upgrading busy transport hubs such as Newcastle Station will provide millions of customers with faster, more reliable network services.”
LNER Azuma’s already offer the best WiFi yet on the ECML so the latest project will offer an improvement to those using the service at speeds of over 100mph.
Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “I welcome this announcement from LNER and O2 that will significantly increase connectivity around Newcastle Central Station.
“Newcastle is a modern, diverse city which has always been at the cutting edge of new technologies. We know having excellent, modern digital infrastructure is the best way to support our many businesses, residents and visitors to make the most of everything we have to offer. Newcastle Central Station is a beautiful, iconic building that is a stunning gateway to our city and wider region. It’s not only essential for providing connectivity with the rest of the UK, it’s a major regional transport hub too. Having 5G connectivity will bring together our proud industrial past and our ambitions for the future. I am passionate about ensuring public transport across Newcastle and into our city is accessible, desirable and modern and this new programme of connectivity will help maintain this approach as the wider plans to transform our transport networks take shape.”
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