Amtrak will install free Wi-Fi on Acela trains: The quasi-governmental Amtrak national train operator noted in its five-year plan released today that it would be adding free Wi-Fi to its Northeast Corridor high-speed Acela trains. The report says the service should launch in the second quarter of its 2010 fiscal year, which puts it in first quarter of the 2010 calendar year. It will initially be free, but that may change. (The report's cover page is dated a month ago, but news accounts say it was released today.)
Adding Wi-Fi is expecting to drive $4.3m in additional revenue across the five-year plan. Other lines may also receive Internet access starting in subsequent years and likely in the northeast, with Amtrak budgeting $26.2m for that work.
Amtrak would join several regional and national railroads primarily in Europe and North America that offer Wi-Fi on some routes, typically on every train that covers that route. Earlier programs to expand Internet access haven't yet borne fruit, but with an increased interest in commuting without driving in the U.S., onboard Internet access may be a big carrot.
The first trains with Internet service appeared at least five years ago, if not longer, and until the last two years efforts were in fits and starts outside of a couple of lines in the UK and Sweden. Now, with robust 3G in many cases paralleling major commuter train routes, adding Internet service becomes less troublesome. The Washington State DOT in conjunction with Amtrak and trainmaker Talgo has been working on adding Internet service to the Seattle to Portland route.