Su­per-fast broad­band is on track

The Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

ALAN SIMP­SON

and, if suc­cess­ful, it will be ex­tended across the en­tire Bri­tish net­work.

Cur­rently, pas­sen­gers trav­el­ling by train be­tween Scot­land’s two big­gest cities can ac­cess less than 10 per cent of the new ca­pa­bil­ity.

Wifi con­nec­tion can also be af­fected by tun­nels, trees and rail­way em­bank­ments, which makes the ser­vice slow and un­re­li­able.

Cisco has stud­ied net­works in Asia, Italy and the US and has worked with the ScotRail Al­liance and the UK Gov­ern­ment to bring it to Scot­land.

Rob Short­house, ScotRail Al­liance com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor, said: “Our cus­tomers con­sis­tently tell us one of the things they ex­pect on their jour­ney is fast, re­li­able wifi.

“This pi­lot scheme, which we are un­der­tak­ing on be­half of the en­tire rail in­dus­try, will al­low us to fully un­der­stand how we take our cur­rent on-train wifi to the next level. We are re­ally ex­cited to be in­volved.”

The present on­board mo­bile ser­vices means 33 per cent of in­ter­net re­quests on trains fail and with 1.4 bil­lion jour­neys a year this equates to mil­lions of lost hours of pro­duc­tiv­ity, missed op­por­tu­nity for online re­tail­ers and po­ten­tially dis­sat­is­fied pas­sen­gers.

Ac­cord­ing to ex­perts at Cisco, the dif­fer­ence be­tween the cur­rent ca­pac­ity and the new sys­tem is akin to stream­ing a mu­sic ser­vice with in­ter­rupted cov­er­age and down­load­ing the en­tire Bea­tles back cat­a­logue in un­der two min­utes.

Scot Gard­ner, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Cisco UK and Ire­land, said: “Project Swift em­bod­ies the art of the pos­si­ble.

“If the UK is to truly ben­e­fit from what dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies have to of­fer, then con­nec­tiv­ity has to be a given even when trav­el­ling at 140mph. If only a frac­tion of the time that we spend trav­el­ling is made more pro­duc­tive, the po­ten­tial for com­muters, the train com­pa­nies and the UK as a whole is im­mense.”

Rail op­er­a­tors, in­clud­ing ScotRail, hope the su­per-fast broad­band will also re­duce over­crowd­ing on trains or empty seats on busy trains.

Cisco be­lieves the in­ter­net ser­vice can be used to pro­vide in­stant in­for­ma­tion on crowd­ing on trains that will en­able rail op­er­a­tors to dis­play at the sta­tion or in an app in­for­ma­tion on which car­riages have spare seats so all ca­pac­ity can be best used.

If a train is very crowded then a pas­sen­ger can also opt to wait for the next one if they know they will get a seat.

It is hoped that in the fu­ture it could all be tied to smart tick­et­ing.

The project is funded by the UK Gov­ern­ment’s In­no­vate UK and Rails Safety and Stan­dards Board.

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