FREE wi-fi is to be trialled on trains between Edinburgh and Glasgow, Transport Minister Keith Brown announced today.
The Scottish Government has awarded a £250,000 contract to ScotRail to carry out a pilot scheme for three months over the summer.
Two different wi-fi enabling systems will be tested on four trains from the Class 170 fleet.
The move is the first step towards the long-term aspiration of rolling out wi-fi on trains throughout Scotland.
The government said it intended the next Scottish rail franchise to require passenger access to the internet, media and voice communications on trains between Edinburgh and Glasgow and from the Central Belt to Aberdeen and Inverness.
Mr Brown announced the contract at the Local Authority Transport Conference in Edinburgh today. He said: “One of the challenges facing transport is how to embrace constantly evolving technologies and the demands of passengers to get on with their ever more busy lives while travelling.
“The Scottish Government is committed to forward-looking schemes which put this country at the forefront of new technologies. We have promised to do all we can to bring the internet to every corner of Scotland and that includes allowing people to get online when they’re going about their daily business, be that commuting to or from work or travelling socially.
“The Rail2014 consultation set out our stall with a vow to bring full wi-fi connection to train journeys and this pilot gets that under way.”
ScotRail managing director Steve Montgomery said: “This is a welcome first step to explore methods to improve connectivity on trains.”
Rail consumer group Passenger Focus has highlighted provision of wi-fi as important for passengers.
Its research found business passengers in particular valued the ability to work on the train, with 37 per cent identifying it as a key benefit of rail travel.
Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “Wi-fi connectivity is essential to doing business in the 21st century and its introduction to our trains is vital to making public transport a productive business experience.
“In addition, it recognises the fact that most tourists visiting our country expect to be able to access information on our country through their phones, tablet devices and notebooks. I am certain that this trial will be a resounding success.”