• Trial with McLaren Applied and Vodafone took place between London Euston, Birmingham New Street and Manchester Piccadilly
  • 5G-speed Wi-Fi will provide passengers with super-fast internet to work while on the move
  • Testing marks latest step in tech innovation on the West Coast Mainline

Virgin Trains has taken a step closer towards offering rail customers across the UK unrivalled onboard broadband speeds by trialling 5G connectivity on the West Coast Mainline.

The train operator worked alongside McLaren Applied and Vodafone to test super-fast on-board broadband, which – once rolled out – will offer customers Wi-Fi connections that are up to ten times faster.

The technology was tested on Virgin Trains services in November between London Euston and Birmingham New Street, and London Euston and Manchester Piccadilly. The trial marks an exciting first step towards next generation Wi-Fi for customers who want to be connected on the move. Testing will continue from 8 December when the West Coast Mainline franchise switches over to become Avanti West Coast.

Currently in the early stages of development, the addition of 5G-speed Wi-Fi will provide passengers with super-fast internet to work while on the move, including better access to emails as well as smoother video conferencing and live streaming content where 5G is available.

John Sullivan, Chief Information Officer at Virgin Trains says: “Virgin Trains has always aimed to deliver the best customer experience by offering our passengers the latest in technological innovation. Over the course of our 22-year tenure, we have launched industry firsts including Amazon Alexa ticket booking, disruption management, Automatic Delay Repay and BEAM – our on-board entertainment streaming service.

“We may be coming to the end of our time running the West Coast Mainline but Virgin Trains is excited to be playing an important part in the early stages of this 5G project, which is another example of how we have led the way in digital innovation within the rail industry.”

Paul Bebbington, Director of Public Transport, McLaren Applied, added: “We’re delighted to be working with Vodafone and Virgin Trains to improve train connectivity performance and enable a step change in faster and more reliable Wi-Fi with the advent of 5G. Connecting fast moving fleets in harsh signal environments is a key part of our Edge, Telemetry and Control strategy, coupled with our capabilities and long term vision around electrification and Virtual Product Design.

From consuming 4K content to watching live events, interacting with friends in real time via high-definition video streaming and enabling on board Internet of Things, McLaren Applied is delivering improved bandwidth to drive a seamless passenger experience and real time asset performance optimisation in public transport.”

Vodafone UK’s Chief Technology Officer Scott Petty said: “We’re pleased to be the connectivity partner working with Virgin Trains and McLaren Applied in this first trial of 5G Wi-Fi services on key transport routes. Earlier this year, we were the first to bring 5G services to Birmingham New Street station; and we believe 5G provides a huge opportunity for train operators to improve experiences for their customers – both those travelling for work and pleasure. Such trials are an important first step in achieving this.”