Northern Rail Offers Free Wi-Fi Thanks To Government Funding

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Commuters in Leeds and Bradford to benefit from Super Connected Cities funding

Northern Rail is offering free Wi-Fi to passengers on some routes after it became the first train operator to receive funding from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The service is available on Northern Rail’s electric trains, which operate between Skipton, Ilkley and Bradford Forster Square, with travellers receiving 20MB of free data, or unlimited use of free entertainment content from Spoken Ink.

TV shows from Now TV, audiobooks from Audible and other games, music and news headlines are stored locally and streamed to passengers’ devices, freeing up the wireless connection for those who want to work, check email or social media.

Northern Rail told TechWeekEurope there is no premium service for those who want more data or a faster connection.

Train Wi-Fi

Northern Rail“We’ve seen a great take up in the on-board Wi-Fi, registering over 100,000 users so far and customers have been telling us they love the speed as well as the content,” said Rob Warnes, planning and programmes director at Northern Rail.

The project received £750,000 of government funding and is a joint initiative between the train operator, Leeds City Council, City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

The money is coming from the SuperConnected Cities programme, a government scheme designed to provide superfast broadband to businesses and Wi-Fi networks in urban areas.

“The SuperConnected Cities programme aims to give access to the latest broadband technologies to everyone – businesses, residents and visitors – across the two cities,” said Councillor James Lewis on behalf of all three local authorities. “Introducing free Wi-Fi on-board Northern’s electric trains between Leeds and Bradford is opening up even more opportunities to rail users on the go.”

The government has committed to spending millions of pounds in a new free superfast Wi-Fi network for commuter trains heading into London, partly funded by a £53.1 million fine issued to Network Rail for missing punctuality targets on long-distance services over the past five years.

A number of other train operators and stations also offer Wi-Fi at stations, while the Scottish government has already pledged £2 million to bring free Wi-Fi on ScotRail express trains and Transport Scotland has spent £863,000 to double the number of wireless-enabled stations to 52.

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