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GNER not ducking Wi-Fi challenge

The expanded Internet access scheme is to be implemented on all the company's east coast mainline Mallard trains
Written by Andy McCue, Contributor

East coast rail operator GNER is to embark on a major expansion of its on-board wireless Internet service as part of its £1.3bn ten-year franchise to run the London-to-Edinburgh line.

GNER launched its Wi-Fi service at the end of 2003 and installed the system on ten of its rebuilt Mallard trains, in an attempt to create a mobile office environment to lure business travellers back from the low-cost domestic airlines.

Under the new franchise awarded last month, GNER said it plans to fit every train in its fleet with the wireless data communications system.

The satellite-based system, supplied by Icomera, allows passengers with wireless-enabled laptops to access email and Internet on-board GNER trains. Each train is fitted with an antenna that can communicate with satellites and GPRS systems along the route. This is then linked to all coaches on-board, via the train's lighting circuit.

GNER's chief operating officer Jonathan Metcalfe said in a statement that usage of Wi-Fi on-board the east coast line trains has grown at a remarkable pace.

"We believe the expanded Wi-Fi service will encourage more people to choose rail instead of driving or flying, at a time when we are introducing many more comfortable and reliable trains. Wireless Internet is already proving invaluable to our business customers as a means of transforming train time into more productive working time," he said.

Wi-Fi is available to GNER's first-class passengers as a free service, while standard customers have to pay from £2.95 for half an hour to £9.95 for three hours' connection. But GNER claims that some standard-class passengers have been tempted to upgrade to first class to get the free Wi-Fi service.

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