A little news on the Capitol Corridor rail line Wi-Fi project in California: The rail line runs from Sacramento to San Jose, and they want Wi-Fi on board. Although tests were originally planned for last fall, it looks like the first was run Feb. 3 (I was invited down to watch, but couldn't make it). Nomad Digital, which has a WiMax installation in the UK in partnership with T-Mobile on the Brighton train line, demonstrated its technology using a train car borrowed from Caltrain. Caltrain ran a test a few months ago with Nomad and others; it runs from San Francisco south to San Jose (on the southern peninsula of the bay).
The Nomad system could take two years to deploy, once a contract is awarded. There's no deadline on that being issued. Capitol Corridor's efforts are being examined by many other agencies in the state, and a contract for their line could be used as a model for expedited deployments elsewhere.
The sensational headline on the news story "Amtrak Wi-Fi service could prevent deaths," refers to the relatively high number of people killed on Caltrain tracks, 17 of them last year with 9 believed to be suicides. A video monitoring system that points at crossing could give engineers enough time to slow down and avoid collisions, intentional or otherwise. Collisions can also cause derailments, of course, so there's more than a few lives that could be saved in a major accident.
Caltrain is looking into using video monitoring to automate train control, which would allow them to exceed a limit of which I was unaware: Human-operated trains can't go faster than 79 mph.