East Coast trains to charge for free WiFi, like it's 2005 or something

Bitterwallet - East Coast logoWhen the East Coast mainline was operated by National Express, WiFi was introduced to their trains, much to the delight of passengers. What wasn't so delightful was the cost - a fiver an hour was extortionate. Then National Express got wise, and realised in the face of increasing competition from budget airlines, WiFi was something of a dealbreaker for passengers when travelling between the North and South.

Fast forward several years to the present day, and National Express no longer holds the East Coast mainline franchise. East Coast, a government-backed company was brought in last year to manage operations, and up until now all has been well. Until this week at least, when East Coast seem to be doing everything possible to prove themselves a bunch a insufferable, inflexible twats. There's the outrage over charging a passenger £155 for leaving a train one stop early, and now passengers have learnt that East Coast will begin charging standard class passengers for WiFi access from October.

Here's the statement from their website, oozing with delicious spin:

Wireless internet that’s quicker, better quality, and more reliable – that’s what you asked for, and that’s what we’re pleased to deliver. From early October 2010, you can experience the benefits of a new and improved Wi-Fi system onboard all East Coast trains.

The updated system uses the latest HSPA and 3G technology so you will enjoy a more reliable Wi-Fi connection with faster upload and download speeds while you travel. Aerials and modems have also been updated, ensuring the system is compatible with future communication standards.

All Standard Class passengers will be entitled to 15 minutes free access to the improved Wi-Fi system. Thereafter, access will be charged at £4.95 for 60 minutes or £9.95 for 24 hours. First Class passengers can access the service free of charge.

It's true, customers have been asking for quicker, better quality and more reliable WiFi for years, because the current service is so desperately, desperately shit - but we'll eat two hats each if any customer demanded having their wallet burgled for the privilege. So from early October, all return journeys from York and northwards to London Kings Cross will require you spending an extra £20 if you want WiFi in standard class.

If you live in the North East or Yorkshire then there's a very decent alternative - opt for Grand Central, which operate four trains daily between Sunderland and London. They're a little slower (although direct from York to KX), but the benefits more than make up for it. The ticket pricing is fixed, for one thing; book off-peak tickets in advance or on the day and you'll pay the same - between Sunderland and London return that's £40 one-way (£39 one-way from York), compared to paying £104 on the day for a one-way ticket from Newcastle on East Coast. Plus there's free tea and coffee for all passengers on Grand Central - and free WiFi. Aces.


  • CompactDistance
    If they have 15 minutes free then that is bound to be exploitable in some way.
  • Zebsy
    Interesting! I've been up to Newcastle a few times and have given up using their wifi - it just doesnt work for me. My iPhone Orange 3G connection is so much better, even when the train is moving out in the country. I did send them an email complaining about their wifi but got no reply. Shock! I see they are going to use the "latest technology" now. What technology they are currently using, though? Anyone know?
  • ButterMan
    MAC address cloning FTW! Also - free tea and coffee? Next you'll be telling me they actually give a flying fuck about providing a decent service. Bound to fail.
  • PaulH
    Yeah but...Sunderland though...
  • oliverreed
    I witnessed three poor fuckers having too pay an additional £35 each for getting on the East Coast train before their tickets permitted, two of them where carers for the third and the third guy was kicking off. I can see why they needed to come home early, the conductor, "I pride myself on knowing as little as possible", showed no compassion at all. This money grabbing story above just highlights they are CUNTS!
  • Spark
    Believe me, none of you have witnessed true Nazism until you have experienced Manchester's Metrolink. The true spirit of the 3rd Reich is alive and well is those fucking bastards.
  • Mark
    Actually GNER charged for wifi, which National Express immediately removed when they took over.
  • Colin
    The current service is not fit for anything other than 'light' surfing. So as a business user it's just not useful. If I or my work have to pay for something useful then I'll pay it. Not useful = included Useful = pay extra You get what you pay for, and depending on how good their new service is - I'll be paying. Same as you do for most other train companies.
  • Jeffro
    Two observations: 1) GNER introduced wifi free for first class, at a charge for standard class. National Express, on taking over the franchise, made it free for standard class. 2) I would rather the cost of wifi (tea, coffee, etc.) wasn't rolled in to the price of my ticket. This is why I like operators such as Ryanair; I don't pay for things I don't want or need and, as a result, can travel more cheaply. This is all.
  • Stephen H.
    Just get one of these and a 3g contract and you're off much cheaper I'd imagine http://www.solwise.co.uk/3g-routers-3g11nmrw.htm
  • dunfyboy
    ^^^ oliverreed Well done for getting to call them cunts. Usually when I call someone a cunt on here the comment has to wait for approval and never appears.
  • oliverreed
    @dunfyboy ah, but when ArticleTitle.Caption.Contains("East Coast") Then CuntNaming = True
  • Sal
    i can't believe the reaction to EAST COAST charging for it's wifi, all i want is a train running on time and a bloody seat, there wifi was shit anyway very slow and always cutting out. if internet access is is so important to you then get mobile broadband, as i have a phone contract with VODAFONE they gave me my mobile broadband for only £7.50 a month and it's excellent. Remember EAST COAST IS A NATIONALISED RAIL COMPANY RUN BY OUR GOVERNMENT so really it's the goverment that is charging for using the wifi.
  • Ducky
    @Jeffro - do you really think they'll put their ticket prices down because WiFi is no longer included? :o)
  • Rob L.
    Been on the train this morning guys and got the free 15 minutes (Damned if I'm paying a penny to these money-grabbing gits). More importantly, I can confirm it's just as shit as ever. Well done East Coast for yet another customer service own-goal.
  • Rob L.
    Also, I have a Vodafone dongle and an O2 iphone. 3G coverage all the way down the ECML is generally shit.
  • larrysandersjoe
    Re: wifi on ECML: I was hoping the GBP186.50 I pay to commute from Newark to London every other week would merit a tad more than the meagre 15 min allowance, the money-grabbing shysters; hence, I'm breaking my journey back in the morn (8am KX-Edinburgh service, then the 09:22am Peterborough - NNG) to see if I can get two sessions' worth. I shall report in due course...In the meantime, any IT experts out there who know a way of 'tricking' the wifi into forgetting one's PC identity/IP addr to enable repeat sessions?
  • larrysandersjoe
    It is possible to get multiple wifi sessions on East Coast if in position to stagger journey and have a non-specific ticket. Just taken 0700am KX train, then changed at Stevenage to get 0730am to Newark North Gate. Hope this is of some help, peeps!
  • Jamie
    THoose fines mentioned above are set out in National Rails terms of carriage nothing to do with east coast although the contuctor could been nice IN what way is there internet better NOW?? im restorted to using my 02 mobile broadband which is alot better i doubt they made it better, Not worth the pennies 500MB o2 Mobile broadband 1 month contract £5 and there charging £5 a hour
  • Peter
    They've made it better by reducing traffic by 90%. The reduction was achieved by making 90% of users pay £15 to use it, which they almost always decline to do. I used it yesterday (free 15 mins) and it was fine - but then, it was always fine for me before I get to York - once the train fills up it became totally unusable. Why they didn't simply put a QOS on each connection (25k?) is beyond me - simple fix.
  • Steve
    I do the York-London route several times a month. Tried the "quicker, more reliable" wifi and am pleased to report that it's neither. It's every bit as useless and unpredictable as ever. I suspect East Coast know this but "you now have to pay for wifi. It's still as shit as ever" is a pretty hard sell!
  • Stevo
    Yep agreed - I tried the free 15mins this week - just to check e-mails - 15 mins was up before hotmail loaded. Now that East Coast are charging perhaps there is a case for asking for compenstaion / money back if their wifi performance is so shit.
  • its f.
    when tickets are sold for specific stations on specific offers, then getting off at the wrong station could be to take advantage of a different offer (and one thats been costed as a business to supply at). so if you havent got the brains to get the right ticket or stop, dont blame the train. and wifi is fine, but i bet all those iphones etc have put a strain on it. i like my 1st class seat, with free drinks and snacks, power socket and wifi. its worth the extra on top of what can be a very very cheap standard seat price
  • TJ
    "Actually GNER charged for wifi, which National Express immediately removed when they took over" When GNER operated the service Wi-Fi was free in First class and in Standard class you had to pay. National Express made it free for all when they took over. This had the effect of overburdening the system making it next to useless. For somebody who books months in advance to get cheap First class travel I look forward to the charge in standard class. This will maintain a decent standard of Wi-Fi
  • Abhijit C.
    I travelled from Newcastle to KX today after a long time; imagine my shock and horror when the window popped up with the ££ charges! Since I was on company travel, I did cough up the 24 hr fee of £9+. In my opinion, the difference in QoS is huge. I use VPN to connect to my work network. When it was free previously, the longest I could manage to stay continuously connected was 20 mins (when lucky). Today, I've been online for the entire duration down south, and till now back north. This could definitely be due to the significantly less concurrent users due to the levy, and yes, I'm very keen on knowing what 'significant upgrades' EC has made to their WiFi
  • Malcolm
    Have to say the quality of the wifi connection is 100x worse now since they changed to charging. I never had any problems before but its hopeless now. Very disappointing.
  • Steph T.
    I often travel with EC for business and pleasure. For pleasure I always travel first class, but expenses rules mean that for business I have to travel standard. Boo. This was bad enough, but now I can't even use the internet! I'll be lucky if I can even log into my work email and read an email before the 15 mins is up. Today I tried to download a 6MB PDF. Fail. Not even half downloaded in 15 mins. The speed was running at an embarrassingly poor 6 to 7 kbps! I was considering purchasing the extra hour to finish my download, but £5 for those pathetic speeds is idiotic! I refuse to pay it out of principal. I'll wait till I get to Starbucks at my destination where I can get great speed internet for free, or at least the price of a tall mocha :)
  • James K.
    HAHAHAHAHA i know how to get free internet for as long as you want and i know how to bypass the block to youtube HAHAHAHAHA in your face east coast !!!!! If you want to know how to do it then just E-Mail me: [email protected]
  • James K.
  • Iain
    If you want to utilise the free East Coast WiFi service for more than 15 minutes then you will have to change your MAC address. The system works out your device based on the network cards MAC address so keep changing that and you will get free net for your journey. I have been sitting on East Coast WiFi for free for the past hour now and no issues other than the annoyance of having to re-connect every 15 minutes (but isn't the WiFi just that shit anyway :P) If you're using a Mac then you want to find an app called "ChangeMAC" on CNET download.com and it will sort you right out. If it isn't working for you then make sure the MAC address you are trying to set begins with 00:23: otherwise it definitely won't work on Lion. If you're on a PC then google "change mac address windows" and you will find all you need. Enjoy the free WiFi. P.S. WiFi for me has actually been not overly terrible today. Aberdeen -> Edinburgh and so far more than half way I haven't dropped out. Not getting above 16KB/s though.
  • Jon
    It's a complete con - £9.95 for 24 hours and it really doesn't work very well. 3G on iPhone much better. I'll not be doing this again. In fact, I think it worked better when it was free.... come on East Coast, you're not the bad guys in the rail business, you need to work on this. Think about the bad PR - you're overcharging for something that connects millions of people world-wide... ouch... that's not going to be good for business. I predict it will be free again by March 2012
  • Ali P.
    I've always liked travelling with East Coast. No - they're not perfect, but for the most part they have provided me with a speedy service down to London from Newcastle. I just, regrettably, paid £9.95 for the wifi on a trip back north... I've barely been able to get a page to load in during the last hour and a quarter. Eventully googled "East Coast wifi sh*te" and arrived here (after 10 minutes of waiting). I'll be amazed if this message actually gets submitted. Well, just to let anybody out there who cares... yes, it's crappola. Don't waste your money! I feel like an absolute fool!
  • larrysandersshowjoe
    Just tried this one and it works a dandy! Many thanks: "Posted by Iain • July 11, 2011 at 4:16 pm If you want to utilise the free East Coast WiFi service for more than 15 minutes then you will have to change your MAC address. The system works out your device based on the network cards MAC address so keep changing that and you will get free net for your journey."
  • Nima
    Just traveled the east coast London Kings Cross to edinburugh a few days ago... Put fake information to get the free 15 mins, was not too bad , got to check my email BUT when I saw the prices I GOT PISSED... Am going on a return trip tomorrow, hope I don't get shit free Internet services.

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