Welsh train operator, Arriva Train Wales, has fulfilled a promise to its passengers and completed the launch of WiFi on all of its trains. Phase One of its roll-out began in 2016, partly funded by a £2.5 million injection from the Department for Transport. The initial project saw passenger internet facilities installed on 87 of the company’s trains that crisscross the region. Now the company has added WiFi to the remaining services.
Following Westminster’s funding of the initial stages, the Welsh Government put its hand into its pocket and found a further £1.5 million to help put WiFi onto the rest of the ATW fleet. This includes Pacer trains, Class 153s, and the carriages used on the north-south Express which have now been retrofitted to provide free-to-use WiFi for all passengers.
The installation has been taking place at Arriva Train Wales’ Machynlleth and Canton train maintenance depots over the last few months in partnership with the supplier, Icomera.
Speaking at the launch, the Welsh Government’s Economy and Transport Secretary, Ken Skates, claimed that download speeds are “Generally more than adequate for checking e-mails and browsing the internet”. However, a brief trawl of recent comments on Twitter reveals that not every passenger entirely agrees with his assessment. On the plus side, however, there are many messages reflecting passengers’ surprise and gratitude that WiFi is actually widely available.
ATW has set a limit of 20mb of high-speed internet, per passenger, per 24 hours – after the allocation is used up the company says the connection speed will drop ensuring “all customers can have access to good connection speeds.”
The Welsh Government’s £1.5 million funding covered the following vehicles:
– 30 x “Pacers” – Class 142/143 two carriage units which run as two or four car trains (60 carriages in total) – used mainly on Valley Lines.
– 8 x Class 153 single car trains (8 carriages) used on Cardiff Bay, City Line between Coryton and Radyr via Cardiff Central, Heart of Wales line between Swansea and Shrewsbury via Llandrindod, and elsewhere.
– 12 Mark 3 carriages (12 carriages) used on north-south Express.
– 3 Driver Van Trailers – locomotive power for the north-south Express, which require fitment to enable WiFi on carriages to operate.
Total – 83 carriages/vehicles
The Department for Transport funding covered the ATW Class 150, 158 and 175 trains used on the remainder of the network – a total of 190 carriages.
Speaking at a launch event Tom Joyner, Managing Director for Arriva Trains Wales said: “We know how important connectivity is and being able to be productive during your journey, check your onward travel plans or simply catch up on social media will make a real difference to our customers. Customers have frequently been asking for WiFi on-board our trains and this has been a really significant project which has taken careful planning and hundreds of staff hours to deliver successfully without impacting on services.”
The expanding market for on-board WiFi services as well as the problems of intermittent mobile coverage, proposed trackside solutions and other issues will all be covered in this year’s WiFi on Trains Conference hosted by BWCS. For more information on this year’s event please see www.Traincomms2018.com or contact Ross.Parsons@BWCS.com .
This year's Train Communications System Conference will be sponsored by Icomera, Nomad Digital, Fluidmesh, 21Net, RADWIN and BAI Communications.