PASSENGERS will get free wifi on train services between most of Scotland’s cities by the end of next year, it was announced today.
The Scottish Government is investing £2 million to roll out internet access on all 59 of ScotRail’s Class 170 trains, which operate the Edinburgh-Glasgow route and on lines from the Capital to Aberdeen and Inverness, Stirling and Alloa and on the Fife Circle.
A pilot scheme in the summer, when four trains were fitted with wifi, was judged a success. Customer feedback revealed that 77 per cent of users were satisfied with its speed and performance.
From March next year, the number of wifi trains in passenger service will steadily increase, at a rate of five or six each month, until the programme is completed by December.
ScotRail managing director Steve Montgomery said: “We are confident that our free wifi will be warmly welcomed by our customers. More journeys are made on our class 170s than any other of our trains, so it makes sense to begin the roll-out on this fleet.
“We will be fitting wifi during planned weekend maintenance, to avoid taking trains out of service.”
The free service is designed to allow access to email, web browsing and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. ScotRail is also drawing up plans to provide train running and other information on its wifi landing page.
Transport Minister Keith Brown said: “We have an absolute commitment to bringing better connectivity to every corner of Scotland and I have been encouraged by the success of the ScotRail pilot scheme.
“A major challenge for the transport industry is embracing new technologies to meet the demands of passengers and help them get on with their ever more busy lives while travelling. It is essential that people throughout Scotland have online access to enable our economy to thrive, which is why we are already forming plans to further expand wifi provision across the network.”
The wifi move was today welcomed by business leaders. David Birrell, chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: “Many of our Edinburgh-based members do business throughout Scotland which inevitably means some trave. Increasing wifi access on trains will undoubtedly enhance the ability for business people to stay connected.”
The contract to install wifi has been awarded to Icomera, who took part in the trial in the summer. An Ethernet “backbone” will be fitted to each Class 170 train, using inter-vehicle “jumpers” to allow passengers to access the internet from all three carriages. The router is mounted in the roof space in the middle vehicle close to the external antennae.
But ScotRail admitted there would still be areas with limited or no access.