In May I wrote a blog post about internet access on the train. I talked about how in the past I had used various devices to connect to the internet while travelling on the train. A few weeks after writing the article I upgraded my Nexus One to Froyo 2.2 and now that is my main method of connecting my laptop or iPad to the internet while travelling with First Great Western. In the first article I did say:
One thing I have noticed though is that though my 3G connection from Bristol to London is pretty good, travelling on the Voyager trains from Bristol to Birmingham, the signal is really poor.
I initially thought this was just down to the route, but I have heard that the main issue is the construction of the train and the metallised windows. This basically blocks the 3G signal! So even with a Mifi, nexus one or a dongle it’s difficult to use 3G. One suggestion that I heard from John Popham was to keep the Mifi near the door area and that may mean a better signal.
I did wonder why CrossCountry Trains didn’t put in wifi as you find on the East Coast Main Line services and Virgin Trains Pendolino. Well it appears that providing wifi was part of their Franchise agreement with the Department of Transport. CrossCountry Trains was suppose to have wifi in place by November 11th 2009. They failed to meet this deadline and the revised deadline of the end of January, according to The Telegraph that was published in a recent article.
The service was supposed to be in place by November 11 last year. The company was given until the end of January to install the service, but this date was missed as well.
The response from CrossCountry was
CrossCountry suggested that the growing use of dongles, devices which link computers to the mobile phone network, meant that WiFi was no longer necessary.
Which when you consider the problems of metallised windows is a laughable excuse, more so when CrossCountry also say in that article,
A CrossCountry spokesman said the delay was due to technical difficulties especially on the Voyager trains where the signal needed for WiFi is weakened by the high metallic content in the windows.
Yes it does do that.
However the reason wifi works on other trains is that they put the wifi on the inside of the train and the internet connection on the outside of the train.
CrossCountry said they would provide wifi and so they should provide wifi.
They have now been fined twice and if by September 30th they still haven’t installed wifi then they will be fined again.
My question though is much more, why isn’t there wifi on First Great Western services from the West Country to London and why wasn’t it in their franchise agreement? I travel with First Great Western much more than I do CrossCountry and would really like it if they had wifi.