IMPROVED digital connections on public transport would help to close the economic gap between Yorkshire and other regions of the UK, according to a senior figure at a major law firm.
Jamie Martin, the managing partner at Ward Hadaway, believes the region would become more productive if commuters had reliable access to wi-fi on trains.
He said: “Connectivity no longer refers to just linking our regions by road, rail and air any more – it’s now about upgrading our digital infrastructure on those routes to help our businesses prosper and grow.
“That’s the key to building a stronger and more inclusive economy for our fast-growing companies.”
Mr Martin made the comments as the build-up continues to the Yorkshire Fastest 50, the annual run-down of the fastest- growing privately owned companies in Yorkshire which Ward Hadaway sponsors and organises in association with The Yorkshire Post.
According to figures issued by Global Wireless Solutions (GWS) almost a third of attempts to connect to the internet on trains fail.
A Ward Hadaway spokesman said: “Given that 1.7 billion journeys are made each year on our railways, this lack of connectivity equates to millions of productive hours lost.”
“Our transport systems of the future need to be sustainable, fit for purpose and future-proof,” said Mr Martin.
“Connectivity is one of the most important factors today alongside personal comfort for transport operators to improve – even above punctuality.
“When you are travelling, it can delay the start of the working day, sometimes by hours for a busy commuter faced with delays. However, if fast and reliable connectivity is available during all journeys, commuters would have the option to use that time for work, communicating with colleagues and accessing resources, ultimately using that time more productively.
“The Government is clearly keen to support technology issues on public transport following its UK Digital Strategy announced in 2017. However there are challenges ahead and we need this infrastructure in place quickly to improve the passenger experience and give workers more choice about how they use their commute and structure their working day.”
Mr Martin added that as we are entering a new era of commuting, investment in transport infrastructure should focus on better on-board Wi-Fi which could deliver significant operational advantages for train operators.
He said: “By improving Wi-Fi connectivity between our major cities, it will give our fast-growing businesses quicker access to the skills, labour and services they need to change the economic geography of our country.”
The 2018 Ward Hadaway Fastest 50 awards will take place at Aspire in Leeds on Friday March 16. Awards will be given to the fastest growing small, medium and large business with one of these three winners going on to be named the overall fastest growing Yorkshire business for 2018. This year, Sir Keir Starmer, the Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, will speak at the event.