Rail passengers on South West Trains, one of the busiest commuter networks in Europe, are to benefit from a multi-million-pound investment in Wi-Fi technology over the next 12 months. The £3.2 million project is being introduced by the South West Trains-Network Rail alliance and leading train manufacturer Siemens.
South West Trains’ fleet of 45 Class 444 Desiro trains will be fitted with the technology, which will allow passengers to access websites and email on the move.
The trains operate on the mainline service from London Waterloo via Basingstoke, Southampton and Bournemouth to Weymouth, used by 15 million passengers a year.
New external cameras are also being installed on the 444 Desiro fleet, which will use the Wi-Fi technology to assist with track and conductor rail maintenance and monitoring to help improve punctuality.
Within two years, the initiatives could provide a platform to deliver a sophisticated rail traffic management system on the South West Trains network to allow more trains to run in and out of London Waterloo. Nearly 1,700 trains already run in and out of Britain’s busiest railway station every week day and more than 200 million journeys are made on South West Trains every year.
The new engineering investment programme is the latest initiative by the South West Trains-Network Rail alliance, which was launched in April 2012 to improve services for customers, cut delays and deliver a more efficient railway.
It also follows a £15 million investment by South West Trains in the past two years in pioneering engineering developments on its Desiro fleets to deliver better train performance for passengers.
Christian Roth, Alliance Fleet Director for the South West Trains-Network Rail alliance, said: “We have already been at the leading edge of rail engineering improvements over the past two years, which are helping deliver a better, safer, more reliable and more efficient railway for our passengers.”
“Moving forward, this new investment in Wi-Fi technology and other enhancements will provide more productive journeys for our customers and lay the foundation for other significant improvements.”
Steve White, UK Service Director at Siemens Rail Systems, added: “We take a collaborative approach to our relationship with South West Trains, working closely together to continuously improve fleet performance. Ultimately this helps maximise efficiency, increase passenger comfort and drive down industry costs as well as introduce exciting innovative solutions into the UK rail industry. This is a partnership of which we are immensely proud.”
South West Trains was the first UK train operator to use state-of-the-art track ‘listening’ technology, RailBAM®, and to introduce track-friendly hydraulic bushes which help reduce infrastructure damage.
RailBAM® is acoustic monitoring technology, which employs sensitive microphones mounted at the side of the track to listen to every individual axle bearing on each train as it passes. It can detect axle defects or deterioration which can then be addressed more quickly.
Hydraulic bushes wheel technology significantly reduces track damage, cuts infrastructure maintenance costs and provides smoother journeys for passengers. The innovative engineering design – which combines conventional elastomer bushes with a hydraulic system – reduces the force between the wheel and the rail, ensuring better movement on curved track at low speeds.
South West Trains has also introduced coupler heating, which prevents ice forming on the coupler and reduces service disruption caused by freezing weather conditions.
Earlier this year, South West Trains has completed a £2.2m investment programme to fit regenerative braking technology to more than 200 electric trains. It captures energy previously lost and returns electricity to the third rail system, allowing trains in close proximity to draw on the supply. The energy saved annually is enough to power more than 11,500 UK homes.