Why moan when the wi-fi is free? I'll tell you why...

11 December 2008

You know me. I don't like to moan. It's quite rare for me to complain about anything, in fact. Yessum, you'll never catch me banging on about how utterly useless everything in the modern world is. Apart from the free wi-fi on National Express' East Coast mainline. I know I may have mentioned it before, and you're right - it's free! Why the hell am I complaining?

Because it doesn't work.

I've just spent 20 minutes between Kings Cross and Peterborough trying to get a wi-fi connection on my MacBook. Have I got a rubbish laptop? That depends what you think of MacBooks really, although oddly enough the passenger next to me lost internet connection on his Dell laptop at exactly the same time. Instead of loafing about online, we were mildly annoyed to read this:

Gah. Why so vexed by a free service? Why can't I just shut the hell up and just be grateful? Two reasons. The first is that I don't like being misled; National Express is offering free wi-fi as an incentive to use their trains (and not travel by budget airlines). This is what they have to say about it:

So there you are. National Express admit to no service being available, while their literature claims that will never be the case. If you're keeping track (arf), I'm now between Peterborough and Doncaster. There have been a couple of sixty second spell of high-speed connection, and now we're back to zero. Balls.

The other concern is that it seems unlikely National Express will change the claims of "continuous service" and "uninterrupted" browsing, because they don't believe there's a problem. When Bitterwallet last contacted National Express to question the validity of the claims and whether customers were being misled, a spokesperson said:

The rising number of customers using our wi-fi (numbers tripled in the first three months since it was made free throughout the train) suggest most users are content with the facility offered.

When we suggested that it meant no so thing, and that such an increase in users was clearly the result of the service being free (instead of paying over a fiver a time as they previously did), and not necessarily because customers enjoyed a service they were satisfied with, National Express didn't reply.

Offering a free service is one thing. Making claims that we continue to struggle to validate is another. But, as I said, I don't like to moan.

TOPICS:   Gadgets


  • Codify
    Always worked fine for me. Methinks PEBKAC.
  • Steff
    "use their trains (and not travel by budget airlines). " airline - typo?
  • Ben
    Always works for me too
  • Joff
    Normally I wouldn't jump to the defence of National Express, but I've used the Peterborough to Kings X a couple of times and have fired up the N95, successfully connecting to nxecwifi. Think of this experience as karma making up for all those unsecured WiFi hotspots you've stolen in the past. Karma is a funny thing!
  • andy y.
    well my journeys from darlo to KX pass in a flash. because |i spend 3 hours trying to get my hotmail from totally pants wifi. Free is a relative term when a 2nd class return is £268
  • Dan C.
    Complain to the ASA
  • Martin
    I often find you lose connection near the stations. Away from the stations it is fine. I always save any online work as I approach a station.
  • Steve
    Works for me on my cheapo netbook and my itouch and I travel that way most days!
  • Mike H.
    You didn't see the sexy little blagg there by NE, seen it hundreds of times by companies who think our brains must be made of SPAM, feel free to take notes, It goes a little bit like this, 'You have lost connection, please ring the extortionately overpriced helpline for 2 hours and speak to a guy in Nepal, has only just grasped English, whos technical knowledge extends to saddling a yak, so we can make a chit load of money out of your incompetence, after 2 hours we'll tell you it's a problem with your hardware and you need to get online for the latest drivers'
  • Tom
    I find the wifi is absolutely rubbish from edinburgh to Newcastle, slightly rubbish from Newcastle to York and back to mainly rubbish the rest of the way to Kings Cross. However, both times I traveled in First Class The Wifi was incredibly good the majority of the trip. Don't think this is a coincidence.
  • George
    I agree with this. I think the service is generally bad. I never used to pay for it on GNER, there was the seat by the cafe that meant you could "see" the first class connection points. Now it is free, and it is partly a reason to get people to use the train rather than fly, doesn't mean it shuold be flawless. If they charged for it, then it should be flawless. Mind you Edinburgh to Newcastle has been the slowest I've experienced on this train in a long time.
  • Fin
    Just to agree with everyone, i can't get a half decent connection even at quiet times (not that there seems to be a quiet time on that route) Also its annoying they say its free, its priced into their service. I am curious if the office of fair trading would describe this as a false claim....
  • n d.
    its shite

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