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Virgin won't be rushed over Wi-Fi

Despite a successful pilot project, high speed connectivity won't be available across the fleet until 2007

Virgin Trains is planning to roll out wireless broadband Internet access for passengers on its west coast and cross-country franchise services following a successful pilot of the technology last year.

The main routes that will be equipped with Internet access first are the west coast services including London to Birmingham, London to Manchester and London to Liverpool.

The rail company is currently inviting expressions of interest from suppliers before a full tender for the contract to provide "continuous connectivity" and "broadband level of speed" on its trains.

The service will allow customers to access company networks and emails as well as doubtless offering Virgin-related entertainment services including movie and audio downloads.

Wi-Fi operator Broadroach has already been working with Virgin Trains on a pilot project that saw wireless hotspots installed at 20 stations along Virgin's west coast line as well as wireless connectivity built into the company's high-speed tilting Pendolino carriages.

A spokesman for Virgin Trains told ZDNet UK sister site silicon.com the trial has gone well and that on-board high-speed Internet access will be available for passengers sometime in the next 12 to 18 months.

He said: "We have been running a trial which has proved very successful."

East coast mainline rail operator GNER has also started to offer broadband Internet access for first class passengers on its London to Edinburgh route and said last year that it plans to equip every train in its fleet with a wireless data communications system.