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