A trial to provide rail passengers on one of Scotland’s busiest commuter lines with free web access was today launched at a cost of £250,000.
One in ten services between Edinburgh and Glasgow Queen Street will allow passengers wi-fi access throughout the course of their journey after four Class 170 trains were fitted with digital communications systems by train operator, ScotRail. Other lines are also expected to benefit through the trial.
Transport Minister Keith Brown today launched the pilot ahead of a statement to Parliament this Thursday on the future of rail services north of the Border, touching on details of the pending renewal of the Scottish passenger train franchise and funding arrangements for Network Rail in 2014.
Last month, MSPs sitting on Holyrood’s Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee urged a review of rail services to overcome overcrowded and overpriced services be conducted amid calls for stricter thresholds on trains considered to have run late.
Brown today hailed the pilot as the first step towards the Scottish Government’s long-term ambition of rolling out wi-fi across the country.
He said: “A major challenge for transport operators is how to ensure we embrace new technologies to allow passengers to get on with their busy lives while travelling.
“Business organisations have been very clear that wi-fi access on commuter routes would boost competitiveness in Scotland and this pilot is the first step to delivering that.
“We are working towards bringing the internet to every corner of Scotland, including ensuring people can get online even when they’re on the move, be that commuting to and from work or travelling socially.”
Faster connection to email, internet and social media sites while onboard will make travelling by train more attractive and drive up passenger numbers, the Minister added.
ScotRail will report its findings to Transport Scotland in the autumn with wi-fi users urged to share experiences of the trial via an online questionnaire. “The feedback we receive will play an important role in shaping the next steps for improving internet connectivity on our trains,” said Steve Montgomery, ScotRail’s managing director.
Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, added: “This pilot project is an essential first step towards delivering the kind of connectivity that business needs in Scotland and we look forward to its extension to other routes as soon as possible.”