Network Rail is to roll out free WiFi at the 20 major stations that it operates across the UK. The rail administrator said it plans to offer seamless connectivity and single sign-on at all of its stations, starting with London Victoria from next Spring. The service is reportedly “child-friendly” and can also be used on more than one device. Telent Technology has been contracted to survey, design and construct the systems.
The move apparently follows research which showed that train passengers prize free access to toilets and WiFi (not simultaneously) above all other station amenities. Therefore, with toilets now free at all major NR termini, it follows that free station-wide WiFi should be next for the 900 million passengers that travel through them every year.
Euston and London Bridge stations already provide free WiFi to passengers following an earlier pilot scheme. WiFi will be phased in at the remaining stations across the country from Spring 2020 and will take around one year to fully deploy.
The value of the contract with Telent has not been disclosed. However, the supplier said it will ensure that the WiFi networks will be “Future-proof, with a view to providing longer term benefits and commercial opportunities for Network Rail going forward.”
The deal followed a recent tie up with Sky, which saw Telent provide Stadium WiFi at several major English grounds in time for the recent Cricket World Cup. Under the contract, deployments were completed at Durham, Trent Bridge, Bristol and Old Trafford. Further upgrades are set to be completed at other stadia across the UK, with Telent responsible for surveying, designing and installing the networks.
Earlier in the month Transport for Wales (TfW) announced the details of a £194 million investment plan to improve all 247 railway stations across Wales. TfW’s “station improvement vision” will deliver free WiFi to most stations by 2020, new or refurbished shelters at all stations by 2022, better cycle storage and monitored CCTV at all stations by 2023, and improved passenger information.
Speaking about the station deployments, Network Rail chief executive, Andrew Haines, said: ‘We all have smart phones and tablets now which means that journeys are no longer dead time, so the station experience shouldn’t be either. Our passengers expect seamless connectivity from their train to our stations, to their place of work, and to their homes, so I am pleased that millions of passengers who use our stations will soon have access to free, fast and secure WiFi.”
Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, said, “We are putting passengers at the heart of the railways, delivering the improvements to punctuality, comfort and customer service they expect. Making WiFi fast and free, benefitting millions of people in stations across the country, is part of creating a more modern, better-connected railway which works for passengers.”
On-train WiFi services, trackside networks, the growing market for passenger WiFi and on-board entertainment will be the main subjects of BWCS’s WiFi on Trains Conference next June. For information on speaking and sponsorship opportunities at the 2020 event, please contact Ross.Parsons@BWCS.com .
The 2019 conference (www.Traincomms2019.com) was sponsored by Icomera, Nomad Digital, Fluidmesh, RADWIN and BAI Communications.