With no plans for wireless internet service is Irish Rail really “getting there”?

An Iarnród Éireann commuter train in the Republic of Ireland. The LED says (In Irish) Image via WikipediaI’m taking my first train to Dublin in years (I usually drive) next Tuesday from Charleville station in Co. Cork. I’m not sure I’ll even bring my laptop with me because I don’t own a datacard from one of the mobile operators for access to mobile broadband (3G, HSDPA). With more and more access to free and open wifi it makes no sense for me to subscribe to such a service for the relatively few times I would need it. And besides, I’ve previously had a very bad experience with Vodafone Ireland.

When I booked my ticket online yesteday I was surprised to see a €20+ difference between Standard class and Premier Class. However if I knew I’d have seamless wifi broadband for the duration of the jouney, dedicated power point and a quieter more comfortable carriage for working in I’d happily pay that premium.

But Will Knott has been doing some research and found that Irish Rail have no plans to go down that route. In his opinion –

"Even if a current mobile broadband carrier offered to install the local technology on even their First Class (City Gold) carriages and you’ll find that the number of business users would increase. I mean, you have just given a very valid incentive to pay for a “City Gold” ticket! Remember that “cloud computing” is an option used by a lot of companies. For that to work an internet connection is needed. On a almost three hour train trip from Dublin – Cork you can get a lot done."

Other Irish bloggers too have been voicing strong opinions about Irish Rail. Paul Watson was shocked at the price of a trip for two from Waterford to Dublin –

"It cost €63 return for the two tickets. On a Sunday. With a half-full train. Even halved that is more than would have been spent on petrol if we had taken the car and accounted for parking. Once we got to Dublin we then had to fork out another €8, then €24 and a further €20 to get around by taxi. Had the train times been more flexible we could have used the bus service but as it was there was no way we could have used the bus to get around Dublin and been back to the station to catch our train back to Waterford."

And Damien Mulley discovered the meaning of that oblique Irish Rail catchphrase, ‘technical difficulties’ – "Getting there when they’re good and ready and if you’re not happy about that then they’ll strike."

But getting back to the issue of onboard broadband Will Knott believes Irish Rail are missing the opportunity to make a lot of money, "and
the mobile carriers are missing out by leaving ‘coverage holes’ on
the route."
. Conor O’Neill has been documenting those coverage holes on both the O2 and Vodafone networks and while O2 is the winner of his tests it’s clear that neither option is satisfactory.

According to the Irish Rail FAQ they’ll "continue to monitor the speed of advance of such technologies
and if we deem that change is not occurring quickly enough we may
reconsider the situation."
Well listen up Irish Rail – CHANGE IS NOT HAPPENING QUICKLY ENOUGH!!

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7 Responses to “With no plans for wireless internet service is Irish Rail really “getting there”?”

  1. jbkenn Says:

    Yes James, and, when you consider that they have fibre running along the rail lines, plus their own network of radio towers along the same rail lines, it’s not rocket science, it’s a no brainer, but then Irish Rail are a “no brain” Semi State organisation.
    They got rid of freight traffic, now, if they could only get rid of passenger traffic, sure, would’nt it be a grand little railway company altogether.

  2. Evert Bopp Says:

    James,
    It makes no sense at all.
    People want it (sure not everybody but “business class” travellers will appreciate the services).
    Making Irish Rails’ services more attractive will net them more revenue and take traffic of our roads which in turn will benefit everyone.
    The onboard wifi can also be used to disseminate information about travelling times, delays, travel conditions, fare offers etc.
    Combine that with the offer that I have already made; that we are offering to put wifi in virtually every train in Ireland at NO COST to Irish Rail and it should be a no brainer.
    Keep up the pressure and maybe they’ll see the light…

  3. Cronan Says:

    James,
    I pay 20 euros a month for my three 3G card – so I don’t understand why you would pay an extra 20 euros for a train ticket for 3 hours of internet access and yet find a 3G card is too expensive?
    I know they are not perfect but I certainly find my one useful and it sure beats paying 10 Euros to connect to a wifi hotspot for an hour or for 24 hours in a hotel.
    My 3G card even works in London (and perfectly on the train from Heathrow to London). I haven’t tried it anywhere else in the UK nor many places in Ireland outside Dublin.

  4. James Corbett Says:

    Cronan, as I said it’s been years since I took the train, and I’m unlikely to do so again for quite a while. Once in a wonder premium of €20 versus and ongoing premium of €20 per month… do the math! 🙂
    Besides, if you follow the link to my bad experience with Vodafone and read the backstory you might understand why I’m once bitten twice shy. Finally, we’ve got several hundred free hotspots listed on OurMaps.ie and I’ve no problem now arranging meetings within range of one. When I drive to Dublin as I normally do I take a pitstop at the Midway Foodcourt in Portlaoise where I can avail of 2 or 3 free hotsopts.

  5. Evert Bopp Says:

    http://tinyurl.com/4ve8lq

  6. James Corbett Says:

    Great link Evert and highly instructive to watch the near realtime tweets in reaction to the (lack of) availability of wifi on trains. People seem almost universally delighted that it is available or angry that it isn’t. This should be printed out and fed to the Irish Rail execs for breakfast.

  7. Bernie Goldbach Says:

    Sometimes I wonder if middle management in Irish Rail actually rides aboard the trains for business travel. Connectivity is the only way you can ensure productive up-time during a half-day worth of journey time.
    I’m raising your post in constituency meetings with local TDs through South Tipperary. Thanks for articulating the points.

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