Following the announcement that National Express East Anglia (NXEA) will be the latest UK train line to offer onboard internet via Wi-Fi in the New Year, it has been highlighted that Britain is by far outstripping Europe in delivering the service.
On the UK routes it is offered, Wi-Fi is either made available on all or most of the operational trains. This gives almost all passengers the option of accessing the internet for business or leisure while travelling.
In contrast, provision in Europe is much scarcer. Italy, Spain, Ireland, Holland and Austria have virtually no access to the service when travelling by rail. Even in France, Belgium and Germany Wi-Fi is only offered on a select few train services.
Germany provides the strongest competition, with coverage on routes between Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich and Cologne. However, Wi-Fi technology is again only available on the latest upgraded trains and does not serve trains heading east to the capital, Berlin.
The cost of accessing onboard Wi-Fi varies quite significantly. While all train operating companies with the technology provide free unlimited access to First Class passengers, only three extend this service to Standard Class. The charge for Standard Class passengers varies between £1.50 per journey to £5 for an hour.