GNER steams ahead with Wi-Fi train

GNER has begun a trial of Wi-Fi-enabled trains on its route to Scotland for passengers with a wireless card and a first-class ticket

Train operator GNER is offering free wireless high-speed Internet access from Monday to passengers as part of a three-month trial on one Wi-Fi-enabled train running from London Kings Cross to Scotland.

GNER is looking to introduce Wi-Fi services to make train journeys more attractive to businesspeople and try to win back custom from low-cost no-frills domestic airlines.

GNER has set up a Web site with information on the service and to allow customers to register to take part in the free trials.

"Offering wireless Internet access on the move makes time you spend travelling by train even more productive. Passengers can look forward to conducting business on the move throughout their entire journey," the Web site says.

Customers wanting to try out wireless broadband on the move need to have a Wi-Fi-enabled laptop and must buy a first class ticket for the coach equipped with the wireless data communication system built by Icomera.

"You will experience approximately the same kind of quality as with a DSL connection though the connection speed will vary based on obstacles along the railway track and the amount of coverage offered for the different networks used," the Web site says.

Satellite receivers are fitted to the train but connection speed will vary during the journey. GNER said that, for example, when the train passes through a tunnel, 4-6 cellular phone links are used in parallel to maintain the Internet connection, so even if the speed decreases temporarily, the connection will entirely not drop.

If the trial is successful GNER will fit the equipment to 10 high-speed diesel trains and then 30 electric trains.

Rival train operator Virgin is also looking at offering wireless Internet services to passengers. Stations along its west coast route are being Wi-Fi-enabled and Virgin said the next phase will include offering full on-board Wi-Fi.