One of the stupidest things that TOCs are doing is charging for internet use. That’s rather like asking for money for the lighting or the toilet. They should, instead, be looking at the competition. The car manufacturers are turning their product into mobile communication zones that have instant access to the internet and easy hands free mobile phone use.
Quite apart from the fact that this poses a danger to other road users – my only accident in 40 years driving was caused by me adjusting my radio and hitting the Jaguar in front – it is a real incentive to stay in the car rather than use public transport, as pointed out by Simon Johnston in the latest edition of Tramways and Urban Transit. Therefore while fitting wifi is an expense, so is providing toilets, seats, lights, doors – whatever. Train operators have to learn that wifi has to be included in the price of a ticket.
Hotels have begun to realise this. Oddly, having stayed in countless hotels across Italy, France, Belgium, the US and Russia last year, I found that it was the cheaper two and three star ones that tended to offer free wifi, whereas irritatingly the four star ones would charge, except, oddly, in the lobby. Cue dozens of business people sitting in the lobby lap top on lap.
Eurostar is about to get wifi belatedly. Let’s hope it is sensible enough to realise that it is not an optional extra. It’s the future. And hopefully whoever wins the West Coast franchise will realise that, too, unlike Virgin which charges.