back to article Labour calls for free Wi-Fi on trains

The Scottish Labour Party is calling for trains and buses to offer free Wi-Fi, following the tradition of parties not in power of calling for impractical, but populist, measures. The idea is to get people out of cars by improving public transport, and skips over the fact that public transport in Scotland is run by private …


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  1. SuperTim

    Political Retards....

    Wifi on a bus going around the cairngorms? How many users with that get? Assuming that the bus has wifi, where would one plug a laptop in? A train is one matter, but a diddy bus pootling around windy b-roads is quite another.

    Still, i applaud them for wanting to do it. We need more rural internet access and if this is the way to do it, then it will help 3 or 4 people out.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    By the time they got this going...

    ... the mobile networks will have trumped them with the bettering of mobile broadband, especially in cities... surely it would be better to just offer subsidies to accelerate that, or reduce the cost of tariffs...

  3. Lionel Baden


    i can just see it

    My email should be there in about 15 min !!


    Waiting for the bus !!

    nice idea imagine how many people could download child pornography though !!!

    Has nobody thought of the children !!!

    but i like the idea of truly anon access though !

  4. Stephen Lacy

    Nicely put

    "following the tradition of parties not in power of calling for impractical, but populist, measures."


  5. Pete 2 Silver badge

    There ain't no such things as a free wifi

    OK, a slight mutilation of Heinlen's comment but still true. If bus (and train) companies are required to install wifi, there will be a cost. Since bus companies are commercial enterprises and get their income from passengers, the income needed to pay for this facility will, logically, also come from the passengers. The only way this can happen is by raising fares.

    Now, from the number of times I've been stuck in traffic: behind, beside or in front of a bus I can say that in the rush-hour they're full - at least in major cities. Being full doesn't exactly make a bus the most conducive place to try and read your email or surf for pr0n. Especially on that nice, desirable and easily steal-able shiney new internet trinket.

    However, at all other times of the day, it's been my observation that a large proportion of buses are less full - or empty, to use a technical term.Under those circumstances it'll be a lot easier to have a quick download without getting nudged, mugged or have the bus's 3G connection running at a crawl. However, it comes back to that empty thing again - there's no-one to make use of it.

    Maybe this is part of a thinly disguised plan to get everybody's granny internet savvy. They could combine their free bus passes with internet classes (if only buses had conductors, they could do that) and open themselves up to the whole world of scams, twitter and download piracy. While this is all very nice, socially mobilising and enabling for old folk, it still won't help pay for the installation costs, though.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not that impossible

    On a couple of recent forays to Blighty, I took the bus from Heathrow to Oxford. Not only was the bus equipped with WiFi, there were powerpoints aplenty to recharge my tired laptop. So yes, it's possible, although I suspect the highlands 3G coverage might be patchy.

    Even if the train/bus travels through wildernesses not covered by 3G, it's more acceptable to have intermittent coverage than to be completely dE-mailed.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Wifi on the bus

    The 'Oxford Tube' bus, between Oxford and London, has free WiFi (well free in cost, you have to provide an email address). It does drop out every so often, but is fine for checking email etc. Im not sure how they do it, but it shows you can do WiFi on a bus!

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Another suggestion

    Or maybe they could, I don't know, reduce the prices of public transport so that it is cheaper than using a car?

    I'm sure that'd make it a wee bit more popular...

  9. Steven Jones

    Economically inefficient

    It's about time some of these people who produce these ideas leant a little about economics. Centrally planned expenditure of this sort is always in considerable danger of introducing economic inefficiencies.

    Of course there are some times where the market cannot deliver essential services. For those types of cases, there are such mechansims as universal service obligations, localised subsidies and so on. However, once that moves outside of the realm of essential services to one of consumer choice (and surely WiFi on trains isn't an essential service) then you are into the area of economically inefficient expenditure.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Glorified home-plug

    Electric trains could conceivably get access through the power infrastructure. Would work with trams or trolley buses to if they hadn't all been removed from our cities.

    I wouldn't advise trying a 240v home mains networking kit from PC World though, the blue smoke might escape...

  11. Mark Lockwood

    Innovative Ideas

    I have one for them. How about a clean, reliable service that doesn't cost the earth.

    Until then, I'll stick to the car, thanks

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Awsome....... (rant;)

    great can't wait for the headlines....

    Main line Train driver runs multiple red lights whilst surfing for Pron on the in-train internet connection and crashes, killing hundreds of passengers and severing a main line route for a month whilst repairs are carried out.

    I have vehicles going past my flat, Post office trucks, Taxis, Buses and Police all make my stereo go BBBZzzzzzzzttttttttt!!!!! very loudly...

    a very clear indication of extremely high levels of Electro Smog.

    Im not that far away from the train station here and every time a train comes in or out, the 20W halogen desk lamp in front of me makes a crackling noise. its either the glass or the transformer. (and yes it makes this noise even when it is switched off!!!!!)

    How much more will it take before someone cracks down on this madness...

    the UK has effectively no upper limit on RF/EMF emissions, they say they have but they are utterly unenforcible, the upshot is that everybody is being physically and mentally effected and i survive long enough i cannot wait for the excuses that our incompetent leaders and comms industry give when its their time to be put up against the wall.

    When i was at college all my lecturers (who were all ex-MOD) all stated that Microwave Radiation was incredibly dangerous if used and setup incorrectly... (the best place being on the top of a very tall mast... out at sea)

    Yet the governments have abdicated all responsibility for ensuring public health and suppressed all data on cancer clusters and health effects of those living near mobile phone masts and upgraded TV broadcasting towers.

    its about time someone really pulled all the NHS data up on home addresses of all cancer patients and Cell towers, I'm sure that will make for interesting reading (if your into horror stories.)

    no i don't wear tinfoil hat....... local signal strength of all the cell's is too high, i'd need to be living in a bunker to escape it.

    (oh and i used to work for a major 3G Teleco, and no i don't have any personal axes to grind, they paid very well at the time, but sorry i simply couldn't work there or anywhere there is such large buildup of Com's equipment is sited)

    oh god im burning.... i'm burning..... ;p

    (Though it should be all the politicos and mandarins that are burnt at the stake....

    i'm looking forward to booking my tickets for the event.)

  13. GrahamS

    Not really that impractical...

    ...given that we already get free wi-fi on many of the bus and train services up here.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Sighhh... we go again..

    My 10 reasons

    1) Car to work and back 40 minutes. By train 2 -3 hours by bus 2-3 days.

    2) I don't get rained on waiting 30 minutes to see if my car may turn up.

    3) My car works on Sundays

    4) I'm unlikely to listen to some ****'s music played through shitty headphones.

    5) My passengers tend to not have BO or smell of piss

    6) I'm not likely to get stabbed in my car.

    7) It costs about £2 a day by car, £6 by public transport

    8) I can carry more than a small bag to work (and withouth the fear of getting robbed)

    9) If I decide to pop to the shops on the way home I can.

    10) If I decide to work 10 minutes extra, it does not mean I arrive home 1 - 1 1/2 hours later.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    What's next? Free WiFi from every deckchair on the Titanic?

    It's laughable that you can haul hundreds of people hundreds of miles at a time, yet still charge them more than it would cost them individually to each drive a private vehicle. Try investing and regulating (or better yet, re-nationalise) if you want people on the trains. And if you want populist policies, build some more steam trains...

  16. Doogie Howser MD

    One bit of info probably missed off...

    ...and let's get the English tax payers to foot the bill! What a bunch of suckers we are!! Let's chisel the land open and push them out into the North Sea!

  17. Anonymous Coward


    Nice post, now why don't you go and get a degree in Physics. They'll cover, amongst others, minor things like the difference between ionizing and non ionizing radiation. You're talking absolute crap - what did you do the telco? Because you sure as heck wasn't an engineer.

  18. Richard Hodgson

    Wow, this will be useful!

    Except for the part where they'll use it as another excuse to raise ticket prices and put yet more people off using public transport whilst spending huge amounts of money to implement a technology that's likely going to be outdated within a decade, superseded by improved wireless and cheaper mobile broadband technologies, and in an era where improved mobile data services and speeds mean that the use of a laptop 'on the move' is becoming less and less popular as mobile phones take over their previous roles as internet service devices.

    But aside from that, it's brilliant: At least I'll be able to use my laptop on a bus where the seating is barely adequate to fit my legs in! What a fantastically well thought out plan!

    And we wonder why government IT projects have such a high rate of failure combined with such a high level of spending. Dumb, short-sighted ideas that are based on hype, rather than level-headed thinking.

  19. zenkaon

    hmmm laptop on Glasgow bus...

    A sure fire way to attract the attention of a local ned who will stab you, take your laptop and sell it down the pub for a shot or 2 of brown.

    Also, back to IT, wouldn't this be better served by the existing 3G network. I'm going to assume that the minister has no clue how the interweb works (he is labour). The bus WiFi would be routed through the 3G network as the trains and Oxford tube is. So why bother, if you want internet on the go use 3G.

    Beer icon, as that's sold in the same place the ned will sell your laptop

  20. The Indomitable Gall

    On the wires...!

    There's a fairly substantial electrification process going on up here. Some kind of induction system on an extra wire ought to do the trick.

  21. This post has been deleted by its author

  22. AlgernonFlowers4

    I for one...

    welcome our free wi-fi, summer holiday loving bustard overlords!

  23. John 130

    Already exists

    NationalExpress trains from Aberdeen to London have free wifi the whole length of the route, using satellite for the backhaul. Citylink buses from Glasgow to Edinburgh also have wifi.

    I suspect that intercity bus services will slowly roll this out regardless of what Labour demand, but I doubt First Scotrail will bother unless someone makes them.

    They're not really calling for it on every local bus service, though? That would be hugely stupid.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Already happens on the way there

    East Coast mainline (Kings X to Edinburgh) has onboard wifi and power.

    Not installed because of some government interference either.

    Now in the old (pre-privatisation cock-up) days the Intercity whisked you on to Aberdeen and you could have had another couple of hours browsing/working. Instead you stop at every station twixt Auld Reekie and the Granite City and for what feels like long enough to search for a unsecured network on the nearby estates.

    Now if we had a properly run public transport system it would either:

    1)probably already have been wifi-ed satisfactorily


    2)the job would have been farmed out to some friend of a minister to enhance his stock options.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well volunteered that party

    If the costs came from the fares, taxes or politicians' expenses then the internet access would not be free. If we take them at their word, then they are going to pay for this out of their party and personal funds. I thank the Scottish Labour Party for their generous offer.

  26. Adrian Bridgett

    What about current major train services?

    The current situation - where travelling from Basingrad to Waterloo (45mins) 3G "data service" is basically unusable is pretty darn shoddy though.

    I'm sure they (mobile phone companies) know where the blackspots are, but then why should they fix it - they'd only be providing the service you had paid them for. If the phones worked better at least I'd only have to listen to annoying twits once, rather then hearing "hello? are you there?" ten times.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do some research before writing an article please..

    There already are trains and buses in the UK with wifi. National Express East coast has free wifi on all it's trains without the need for trackside wimax repeaters. It uses a 3g data connection backed up by a satellite link (all provided by a company called icomera who sell plug and play mobile data boxes for buses and trains)

  28. N2


    Everything ZaNu Liebour do is free for the Jocks.

    Anyway, you wouldnt catch me using a laptop on a train in Scotland for sure.

  29. mhj

    Wifi already on buses

    I know that several new buses in the south wales area have it. Never tried it though.

  30. ThaMossop


    Sorry, but as some have pointed out, this is ridiculous.

    1. At one point, round my neck of the woods, police travelled on a bus route because of abuse and vandalism - in fact, I think they changed the bus route altogether in the end. So buses are quite notorious for trouble and thieves looking for a good place to pick up some valuable tech might start using the buses more - joy.

    2. Never mind being fed up of the headphones next to you, what about the laptop digging into your seat space as well.

    3. @Lionel Baden, imagine how many sick people could UPLOAD child pornography from the (dis)comfort of their bus seat?

    4. What about privacy? At least on a train, you might not have someone peering over you but it would be harder to get privacy on a bus.

    5. if the reception is as good as the time keeping of buses round here during rush hours, you can forget it.

    6. Oh yeah, and they will up the price for this - count on that.

  31. Steen Hive


    Shite. Intercity buses have rolled out wi-fi and mains electricity here in Sweden already.

    Of course in a country that can't even roll out a usable broadband connection to most homes, it may very well be impractical alright.

  32. Dave Murray


    We already have free wifi on some Glasgow bus services, mostly ones to Edinburgh or the airport. I used to use it to check my email and start working on my to do list for the day while travelling to work. Never had any issue with neds being interested in my pda, they probably all thought it was an ipod anyway. It worked a hell of a lot better and faster than the arthritic, crippled service Virgin charge for on the west coast mainline whenever I have the misfortune to travel to England.

    See we're not so backward as you all thought.

  33. Anonymous Coward

    Quick point

    WiFi- it's easy to do on busses. Slap a 12/24V-powered router on the bus.

    It's the internet connection for that WiFi that's difficult.

    But yeah, I agree with the guy above that they'd be better off paying 3G providers to improve their coverage and go totally HSDPA/HSUPA all over the country. They can pay for it with the increased money from the ban on alcohol promotions up here- and, given that this was intended to stop people being as ill/violent they'll have plenty of excess left over from the NHS's funding to use up as well. Not to mention the increase in fuel duty.

  34. Anonymous Hero

    Labour in Scotland...

    Clearly out of policy ideas again, no suprises there.

  35. Anonymous Coward


    Free prescriptions

    Free parking in hospitals

    Free university education

    ... and now they want Free WiFi on public transport.

    Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, Alastair Darling - all Scots who won't give the English any of these benefits...

    I don't care for politics much, I'm just curious if the Scots pay an additional income tax - else how do they get all these free benefits and we in England don't ?

  36. LaeMi Qian

    Wardriving that comes to you

    Wardriving that comes to you - in Soviet Scotland, etc., etc...

  37. Caff

    bus wifi

    Two bus services here in ireland already offer wifi

  38. Steve Evans

    Only in Scotland...

    Ah, that would be because that's where all the Labour hierarchy will be going back to when they loose the next election!

  39. Ivan Headache

    WiFi off the bus

    We tried an experiemt a little while back on the M40.

    We were shadowing an Oxford Tube (@ about 70) on the straight bit near Beaconsfield. It ha

    d all this blurb on the back about comfort , etc and WiFi. So I thought why not give it a go. Got the iPod out, logged in to the bus and surfed all the way to Ickenham.

  40. Ed 11

    Reading Buses

    I feel I should point out here that the mighty fine town of Reading has managed to persuade most of the buses that operate in and around the town to provide free wifi on the move to their customers.

  41. Anonymous Coward

    The Oxford Tube

    As an earlier coward has pointed out the Oxford Tube has 'free' on board wifi. I've found that this service was good enough for streaming internet radio through itunes on my laptop. I was also able to download the install files for an evaluation of Nero (no internet connection at home then, thanks BT!).

    I understand it's provided by a box that connects the wifi to a 3g connection from vodaphone. So it's not faster than using a 3g dongle or the like but doesn't (directly) cost you anything.

    I think mandating wifi provision on coaches (i.e. long distance, not local bus services) would be a great idea. I don't see how it's compatible with European law though.

    (Now this bit might seem a bit odd, but any requirement that a bus operator had to have custom kit fitted to their vehicles to operate in Scotland would mean that larger firms couldn't just move their vehicles around the EU and would so amount to a measure having an equivalent effect to a qualititative restriction on the free movement of goods and so would probably therefore be what lawyers technically call an 'epic fail')

  42. call me scruffy

    Shhh Shhh!


    A notionally left wing party wants if to happen therefore it can, anyone who tells you otherwise based on "hard economic facts" or "laws of physics" or "bleeding common sense" is an evil Thatcherite who reads the daily mail.

  43. Anonymous Coward

    Another example of the north-south divide

    Let the workers in the south east of England pay for the piss head pron junkies in Scotland sadly w**king themselves silly on the bus. Of course they have to use public transport, the only ones with a job are MPs and the rest can't get a car on the dole (yet).

    It's time for Scottish devolution so we can stop paying for their pathetic, pointless projects.

    They can keep the whisky, we'll keep what's left of the oil and gas (no, it doesn't belong to them, it's UNDER THE SEA not their poxy little country).

    The time has come for the English to rise up and overthrow this vile corrupt Scottish establishment. We've been paying for their mistakes for 400 years.

  44. A J Stiles


    Anybody can see that this isn't going to work. Mobile broadband is bad enough when you're sitting still; but in a moving vehicle, where the connection keeps getting lost and re-established, and with more than one person trying to use the bandwidth, it's going to be a disaster.

    When are people going to realise that the Internet is not the answer to everything?

    If they really wanted to find out how to improve public transport North of the Border, what they need to do is ban all Ministers in the Scottish Parliament from owning a car for a year, so they can see how people have to manage.

  45. It wasnt me

    @AC 14:52

    Wow, thanks for that. These comments were worth reading just for the enlightenment that yours provided. Do you dress yourself ? Someone else helped you use the computer didnt they ?

  46. Mr G Ninja

    NXEC and Virgin have it.

    So why not Scotrail? The main commuter lines would only need the same satellite and 3G access that NXEC offer. I travel between the Motherwell and Edinburgh every day on one of their trains and whilst the service isn't perfect it is very usable. That train goes through some extremely backwater places too.

    Okay if I go to it thinks I'm in sweden because of who provides the trainband service, but it's free.

  47. Alex Johnson 1

    @AC Re: Sighhh... #

    So of course your own personal circumstances mean that any expenditure on public transport is a complete waste of money. I look forward to your input on what my supermarket should sell, and of course what you would like to watch on TV.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To those talking down the idea.

    You're fucking idiots.

    It's not impossible. It's not impractical. Most of you seem to be talking about how it's in parts of London, and I understand you Southerners daren't step out of your safe zone, but if you did you'd find the whole East Coast mainline, that's London to Edinburgh already has free wifi and has done for years.

    It's possible because it's already been done in parts of the country including one of the most important and longest train routes in the UK. It's not exactly hard to stretch it to the remaining lines.

    Sure it's harder on buses but again it's already been done on some, so again, not impossible.

  49. Garry Mills

    London > Aberdeen

    Used that route last week, on my iTouch was pretty damn good and didn't need to verify my non existant email address (though, without net access, how could I!)

    They block access to iPlayer and such, but i imagine that would be easily bypassed.

    One nice trick was on their login confirmation page was a map showing where you where, similar to the in-flight screens you see.

  50. LuMan

    @Oliver Jones

    Deutsche Bahn content?? Man, you surf some kinky stuff on those German trains!!

  51. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Do some research before writing an article please..

    Read the article before writing a patronising comment please.

  52. Paul 141

    Keep spending... but remember California

    Californians thought they can spend public money, thinking its going to just keep coming.

    Guess who's bankrupt now.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Me n da Lozells yoof

    are totally looken 4ward to the first victim who opens his laptop on the 51 route.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Don't be silly

    No one uses their laptop/netbook/iPhone on the bus if they don't want it stolen, or to be stabbed while defending it.

    Personally though I'd rather be stabbed than get on a bus in the first place. I get the train in to work and it's about a million more times convenient and comfortable. And that's saying something.

    A bus is just a piece of sheet metal on wheels with a large Diesel engine at the back. It's usually packed out with children all of whom want you dead and you can't sit down without getting chewing gum or McFlurry all over your ass.

    I've been boycotting busses for years and my life couldn't be better for it.

  55. Anonymous Coward

    Laptops are everywhere. do we really need them on busses and trains too?

    Geez... I have to work with computers all day... I don't want to see them on my way to work, it's bad enough that one can't find a cafe anymore with more people in it than laptops, but now busses and trains too. Can't wait till children on the buss start throwing up on laptops or throughing paper aeroplanes through tft's... then will see how good an idea it is.

    And before working on extra features for trains and busses, maybe the rolling stock should be upgraded first. Trains here in germany are excellent and offer tv and electrical plugs for free even in second class... and german second class makes the english first class look like 5th class. In england the difference between 1st class and second is that a paper towel is placed on the head rest in first class.

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    i used to get busses to work every day

    And i can categorically state, that free wi-fi would not have improved the experience in the slightest.

    having it turn up roughly around the time it was supposed to every day, having the driver not get lost every few days and miss a few unimportant stops (that i was stood waiting at), not having a 15 minute car journey take an hour , and not having to wait half an hour to an hour between them on top of that would have improved the experience no end though.

    Oh and not having the prices arbitrarily rise by silly amounts every few months would have been a bonus too.

  57. The First Dave

    Location, Location, Location

    When are any politicians, North or South of the border, going to realise that there is a difference between the cities and the fields?

    There is bugger all 3G coverage outside of Glasgow and Edinburgh, so this is going to be a bit tricky for rural routes, and no bloody point on city busses where most people are only on board for ten to twenty minutes at a time.

    Same thing this morning, the Tories were talking about parents having more choice of what school their kids should go to - outside of the major cities, there IS no choice.

  58. Anonymous Coward

    What's the matter with you all?

    I recently spent a pleasant few weeks around the Moray Firth and my Vodafone mobile broadband dongle was fantastic...well OK it was fantatstic if you walked a mile and climbed up a local hill, finally making do with about 4-5kbps download speed, but only on dry day mind!

    No problem, let's spend millions of tax payer's cash on something that quite frankly only a handful of tech savvy, Apple fanbois will use, just to prove it works! Come on, whenever someone has a laptop out in public, it's usually got a fruit logo on the top!

  59. Bernie 2

    @ Lionel Baden

    "but i like the idea of truly anon access though"

    Not if each bus has it's own IP address.

    Busses in London all have CCTV and Oyster card readers .So seeing who was using a laptop on the bus at a certain time, then finding out that persons identity, would be trivial.

    Even if everyone on the bus was using a laptop, how hard would it be for the cops to run a background check on 30 people? Do you recon they'd not bother?

    Then check the MAC addresses of any seized goods equipment against the DHCP log and bingo.

    No one is anonymous in this country anymore.

  60. Bernie 2

    @ Lionel Baden

    I do of course realise that this article is about Scotland - and I don't know what kind of surveillance their busses have. But the same thing is possible, they have only to implement it.

  61. Andy ORourke

    Public transport is SHITE

    Look, last time I used public transport I went to Oxford to see a comedy show, I thought me and the wife could make a day of it so we left early (4 hours before we needed to be in the venue, train journey was advertised at about an hour or so) on a Saturday afternoon, got the bus just across the road from our house (how convenient).

    Or at least tried to, it turns out that that particular bus at that particular time doesn't go into town (I live in Basingstoke, not some little vilage) I asked the driver where / when we could get the next bus to town but he didnt know (or maybe didnt understand my question). Walked to the other end of the street where we know another bus service runs and the next bus wasn't for an hour which meant we would have missed our planned train service.

    I got the car and drove to the train station. Parked in the (frankly astronomically priced car park where I couldnt even leave the car overnight so no drinking for me) and wandered down to the station only to find that the train we had booked for had been cancelled due to lack of staff!

    The next train from Basingstoke to Oxford was in an hour and meant we would have missed the start of the show (which, as it turns out, we may have had to leave early to get the last train back). Can you guess what happened next? that's right, off to the car (where I had just paid £8.00 for 10 minutes parking) and drive to oxford.

    Now at this point public transport did work because I used the park and ride which was excellent, the drivers were knowledgeable and helpful so Kudos to Oxford.

    This weekend me and the wife are off into London on Sunday to a TV show recording, Just checked and found it will cost us £45 on the train and there are many works going on on the tube lines so guess how we are getting there? thats right, Me, the wife (and Jane from Tom Tom) are going to drive into London (probably faster than the 1 hour 5 minutes journey time and not having to stop twice to change cars)

    WiFi, Pah, I'd settle for something that gets me there faster, cheaper and more efficiently than my car. Public transport, it's a nice idea if it wasnt just so fucked up!

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