The much-anticipated arrival of WiFi on Merseyrail trains moved tantalisingly closer to reality yesterday. Liverpool City Council voted through the latest in a series of planning proposals to enable new wireless masts to be erected alongside the tracks. This means that 14 of the necessary 15 permissions have now been granted. The delays have served to highlight the dependency on local planning processes that trackside networks can face.
However, it is still unclear when passengers will actually have access to the new fleet of trains purchased by the City or when they will be able to log onto the WiFi network. Liverpool City Region Combined Authority has ordered nearly £500 million worth of new Stadler “state-of-the-art” trains – all 52 of which were due to go into service last year.
At the end of 2020, a spokeswoman for the Authority said continued uncertainty meant they were unable to provide an introduction date. According to the region’s transport authority, Merseytravel, the restrictions caused by the pandemic have meant delays in construction, delivery and training on the new fleet.
The new Merseyrail fleet will, eventually, 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 has been installed by global electronics giant Panasonic. Underground stations such as Hamilton Square, Liverpool Central and Moorfields have also been 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 and has been brought into sharp focus by the pandemic.
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.
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.
On-train WiFi services, trackside wireless networks, the growing market for passenger WiFi and on-board entertainment will be the main subjects of BWCS’ WiFi on Trains Conference on November 16th and 17th this year. For information on speaking and exhibiting and the one remaining sponsorship spot at the 2021 event, please contact Ross.Parsons@BWCS.com .
Please sign up at www.Traincomms.com for the Conference Brochure and our Free News Service.
The 2021 conference (www.Traincomms.com ) is sponsored by Icomera, RADWIN and, new sponsors, GlobalReach Technology and Westermo.