Wi-Fi for rail passengers

Rail passengers travelling between Norwich and London will at last have access to Wi-Fi connections on their trains after a �546,000 deal was struck to provide it.

Rail passengers travelling between Norwich and London will at last have access to Wi-Fi connections on their trains after a �546,000 deal was struck to provide it.

National Express East Anglia (NXEA) is to introduce the facilities on all intercity services to the capital by the end of the year after receiving �346,000 grant from the East of England Development Agency, and Norfolk and Suffolk County councils, to pay the costs of installing the equipment, while the rail operator will meet the �200,000 a year running costs.

Under the plans, first class passengers will get free access, while there will be a small charge for standard class users, which has yet to be determined.

Access to Wi-Fi on trains is seen as key to improving the service - particularly for business users, and was one of the five demands put forward by businesses, councils, and Norfolk MPs to help boost the county's economy.

The deal, which will be formally signed at Norwich Railway Station today, follows 18 months of work to prepare a detailed business case.

Andrew Chivers, NXEA managing director, said the upgrade was an “exciting initiative” and he was grateful for the support of the councils and the business community for making it possible.

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“It illustrates our ongoing commitment to continue to invest in improving train services for our customers in the region following the recent launch of our service improvement plan, which is centred on providing extra seats on services into London over the next two years,” he said. “The first stage of that programme began last December and with further benefits to follow in December 2010 and next year.”

The funding agreement will see Eeda put in two thirds of the cash, �234,000, and the two councils will split the rest equally between them.

Richard Ellis, Eeda chairman, said there was a compelling business case for the investment and the organisation was keen to take a leading role in projects that had a real impact on business productivity.

“The project would not have gone ahead without the combined funding from Eeda, and Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils. It is a great example of how by working together we can secure economic benefits for those living and working in the East of England,” Mr Ellis said.

Adrian Gunson, cabinet member for planning and transportation at Norfolk County Council said: “The big advantage of inter-city rail travel for business is that the time spent on the move can be put to good use. Wi-Fi on the train means that it can be used even more productively.”

Guy McGregor, portfolio holder for roads, transport and planning at Suffolk County Council, said: “Railway services from London into Ipswich and Norwich ought to be regarded as an important intercity route and this support for the business traveller, as well as the more general computer user, will give credibility to this claim.”

Caroline Williams, chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce said good connectivity was key to business success.

“This is great news for Norfolk's business community,” she said.