Wi-Fi? Yes, Please!

Network for Commuters

Commuters Positivity

drcommute   •   Updated September 2021

Best network for commuters

Wi-Fi has moved from being an optional extra to something essential for the 21st century rail passenger, so we welcome any improvements to capacity and coverage. It should become absolutely standard for all trains on the British railway network to have seamless connectivity, as it’s essential for attracting the smartphone connected generation to rail, as well as the business traveller working on the move. Very soon trains without wi-fi will become unthinkable, and rail passengers will look forward to the day when the phone doesn’t cut out in tunnels.

– Railfuture – Bruce Williamson

Dear commuter. As we all know, Wi-Fi is what keeps us connected to the World. As a daily commuter myself, choosing a reliable network for commuters can be quite challenging. Above all, it is during my commute that I get work done so ultimately a stable network is important. Wi-Fi in the UK, either on the train or underground, can be unreliable. But good news, an undisturbed Wi-Fi and 5G connection could be “dramatically improved by 2025“. Fingers crossed ladies and gentlemen.

Best Network for Commuters

I will make this very simple for you. Let’s start by breaking it down, shall we?

In the UK there are 4 mobile networks that dominate the market:

  • EE
  • O2
  • Vodfone
  • Three

Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) “piggyback” from these four main networks and they are:

  • BT Mobile, Virgin Mobile, PlusNet mobile, Utility Warehouse use EE coverage
  • Giffgaff, Sky Mobile, Lycamobile, Tesco Mobile use O2 coverage
  •  iD Mobile, SMARTY use Three coverage
  •  Voxi, ASDA mobile (previously used EE Coverage), Lebara uses Vodafone coverage

Most importantly, you ask, what is the best mobile network for commuters?

Let’s have a look at what the evidence says:

Based on a study released in April 2021 by OpenSignal by far EE dominated the consumer experience nationwide. Vodafone came first in the voice app experience and there was a tie between the game experience between EE and Vodafone. This report also shows an amazing improvement in the upload experience offered by O2.

RootMetrics research demonstrated EE as the best performance network in the UK. Followed by Vodafone in Wales and England and finally O2 for Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Still undecided? Ofcon’s mobile coverage checker can help you analyse which coverage provider is available during your commute.

Check it out!

Contract or Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG)

First, what type of commuter are you?

Second, which mobile network do you consider to be an appealing choice for yourself?

  • A brand new handset with no upfront cost as well as a possible upgrade to the latest mobile phone every 2 years
  • Free repairs and replacements within the contract time
  • You don’t want to worry about monitoring your topping up or credit (but be careful with your usage)
  • Disadvantage: a contract for 12-24 months plus the possibility of being a more expensive option

If you are pleased with these statements, it is possible a mobile contract is a good option for you.

Assuming that you are more like me and prefer:

  • Cheaper monthly deals
  • More flexibility
  • No contracts
  • Disadvantage: You may need to pay upfront or own a handset

It is likely, a PAYG plan can best match your needs.

PAYG options are:

  • PAYG Bundles usually for regular users: you pay upfront a monthly fixed amount for a package with a certain amount of minutes, texts, and data
  • Classic/Traditional PAYG recommended for light users: you pay for each minute, message, and megabyte used

The PAYG system works through the use of a small piece of plastic chip that is inserted into your mobile phone, generating your identity (phone number, contacts..). This little brain (SIM cards) which is getting smaller every year, can either be linked to one of the four main mobile networks, as mentioned above, or work as a piggyback from one of the leading UK networks.

Here are some examples of PAYG options:

Wi-Fi and the London Underground

At present time, whilst commuting on the London underground, 4G Wi-Fi is only available on ticket halls, walkways, at the platforms and since March 2020 the pilot section between Westminster and Canning Town (eastern half of the Jubilee line). Unfortunately, the Wi-Fi coverage is interrupted in almost all of the other lines, as a result, this puts us behind major cities around the world. Currently, the difficulty encountered in the London undergrounds is that the tunnels are narrow and date back to more than 150 years. For this reason, it has been a challenge mentioned several times. Nevertheless, the promise to enable flawless connectivity to Wi-Fi from 2021 throughout the London underground network is a milestone eagerly awaited by all commuters.

Wi-Fi services on the London underground are provided by Virgin Media.

Finally, if you are a customer of one of these networks, please follow the instructions or visit their website to connect to the Wi-Fi:

Wi-Fi facilities for the commuter

To sum things up, I have gathered in one simple table, all the Wi-Fi networks for commuters offered by different UK’s national rail companies. Also, I will focus on 4 main areas with links to each relevant website for further information:

  • Wi-Fi onboard

  • WiFi at platforms or rail stations

  • App

  • Route map

Services On Board At Platforms App Route Map
Avanti West Coast Free

Network: Avanti_FREE_WiFi                      westcoastfreewifi

Live Progress: Track my Train

Entertainment service: Avanti Media

Free iOS: Avanti West Coast

Android: Avanti West Coast app

Services between: London Euston and Edinburgh

Holyhead to Manchester

Route Map

C2c Network: c2c Free Train Wifi

  • 100 MB daily

iOS: c2c Live

Android: c2c Live

Services between: East London and South Essex

Route Map

Caledonian Sleeper Free Free iOS: Caledonian Sleeper

Android: Caledonian Sleeper

Services between: London and Scotland

Route Map

Chiltern Railways Free



Entertainment service: Chil.tv

Free iOS: Chiltern Railway

Android: Chiltern Railway

Services between: London Marylebone, Oxford, Birmingham, Warwickshire, Aylesbury and Kidderminster

Route Map

CrossCountry Free iOS: CrossCountry

Android: CrossCountry

All routes call or terminate at Birmingham New Street – Long distance trains across the country

Route Map

East Midlands (EMR) Free

Network: EMR WiFi

Free iOS: EMR

Android: EMR

Route Map
Gatwick Express Free

Network: gatwickexpress_wifi


Network: O2_Wifi

iOS: Gatwick Express

Android: Gatwick Express

Services between: London Victoria and Gatwick Airport

Route Map

Grand Central Free

Network: GrandCentral WiFi

iOS: Grand Central Railway

Android: Grand Central Railway

Services between: London King’s Cross to Sunderland or Bradford Interchange

Route Map

Great Northern Free on mainline trains from:

– London King’s Cross

– Cambridge

– King’s Lynn

– Peterborough

(Blue logo WiFi on the door)

Network: greatnorthern_wifi


Network: O2 WiFi

iOS: Thameslink On Track

Android: Thameslink On Track

Services between London King’s Cross, Cambridge, King’s Lynn and Peterborough

Route Map

Great Western Railway (GWR) Free

Network: GWR WiFi


Network: The Cloud


Android: GWR

Route Map
Greater Anglia Free iOS: Greater Anglia Tickets

Android: Greater Anglia Tickets

Services between: London Liverpool Street and East Anglia

Route Map

Heathrow Express Free

Entertainment service: Express tv

iOS: Heathrow Express

Android: Heathrow Express

Services between: London Heathrow Airport and Paddington
Hull Trains Free iOS: Hull Trains

Android: Hull Trains

Services between: London King’s Cross and Hull/Beverley

Route Map

Island Line Unavailable Operated by South Western Railway
London North Eastern Railway (LNER) Free

Network: LNER WIFI

iOS: LNER Travel Buddy

Android: LNER Travel Buddy

Services between: London King’s Cross to North East England and Scotland

Route Map

London Northwestern Railway Free

Network: Loop WiFi

Entertainment service: Loop

iOS: London Northwestern Railway

Android: London Northwestern Railway

Route Map
London Overground (TfL) Unavailable Free (first 60min)

Network: The Cloud

iOS: TfL Oyter and contacless

Android: TfL Oyster and contactless

Route Map
London Underground (TfL) Available (From Westminster to North Greenwich – Jubilee Line) If you are not eligible to use the free Wi-Fi through the networks mentioned above. You can buy a Wi-Fi pass:

  • 1 Day: 2£
  • 1 Week: 5£
  • 1 Month: 15£
iOS: TfL Oyter and contacless

Android: TfL Oyster and contactless

Route map
Merseyrail Unavailable (available from 2020) Free at:

  • Liverpool Central
  • Moorfields
  • James Street
  • Hamilton Square
  • Conway Park
iOS: Merseyrail

Android: Merseyrail

Services surrounding Liverpool City Region

Route Map

Northern Free (by 2019) Free iOS: Northern train tickets & times

Android: Northern train tickets & times

Route Map
ScotRail Free (18 different routes – check for Wi-Fi Zone stickers)

Network: ScotRail

Free (over 50 stations) iOS: ScotRail Train Times & Times

Android: ScotRail Train Times & Times 

Services in Scotland

Route Map

South Western Railway (SWR) Free

Entertainment package: SWR Stream

iOS: South Western Railway

Android: South Western Railway

Services between: London Waterloo to South West London

Route Map

Southeastern Free

Network: Southeastern WiFi

iOS: Southeastern On Track

Android: Southeastern On Track

Services between: London, Kent and parts of East Sussex

Route Map

ThamesLink Free on some trains look for the blue logo Wi-Fi

Network: thameslink_wifi


Network: O2WiFi

iOS: Thameslink on Track

Android: Thameslink On Track

Services betwen: Bedford, Brighton, Wimbledon, Sutton and Sevenoaks, passing through London.

Route Map

TransPennine Express Free

Network: TPE Wi-Fi

Entertainment package:  EXSTREAM


Network: O2WiFi

iOS: TransPennine Express

Android: TransPennine Express

Services between: major cities in Northern England and Scotland

Route Map

Transport for Wales Free

Network: _Transport for Wales WiFi

iOS: TfW Rail

Android: TfW Rail

Route Map
Virgin Trains

see Avanti West Coast

Free (except on Voyager Trains – standard class 3£ per journey)

Network: VirginTrainsFreeWiFi -> VTHUB.uk

Entertainment package: BEAM

iOS ; Android

Free iOS: Virgin Trains

Android: Virgin Trains

Route Map
West Midlands Railway Free

Entertainment package: LOOP

iOS: West Midlands Railway

Android: West Midlands Railway

Services between: London and the Midlands.

Route Map