Nexus, the public body which owns and manages Metro, has announced that it has confirmed plans to improve digital connectivity on Tyne and Wear Metro, with the aim of creating a seamless 4G/5G signal across the whole network.
This follows research which shows that Metro customers want a better digital experience, from when they walk from the street onto a station platform and right through their journey.
Nexus will be focusing investment on boosting commercial mobile network strength across the Metro system, rather than putting Wi-Fi on-board trains, as this is expensive to provide and would be used by very few customers.
Metro customers already benefit from 4G and 5G connectivity through their phone contracts on much of the system’s 60 stations and the lines in between. Under this plan Nexus will engage with the major network providers to build improved connectivity in those ‘not spot’ areas where the signal is weaker, including tunnels and cuttings and lines near the coast.
Mobile provider EE has offered 4G connectivity in Metro tunnels beneath central Newcastle and Gateshead since 2019, though plans to get other mobile networks on-board had been held up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We want customers to enjoy unbroken 4G and 5G connectivity on smart phones as they travel around the region, whether that is while getting to a station, waiting on the platform or travelling on trains. We’ve done research with customers, which shows that people now value a good connection for their phone, using their own data, rather than wanting to log in to a Wi-Fi service provided by a train operator, particularly when most people travel on Metro for only a short period,” said Customer Services Director, Huw Lewis. “There are challenges – an independent survey across the Metro network identified our customers will see strong connectivity on a train across most of the network, but there are a number of small stretches where it could be much better.”