back to article UK is first class for train Wi-Fi in Europe

On-train wireless internet connectivity is growing fast in Europe - but even faster in the UK, which now has more than 2,000 Wi-Fi equipped carriages. This supposedly makes passengers far more productive during their waking hours, much to the annoyance of rail operator HS2. Tech consultancy BWCS has been looking at the …


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  1. MDebelic

    Germany, Italy

    How can Germany be the "nearest competitor" with 911 carriages when Italy has 995?

    1. Silverburn

      Re: Germany, Italy

      Because German is close to Britain than Italy...?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      So what, except for a few who use it for entertainment on the train, if forces those of us who commute to work to spend more time at our virtual desks being expected to work in our own time without the bonus of overtime.

      Soon the boss will say, 'have you finished that 36 page amendment report I sent you at 5am this morning?'


      'What do you mean no, you've been on the train for an hour!'

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: F***

        I used to commute into London each day from the Styx, a total of 1hr 30 on the train each way. My boss wanted a project I was working on to finish ahead of time, he said what can I do to help you work better, I got a laptop and allowed to leave an hour early, in return for doing a little coding on the train.

        Got to keep the laptop too when I ditched the 5hr daily commute!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: F***

        How much work can you do on a train when you're folded double into a luggage rack and looking enviously at the bloke whose paid £3000 quid for a season ticket entitling him to travel in the toilet?

        1. LinkOfHyrule
          Paris Hilton

          How much work can you do on a train

          I once saw bloke coding on a Macbook, whist standing up waiting for the train at Clapham Junction, then continue his coding in the middle of a packed South West Trains "Blue Train" still standing up using his "lap" top, and this train was rammed, it being the evening rush hour! He was still at it when I left the train at Woking and I think the next stop was Winchester so you can clearly do about 50 minuets work no probs lol

          These bloody fanbois are committed, you gotta give them some credit! I bet Windows laptops just aint got what it takes to knock up a bit of the old C whilst on the move, standing up, with a stockbroker's sweaty armpit in your face!

          Paris, because she is big fan of commuter rolling stock obviously.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: F***

        Seems that if people can work without being at the office, why go into the office so much in the first place?

        1. LinkOfHyrule

          Re: F***

          That's a really good point - this dude could seriously code anywhere, I can imagine him poking at some APIs while on the bog with that thing! He might as well stay in bed and write his apps. Maybe he's got a fetish for being squished up in a railway carriage though...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Playing games and looking at porn is not productive for the employer.

    1. Silverburn

      Re: 'Productivity' least looking at porn on the train will guarantee the seat next to you remains sure and wear an old trenchcoat to complete the "I'm-a-dirt-perv" look.

      That's assuming you get a seat in the first place, of course.

    2. Syntax Error
      Thumb Up

      Re: 'Productivity'

      Does it matter? No of course not. Its really good that free wifi is available on our trains and nice to know that for a change we are ahead of other countries.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 'Productivity'

        Free, for all of 15 minutes !

        Useful - NOT

        I get better connectivity from my T-Mobile Portable 3g Router.

  3. Silverburn

    Ha, ha! almost got me there...

    ...Britain actually *leading* anything to do with rail services (other than charging the highest prices, and having the highest passenger to carriage ration outside of India) - almost had me there.

    God, I'll be glad when tomorrow comes and all these April fool jokes are done.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ha, ha! almost got me there...

      You've never caught a long distance train in France then I take it? India's 2nd class a/c carriages are quite pleasant by comparison. (Mind you they need to be as you are going to be spending a long time in one to make significant progress.)

  4. NightFox

    I've never found 3G to be of much use on train journeys as, intercity, you're almost by definition spending most of your time inbetween the areas that will be well served by 3G towers. For me it's always slurp what you can whilst you're in the stations, because 5 minutes after leaving it'll be GPRS or nothing until you reach the next one. That said, I've usually had wifi available to me but I've always been too tight to pay the hotel-rate charges for on-train wifi. It's not just about availability, it's about cost.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The thing is... they give you 30 minutes free per journey usually.... so considering this is a tech website, i'll give you 30 seconds to figure out how to get free wifi for the whole journey....

      1. NightFox

        30 mins free? If only :-(

      2. AceRimmer

        Free WiFi

        I always get free WiFi for the entire journey... as long as the train is wifi equipped that is

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Leigh Geary

      To be honest the Virgin trains normally have GSM boosters so you get reliable calls and your dongle remains satisfied for the journey.

      As for the point about working too many hours, I heartily agree. Those extra hours are never paid and, the more you do, the more you're expected to do.

      Oh, and usually I'm sat on a non-Virgin train in one of the 3 "standard class" carriages (why the hell are there dozens of empty first class ones?!).

      I'm the guy sat next to the person frantically re-dialling his friend / colleague and losing the call again 5 minutes later.... It goes something like this...

      "Hello? Yeah, I'm on the train now.... Hello? Hello?"


      "Yeah sorry, I'm on the train... I know Yeah.. Crap isn't it.... Hello? Hello?"


      "Yeah sorry. So you were saying what? Oh yeah.... About 6 million mate.. Yeah yeah.... Wait... Hello ? Hello Hello?"

      Repeat that for 2 hours solid...

    4. Tom 38

      NightFox, what network? My tablet is 02, and my phone is 3. On a train journey from London to Ipswich, I rarely lose 3G on my phone - just one or two deadspots - but my tablet is exactly as you describe. I think O2 are just a bit shit.

      My 3 phone has no signal in more places than when I was on O2, but I get 3G in far more places.

      1. NightFox

        Funny you should ask - O2.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How sad

    I think it's really sad when, 50 years after we were all told that robots would be doing most of our work, leaving us with more leisure time, we've gone from doing the 9-5 to getting up earlier and reading emails whilst getting a feebly inadequate breakfast , jumping on a train and then working on laptops (now networked so we can communicate with the office), work through our lunch hour, only leave work when we've finished the job rather than when we stop being paid, go home on the same train using the same wi-fi to do even more work believing this is somehow reducing tomorrow's workload, and then pop into the supermarket to buy an overpriced bottle of spirits or wine to get blind drunk before getting a good 5-6 hours sleep.

    That's progress for you.

    It makes you wonder why people are so quick to foam at the mouth about benefits scroungers. Are they really just angry at the layabouts' work ethic, or more frustrated with their own? It also makes you wonder what the scroungers see when they look back over the fence at you...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How sad

      Here, here!

      I was going to write something about not caring if the figures for the HS2 don't add up. If it means an extra hour with loved ones for the weary commuter then it's worth every penny to society in the long run.

      Oh, and 3G reception from the south into Waterloo is all but unusable. If buses have managed to have free wi-fi (using 3G for the back haul I guess?) for many years, invariably more expensive trains should certainly have had this licked by now. And it certainly should be gratis to passengers.

    2. Tom Wood

      Sounds like you need...

      a new job.

  6. Frostbite

    Too bloody expensive though

  7. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Might have Wifi in loads of carriages but does it work?

    I tried East Coast Trains (I think) free five minutes and the damn thing wouldn't even hold a connection to the login page properly.

    1. Bodestone

      I agree. Working wi-fi would be even better

      It takes 20 minutes to connect, when you can. It never remembers you from last time so you have to go through account creation every time then it claims to offer you 15 minutes for free per month I believe, not per journey (though of course with it not remembering you from last time..)

      15 minutes is just about enough to get logged in to whatever you wanted to do since it is barely better than mobile internet anyway.

    2. Ommerson

      Better than EMT

      The Wifi on ECML is actually quite reliable compared to the East Midlands Trains between London and Nottingham. Rubbish 3G as well along the line of route, so I guess we know how they're back hauling it.

      The good news is that GSM-R is getting rapidly rolled out along the rail network for signalling and train control purposes. It's perfectly possible to use the spare capacity for mobile data.

  8. Crisp

    Trains have wifi

    I'd be grateful if trains were just cleaned every once in a while and had a seat available for me to sit down on.

    But no... The powers that be think that I'd be better off with wifi :(

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Trains have wifi

      "I'd be grateful if train toilets were just cleaned every once in a while and had a seat that I would risk sitting down on"

      Fixed that for you.

  9. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Productivity != Creativity

    Most office workers produce very little of any actual worth. Unless you count as useful sending numerous emails to hordes of people about things they don't care about (and probably won't read, anyway).

    Far better than spending your travel time on the administrative equivalent of a hamster's wheel is to sit back, clear your mind and use the opportunity for some blue-sky thinking. All it would take would be one really good idea from one talented individual to recoup the whole cost of this new train-set.

  10. Richard 81


    If you're in first class then fine (although it means I hate you). Otherwise, you have to pay through the nose for it and probably won't get any work done anyway if it's busy (or contains one ore more teenager, baby or squaddie).

    Besides. If I'm expected to work on the train during my commute then the ticket should be paid for without it being a taxable benefit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well

      That is true with first class, I've tried working in Standard coaches, and the seats just are not big enough...

      and for me, the extra room in first class is worth a few ££ more so I can get an extra 1-2 hours work in a day, the problem is when your boss expects you to work on the train, but doesn't pay overtime or allow you to leave early...

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Well

      If you book it right (off-peak, in advance) first class can be cheaper than cattle class if the train company has this policy

      1. Danny 14

        Re: Well

        indeed. Depends on your job. I need to commute from up norf to london a couple of times a month but I know the dates in advance. I book first class advance and it costs me £20 return extra. I pay the difference between standard and first class and work pays the rest (as long as I submit the two "quotes" from the same website). Weekdays on virgin you get food too and the lounge gives free coffee and fruit in Euston(usually standing room only). Only good on advance fares though. Since you get free wifi on the train and a couple of drinks it is more than worth the £20 for me.

        1. Yet Another Commentard

          Re: Well

          I commute Brum to London 3-4 times a week. I have a pass, as it works out cheapest when you can't predict which train you'll be on. Are you sitting down? Cost per month is still over £1,400 for first class. Without one it would be nearly that a week.

          I agree, it's worth the extra for sake of having a seat with a decent table, no crowding, food (usually passable, breakfast is consistently good), and a large gin on the way home. But still, £1,400 a MONTH! At least my firm gets the tab, even if they expect me to be on the vpn while on the train.

  11. Only me!


    What a load of tosh these numbers are.......

    x carriages have wifi....most carriages do not pay for wifi.

    That is certainly rubbish in the UK.....ok you get a train with 8 carriages 4 first class with 10 passengers in each and 4 standard class with 20 people standing in each carriage unable to even use their laptop and on top of that ALL of them have to pay.

    Could we have the numbers broken down to the number of passengers that that can get it for free v the number that have to pay.....that will make the figures a lot more realistic, but the train companies will not release such figures a I dare say.

    Another load of spin, that us train passengers do not fall for.

  12. SMabille

    Too far from the capital?

    Isn't the point of trains to move you between towns? So 3G works fine as long as you stay in London (probably standing at the station)?

    And from experience on First-Great Western, the limit of the capital, at least on Vodafone and 3 is Hayes (at best) after that it's very patchy/inconsistent except highly built area (Slough and Reading station basically!).

    And, of course First Great Western being at the top end of the innovation curve (probably equivalent to what an amoeba is to human development), no Wifi in their carriage. They are just rolling out Pay-extortionate-price-as-you-don't-watch outdated Simpson episodes seat blurry LCD screen....

  13. totalpacketloss

    100% wifi

    Great - all these carriages have Wifi.

    So you can connect (and as an example here,) East Coast Trains. The problem is that the train doesn't connect to anything else. You leave Kings Cross northbound and spend the next 15 minutes trying to maintain a session - which due to tunnels and mobile blackspots you just can't do.

    Would be more meaningful if the trains had some better way of connecting to the net rather than a couple hundred passengers all trying to use a couple of 3G routers.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: 100% wifi

      To be fair it's not easy. You try walking alongside a train plugging the modem lead into the next phone socket as it moves at 3 or 4 mph, if that Mr Stephenson ever reaches the 30mph he claims his rocket can do it will be impossible,

  14. squilookle

    The French might not have many wifi hotspots on their trains

    But the trains do a vastly superior job of doing what trains are meant to do - getting you to where you want to be - in my experience. Seriously, some of their trains make ours look like a really old, neglected train set.

    Perhaps we could focus on the basics of running a train network before we start throwing money at things like this which, as the author points out, will eventually become redundant.

    @Anonymous Coward 08:18: The pint icon is for your post.

    1. Jon Press

      Re: The French might not have many wifi hotspots on their trains

      The TGV network is generally very good.

      The regional rail networks in France have been devolved to local government with a legacy of under-investment but no funding to remedy it. If you think UK regional rail services are poor, you should experience the assortment of elderly carriages crawling once or twice a day along poorly-maintained track in rural France. Or more likely the replacement bus service picking up and dropping off the poor and elderly outside the dilapidated stations.

  15. graeme leggett Silver badge

    declining not improving

    A couple of years ago, I travelled on East Coast Mainline service.

    wifi was available throughout the journey, worked (after a brief registration was completed), and was free.

    this January, I travelled again on the same East Coast mainline route

    wifi was available, but was now charged for all but a brief 15 minutes of free use. 15 minutes for a journey between Peterborough and Aberdeen.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: declining not improving

      A couple of years ago the ECML was operated by National Express. A few years before, by GNER. They both went bust. Government now runs it directly, and monetising things like WiFi is one of their strategies for recouping the costs of failed privatisation.

      Repeated failures of franchises won't stop them re-privatising it, of course, they plan to do that by the start of 2014, probably (like Northern Rock), offered to a sole bidder at a knock-down price.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "That's bad news for High Speed Rail though, as the justification for HS2 (the £17bn high-speed London/Birmingham connection) assumes all travellers are entirely unproductive during transit and thus the 30 minute reduction in travelling time benefits the economy."

    This is a myth developed by Bucks council, the taxpyer alliance and other such luddite country bumpkin NIMBY types. The HS2 business plan makes no such assumption. Further, the productivity argument is only secondary to HS2's business case, the primary being capacity, not speed. HS2 is high speed because it may as well be; it doesn't cost any more than building a traditional line, and either way we need new lines.

    You could at least try and pretend to reference what you're doing. At least Mr Page makes that effort when he's proselytising about the envirofascists.

    1. Chris Miller

      You must work for HS2

      The current Economic Case for HS2 (pdf) contains a lengthy discussion of "the value of travel time for business passengers". There is an assumption that you can't be productive in a train.

      If the issue were really one of capacity, for a small fraction of the cost of Phase 1 (London-Birmingham) of HS2, we could eliminate bottlenecks on the existing West Coast line and provide longer trains, as well as electrifying the Chiltern line. This would reduce the HS2 time savings to 10 minutes, almost enough time to walk from the new terminus at Curzon Street to catch your connection at New Street. It would also benefit those who live on small rural hamlets along the route, such as Coventry and Milton Keynes. Search for Rail Package 2 on the DfT site.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You must work for HS2

        oh good lord, engage your brain.

        Note what i said. No such "assumption". The business case doesn't contain any assumption on the topic of productivity, it contains a pretty comprehensive meta-analysis of the topic (even a meta-meta-analysis in some cases). That's not what we call an assumption, that's what we call science.

        You will also note that the analysis of the worth of work during travel time is the second last sub-section of the last section of a fourty-odd page consultation document. How about we quote from the first non-summary paragraph of that report you're citing in your support?

        "The catalyst for the Government’s assessment of new line and enhancement options on the key north-south rail routes is the continuing pattern of demand growth for rail travel, which is forecast to outstrip available capacity over the coming decades."

        Oh, what a surprise, the primary factor motivating HS2 isn't speed, it's bloody capacity.

        And don't bloody prattle on about electrification/modernisation of existing lines. A new line represents at least a 100% improvement in capacity on inter-city routes, again, the very article you linked concludes that RP2/RP2A provide only the most minor of savings (some £1.4b from a ~£15b project) while representing significantly reduced improvements in terms of capacity, which, to reiterate, is the entire point of HS2.

        1. Chris Miller

          Re: You must work for HS2

          You're quoting from a publicity piece put together by the engineering consortia that would benefit from HS2 as though it's some peer-reviewed piece of physics. You then refer to anyone who draws attention to the gaping holes in this puffery as a brainless bumpkin.

          The original (paper thin) cost-justification of HS2 has been blown out of the water - even the PR pieces on the DfT web site have to admit the financial return is now "low", which means to anyone with knowledge of government infrastructure projects that it will make a thundering great loss. At a time when we're closing hospitals and sacking police because we can't afford them, spending vast sums on a vanity project like HS2, which isn't even a good investment for the railways, is beyond idiotic.

          Since this is an IT site, I've a thought for you to engage your mighty brain on. How about spending a small part of this money on providing FTTH, allowing more people to work from home and eliminating some of the need to shuttle between London and Birmingham? Let's have some 21st century technology, rather than 19th century.

          If you don't work for HS2, it must be their PR agency.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: You must work for HS2

            "How about spending a small part of this money on providing FTTH, allowing more people to work from home and eliminating some of the need to shuttle between London and Birmingham?"

            First thing that comes to mind is because luddite bosses won't let you work from home and second is that some people just cannot be trusted to get work done. I, like others here, work in IT on the development side. No overpowering need to be in the office more than 1 or 2 times per week. 5 times or nothing is the requirement, with the nothing being P45.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: You must work for HS2

          "Note what i said. No such "assumption". The business case doesn't contain any assumption on the topic of productivity, it contains a pretty comprehensive meta-analysis of the topic (even a meta-meta-analysis in some cases). That's not what we call an assumption, that's what we call science."

          What utter crap. The "meta-analysis" might as well be metaphysics. HS2 is a ghastly unecessary boondoggle, promoted by those who benefit from it, and supported by utterly unfeasible numbers. As somebody who has managed a multi-billion pound investment programme, I know a shit business case when I see one. As somebody in the target market (West Mids to London business traveller) I can see no material benefit only vast cost. And even with the vast expense of HS2 the wankers who have planned this have decided on a Curzon Street terminus in Birmingham, which is totally unconnected to the city's existing transport infrastructure, it just happens to be an unsued patch of land, rather inconveniently sited. At Euston, you've got a very, very poor interchange for onward connections to the City, and a terminal building that's barely suitable for current levels of traffic. And for onward travel, they haven't even thought the obvious of taking it into St Pancras to make a proper high speed route interchange.

          If the incompetent turds at the Department for Transport wish to upgrade the network to meet this incredible growth in capacity, then all they need to do is (a) convert the existing first class carriages to second, and (b) lengthen the Pendolinos by two carriages. There's a few platforms need lengthening, but those changes alone would increase the seating capacity of each train by around 50%.

          And finally you obviously haven't been paying attention, but the HS1 link to the Channel tunnel has left the taxpayer sitting on an extra £4.8 billion of debt. Why won't people like you learn? I can understand people like Cameron wanting this, because it'll be his rich mates wanting to build it, and because the man is utterly clueless. You quote the business case numbers as though they were fact - they aren't. They are estimates, and projections, if you like guesses. No commercial financier would touch HS2 if their return were dependant upon the accuracy of the numbers. But tax payers? We've got twat MP's top make the decision on our behalf, and everybody knows public money is free.

          What's your excuse for thinking that HS2 makes sense?

  17. John Burton


    And if it didn't cost £40 a month on virgin trains it might be useful ...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    First Great Western

    Is there WiFi on any of FGW's trains? Or is this another service they've neglected - along with customer service, punctuality, sufficient trains and new rolling stock?

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Enhanced 3G my arse

    Travelled Birmingham to Euston twice last week on Virgin Trains. Both times the label by my seat said "enhanced mobile reception on this train". Both times I lost my connection (Three network USB dongle) in every tunnel.

  20. Daniel Hill

    Not sure you can really call HS2 a 'Rail Operator' yet, as it hasn't even got permission to build the track to operate on!

    South West Trains have just announced a roll-out of Wifi to their Class 444 'long-distance' fleet, but not the Class 450 outer-suburban stock.

    This would make sense, except they tend to chop and change between the two types on some lines. Class 450s are used as far as Portsmouth in the peaks (surely when there'd be most demand for wi-fi) , and they even occasionally make it all the way to Weymouth!

    What would be useful is having reliable free wifi in the London Terminals. Trying to get a 3G signal on GiffGaff (O2) in the evening peak is nigh on impossible, because the networks are simply swamped by all the commuters doing the same.

    Even worse if you are trying to look up train information during disruption (when you can get better info form Twitter or the National Rail app than the staff or screens at the station!)

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Free wifi in UK is a Joke

    I just returned to the UK from my current life in the far east, where free wifi means you just have to ask for a password.

    Everywhere i went in the UK that was public wanted a credit card to get 30 mins of free wifi.

    Has the ASDA 'forever' bug hit the rest of the UK,

    The only place that i found was free was a weatherspoons pub which offered "the cloud" which only required an email to get 30 mins fee.

    Also wifi is pretty sparse in the UK compared to over here where almost every bar / shop / train station / tube station etc etc has free wifi.

    Tap yourselves on the back UK for being up there with Germany, but really Europe is still down in the toilet when it comes to competition in tech.

  22. JohnG

    Work not possible without WiFi?

    Whilst there are activities which require Internet connectivity (like email), reviewing documents, writing documents, changing project plans, creating drawings, coding, etc. are all things which can be done with a little forward planning and not internet connection.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    not South West trains it isnt

    For reading email, 3G connectivity isn't bad from a train in the UK,"

    Has the article writer ever used the train from Portsmouth to Waterloo - even within spitting distance of teh capaital on either O2 or Vodi the signal is pathetic at best, whether it be on Blackberry, iPhone, Ipad or Laptop....

  24. welshie

    The suggestion about wifi on trains making HS2 unnecessary is bogus. Passenger numbers on trains are rising, the network is running over capacity for much of the time. There are only so many carriages full of wifi swilling, pasty eating, self-loading freight that can fit down a railway track in a given time.

    The main requirement for HS2 is to rebuild capacity into the network, much of which was taken away in the Beeching Years, because it wasn't just branch lines that were cut, the main lines, such as the Great Central Railway, along whose route HS2 is due to follow in part.

    And so, if you're (re-)building a brand new railway track, as an engineer, you'd at least try to build it to modern standards, and capable of high speeds.

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