STAY CONNECTED ON BOARD
THE rise of the internet has led to demands from travellers across the globe for connectivity, and rail operators have taken on the challenge with the availability of on-board wi-fi on many train routes, allowing passengers to keep in touch 24/7 no matter where they are in the world. Internet connections on trains are naturally popular with the corporate market who can keep working door to door, while leisure travellers also enjoy the ability to use social networks, surf the internet and even plan their next trip. US rail operator Amtrak offers free onboard wi-fi to its guests on many services, with a major upgrade of its systems announced earlier this year which offers internet access to more than 90% of customers. The Amtrakconnect service is now available on long-distance services such as the Cardinal (New York - Washington D.C. - Cincinatti - Indianapolis - Chicago), the Crescent (New York - Atlanta - New Orleans), the Lake Shore Limited (New York - Boston - Albany - Chicago) and the Silver Service (New York - Washington D.C. - Charleston - Savannah - Jacksonville - Orlando - Tampa/miami). The Eurostar train between London and Paris and onwards into Europe also keeps customers connected along the route – even in the Channel Tunnel – as it speeds across borders and timezones. Free onboard wi-fi is available between London and Paris, and is progressing to other routes as new and refurbished carriages roll out. Some TGV services in France also offer broadband connections for a fee. In Japan the Jr-west rail service which journeys from Kyoto to Hakata launched a free hotspot service in March this year. International travellers must present their passport at the station in order to obtain an access code which is valid for 8 days, and provides access at most stations on the network. The Haruka airport express train to Kansai also offers wi-fi throughout the cabin. Another option to stay connected during rail travel is to use a wi-fi “dongle” or a tethered smartphone. The proliferation of 4G connectivity means this is likely to be the way of the future, and there are many providers who will sell or rent a SIM card suitable for travellers. And of course, on a train wherever there is a signal available, these devices will provide access.