National Express East Anglia (NXEA) is to introduce Wi-Fi facilities for all passengers on its Norwich – Ipswich – Colchester - London intercity services before the end of this year after securing a grant of £346,000 from the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) and Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils towards installation of the equipment involved. The agreement was formally announced at Norwich station on Tuesday 9 February by NXEA Managing Director Andrew Chivers, EEDA Chairman Richard Ellis and representatives of the county councils.
National Express has worked with its partners over the past 18 months to put together a compelling business case to secure funding for the installation costs of the scheme and to bring forward the upgrade within NXEA’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 of £346k provided by EEDA and Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils will more than pay for itself in year one through the increased value of travel time in the region, followed by further significant benefits in subsequent years.
As well as being great news for customers, 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 across East Anglia. Moreover, this investment will enhance perceptions of the Norwich to London mainline service, by offering commuters, business travellers and leisure users access to Wi-Fi which is now increasingly seen as a key component of an intercity-style rail service.
NXEA has proactively pursued a collaborative approach to this customer-focused programme which involves operating costs for the company of over £200k a year. Without this commitment and the funding support of EEDA and the county councils the installation of Wi-Fi at such an early date would not have been possible.
Commenting on the go-ahead for the project Andrew Chivers, Managing Director, NXEA said:
“I am delighted to announce the introduction of Wi-Fi on our intercity trains on the Norwich to London mainline later this year and I would particularly like to thank EEDA and Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils for their funding support towards the upgrade. I am also grateful to Shaping Norfolk’s Future and both the Norfolk and Suffolk Chambers of Commerce who have spoken in support of this exciting initiative. It illustrates our ongoing commitment to continue to invest in improving train services for our customers in the region following the recent launch of our Service Improvement Plan which is centred on providing extra seats on services into London over the next two years. The first stage of that programme began last December and with further benefits to follow in December 2010 and next year.”
Richard Ellis, chair of EEDA said:
“The business case for investment in Wi-Fi on the London to Norwich line is compelling. EEDA is taking a leading role in bringing together local partners to identify and deliver projects like this that have a real impact on business productivity.
“The project would not have gone ahead without the combined funding from EEDA, and Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils. It is a great example of how by working together we can secure economic benefits for those living and working in the East of England.”
Adrian Gunson, Cabinet member for Planning and Transportation on Norfolk County Council said:
“This is particularly good news for business travellers. The big advantage of inter-city rail travel for business is that the time spent on the move can be put to good use. Wi-Fi on the train means that it can be used even more productively.”
Councillor Guy McGregor, portfolio holder for roads, transport and planning at Suffolk County Council said:
“Railway services from London into Ipswich and Norwich ought to be regarded as in important inter-city route and this support for the business traveller, as well as the more general computer user, will give credibility to this claim.”