Should all trains have free wifi??

I keep on saying that all trains should offer free wifi – in the vein of Chiltern’s offering but without continuously signing in and better reliability, speed and connectivity.

I recall putting it to a fringe panel at a party conference last year that comprised the CEOs of Go-Ahead and Siemens Rail.  Siemens Rail chap said no reason why not as trains more than capable, it was down to Train Operating Companies to choose what to do…

Why DON’T the TOCs on the whole offer free wifi?? Chiltern do although it could be better (please!!), Virgin charge for a pretty poor service (although it is free on 1st class, although that also is poor).  The cost of installing the necessary hardware is not a major investment and indeed should be standard on trains being built right now.  The amount being invested on the rail network, on trains, on stations and on passenger experience would indicate a very serious focus on making the railways a comfortable, attractive and welcoming proposition for everyone – surely wifi should be expected to be free and esily obtainable on all train services?

Rail franchise specifications should include free passenger wifi of a good standard to be available at all times (and be measured as an indicator of quality of customer service) in the same vein as smartcard ticketing.  In 2013 with many passengers using mobile technology as the norm, how is it that passengers are being left to focus on hoping for a seat and journey time reliability without further focus on actually what should passengers expect from a rail journey and a rail operator.

Would it be better for free wifi on commuter or intercity routes?  Well actually both have compelling cases.  Intercity with the longer journey times on train would allow passengers to log in and focus on work or other activities and use the connectivity to essentially have their train seat as a proxy for their home or office.  Commuter services would keep passengers occupied and allow to quickly scan emails and news in preparation for work or getting home after.  In both elements the non-commuting passengers can enjoy a better customer experience through accessing information on their destinations for example as well as keeping up to date with transport network information for their current and subsequent journeys.

So perhaps i could nudge operators by thinking about the benefits from offering free wifi to all passengers?  For starters you can tell passengers you are giving them something extra as part of their fare cost.  Passengers will be able to have more productive/ interesting/ enjoyable journeys.  Service and network information could be pushed out to passengers quickly and more effectively.  You have better access to your customers and they can have better access and interaction with you.

So how do we go about getting free wifi on all passenger rail services across the whole of the UK by say the end of 2014??  let me know your thoughts – i would be interested to see if we could ensure this happens…!!!

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