In a major boost for rail passengers National Express East Anglia (NXEA) is to fully introduce wi-fi facilities on its Norwich to London intercity service from 1 February. The completed initiative will be formally launched by key representatives from the region’s business community on an NXEA intercity service on Tuesday 1 February.
NXEA secured a contribution last year of £346k from the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) and Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils towards the installation of the equipment involved, and the programme to modify the intercity coaches has now been completed.
NXEA worked with partners on a compelling business case to secure funding for the installation costs of the scheme and to bring forward the upgrade within the operator’s current franchise. Business organisations in the region have also been supportive of the initiative with the economic case for installation very strong. According to the business case, the total capital investment provided by EEDA and the County Councils will more than pay for itself in year one by making business travellers on the services more productive, and ensures significant benefits in subsequent years.
As well as being great news for commuters, the scheme represents a tremendous example of EEDA, local authorities and National Express working in partnership to achieve an outcome which provides widespread benefits for people and businesses along the mainline route corridor. Moreover, this investment will enhance perceptions of the Norwich to London train service by offering access to wi-fi which is increasingly seen as a key component of an intercity rail service.
NXEA has proactively pursued a collaborative approach in developing this customer-focused programme which involves operating costs for the company of over £200k a year. Without this commitment and the partners’ funding support the installation of wi-fi would not have taken place this quickly.
Andrew Chivers, Managing Director, NXEA said: “The project to install wi-fi on our intercity trains is a tremendous example of how a regional partnership can deliver a successful outcome in such a short period of time, ensuring major and significant benefits for rail passengers in the East of England, and illustrates our ongoing commitment to invest in improving train services for our customers. I would particularly like to thank EEDA and Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils for their funding support towards the upgrade.”
Shona Johnstone, EEDA board member, said: “Wi-fi has been identified as a key priority for business travellers on the Norwich to London line. It is just one of the improvements in our vision for the Great Eastern Main Line, which also includes faster journey times and greater capacity on trains. Achieving this vision would bring significant benefits to businesses in economically-important towns on the line such as Norwich, Ipswich, Colchester and Chelmsford – and make them prime locations for job creation. These improvements will also make rail a more attractive mode for business travellers, reducing road-based travel and congestion, and reducing carbon emissions too.”
Graham Plant, Norfolk County Council Cabinet member for travel and transport said: “Wi-fi on all Norwich to London Intercity trains will be a boon for businesses. The train journey to and from Norwich will be transformed from travel time to valuable office time, and to know that it will be available on every intercity train will be particularly pleasing for business travellers.”
Councillor Guy McGregor, portfolio holder for roads, transport and planning at Suffolk County Council said:
“Train services from Ipswich to London and Norwich are part of important intercity routes and I am delighted to be able to support this significant enhancement.”