· National Express East Anglia is the latest operator to make Wi-Fi available to passengers
· Onboard Wi-Fi encourages more passengers to travel by train
LONDON, 26 November 2010 – The extent to which Britain’s railway network is outstripping Europe in delivering onboard Wi-Fi was highlighted today when National Express East Anglia (NXEA) confirmed its passengers will be the latest to benefit from the service in the New Year.
The widespread availability of onboard Wi-Fi, which is frequently identified as key to encouraging more people to switch to travel by rail for domestic journeys, is illustrated by a new map produced by train ticketing website MyTrainTicket.co.uk. The map includes the NXEA route between London and Norwich, which is introducing the service early next year, and the NXEA-operated Stansted Express, on which the technology will be available from May.
Where Wi-Fi is offered, the service is available on either all or most trains – giving all passengers the option of accessing the internet for business or leisure use while travelling. In contrast, provision in Europe is much patchier. Italy, Spain, Ireland, Holland and Austria have no (or very limited) on train Wi-Fi while coverage in France, Germany and Belgium is limited to a small number of train services.
In France, for example, 10% to 15% of TGVs have been refurbished to offer the technology, but it is not possible for passengers to know in advance whether Wi-Fi will be available on a particular route as trains are not allocated to services until the day in question.
Germany has the fullest coverage of Britain’s near neighbours with on-train coverage focused on routes connecting Frankfurt, Germany’s main business centre, with Hamburg in the north of the country, Munich in the south and Cologne in the west. However, as is the case in France, Wi-Fi is only available on the latest upgraded trains. No trains serving the east of the country, which includes the capital city Berlin, offer the service.
MyTrainTicket.co.uk’s map shows Britain does have some gaps in provision, with the most obvious long-distance examples being London to the South West and South Wales, operated by First Great Western, and the CrossCountry network linking the South West and South of England with the North West and Scotland, via Birmingham.
Alistair Lees, Managing Director of MyTrainTicket.co.uk, said: “Wi-Fi, along with other onboard services, is increasingly identified by passengers as an important reason for choosing rail over other forms of transport.
“Just as Britain led the way in establishing railways in the Industrial Revolution, so the train companies are now at the forefront of the digital revolution, giving passengers the ability to access the internet, emails, media and games while travelling by train. Britain is well ahead of its European counterparts.”
The cost of accessing onboard Wi-Fi, where it is available, varies considerably. While all Train Operating Companies (TOCs) with onboard Wi-Fi provide unlimited access for free to First Class passengers, only three extend this to Standard Class: Wrexham & Shropshire, Grand Central and Heathrow Express, which connects the airport with London Paddington. Elsewhere the charge for Standard Class passengers varies from £1.50 per journey to £5 for an hour.
Standard Class passengers face a £5 charge for 60 minutes access onboard Virgin Trains, or an alternative pay-as-you-go facility at 75p per 10 minutes. East Coast provides 15 minutes for free with any further access incurring a flat £4.95 charge. In contrast, passengers travelling between London and York with rival operator Grand Central, instead of East Coast, can enjoy free Wi-Fi access for the duration of their journey.
East Midlands charges a flat £4 fee which entitles the user to three hours Wi-Fi access, NXEA will be charging £1.50 per journey on its trains between London and Norwich and on the Stansted Express route connecting the airport with London Liverpool Street.
Alistair Lees added: “Onboard Wi-Fi represents a useful additional revenue stream for train companies, which are, after all, commercial operators. Most importantly, though, it is attractive to customers who might otherwise travel by air or car and who can now make use of the journey to catch up on emails, do some work or simply browse the internet. For business customers in particular it is a boon.”
For the best fares and information about onboard services including Wi-Fi, visit www.mytrainticket.co.uk.
Andy Achimu, email@example.com or 0207 457 2049
Richard Coleman, firstname.lastname@example.org or 0207 866 7891
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