Free Wi-Fi for Some British Rail Riders

Transport company National Express plans to extend free onboard Wi-Fi to all passengers on the mainline of Britain's east coast

Rail passengers on the London to Scotland east coast mainline will get free wi-fi as part of National Express' £1.4bn winning bid to run the franchise.

National Express will take over the rail route from GNER in mid-December this year after beating off competition for the franchise from Arriva, FirstGroup, Stagecoach and Virgin.

GNER completed the £3.2m installation of wi-fi broadband connectivity on all 41 of its east coast trains last year and although the service is free for first-class passengers those in standard have to pay either £2.95 per half hour or £9.95 for a full day's use.

But in addition to faster journey times National Express has also promised to extend free wi-fi to passengers in standard class as part of its seven-year contract.

The on-board wi-fi uses a combination of a satellite link and mobile 3G/GPRS networks to maintain 100 per cent connectivity even when going through tunnels. A server from Swedish company Icomera on the train provides a 2MB satellite downlink, which is combined with the mobile connectivity.

Wireless access points are then fitted at the end of each carriage on a train, which connect to the main on-board satellite server and can support around 40 simultaneous users in each carriage at one time.

National Express said it will also build a simpler "one-stop shop" website to highlight the cheapest tickets available, introduce smartcards by 2010, provide real-time travel updates to mobile phones and allow passengers to print tickets at home or use "m-tickets" through their mobile phones.

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