Super-fast broadband is on track
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.