London North Eastern Railway (LNER) has announced plans in partnership with O2 to boost network coverage along a 45-mile stretch of the East Coast route between Newcastle and Edinburgh.
The boost to mobile coverage will not only benefit customers travelling onboard train services through the North East but also the many communities where limited or no signal currently exists in North Tyneside and Northumberland.
Planning permission for the first of up to 12 masts has been approved by Northumberland County Council with the final phase of the project seeing 5G available within Newcastle Central Station by summer 2021.
The pioneering partnership between LNER and O2 will also boost coverage from the current network of masts along the pilot area thanks to enhancements to existing signal levels. This will mean better connections for communities and customers of the LNER route.
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 location of the proposed new masts follows almost a year of extensive testing and planning to identify the optimum locations to provide 4G coverage and be 5G ready. The project will follow strict guidelines to ensure Government health and safety advice is followed.
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’s new Azuma trains already offer the best WiFi yet on the route so this latest development will offer a boost for those relying on voice and data usage when travelling at speeds of over 100mph. The project will further improve the onboard WiFi experience and allow faster data streaming.
The project will culminate with 5G being available for customers using Newcastle Central Station.
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.”