Planning proposals vital to the construction of new masts and hence the delivery of WiFi on the new Merseyrail fleet, have been voted through after a three month delay. The pause highlighted the dependency on local planning regulations trackside networks can face.
In June, the planning committee of Wirral Council voted to delay any decision on the build out of five new masts on railway land between Bidston and New Brighton. At the time, the Council cited concerns amongst residents who felt they were not properly consulted by the applicant, Merseytravel. However, yesterday, the plans were approved by a 12 to one vote.
As well as these five masts, eleven more were approved with little debate for railway land between Bidston and West Kirby. This proposal is for the same purpose as the masts between Bidston and New Brighton.
The new Merseyrail fleet will offer passengers WiFi access on all 75 miles of the city-based rail system. This includes around eight miles of tunnels. The wireless system that will enable all this to happen is being installed by global electronics giant Panasonic. Underground stations such as Hamilton Square, Liverpool Central and Moorfields will also be hooked up.
As well as offering WiFi on board, the wireless network will feed exact passenger numbers on each train back to the control centre. According to the Serco-Abellio owned franchise, this will allow it to manage services better and ensure that the network operates at optimum capacity. This, it says, will be crucial at peak travel times or during the major sporting or cultural events.
The wireless system will also enable high-quality CCTV and voice links to and from the trains. In addition, the new Stadler-constructed rolling stock will boast power points, USB sockets and bike racks. Liverpool City Region is investing almost £500 million in the new fleet of trains.
AD Comms, a subsidiary of Panasonic, had previously installed a Leaky Feeder System in the region to ensure GSM-R coverage in the tunnels. However, this will not form part of the new network.