South-west train passengers miss out on free Wi-Fi

SOUTH-WEST train commuters will largely miss out in a state government plan to provide free internet access for regional passengers.

Technology Minister Gordon Rich-Phillips unveiled the $40 million initiative alongside Premier Denis Napthine, pledging to provide free Wi-Fi services along the Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Seymour and Traralgon lines.

If the initial rollout is successful, the state government indicated it would eventually expand mobile internet connectivity to outer regional lines including the Warrnambool service, although no definite date was set.

Dr Napthine told reporters in Geelong yesterday that passengers travelling from further afield would benefit from the statewide initiative, with cash also allocated to dissolve mobile phone blackspots in regional areas.

“Eliminating these blackspots along train lines means commuters will be able to access emails, social media and work,” Dr Napthine said.

“As part of the project, the government will invest in a public Wi-Fi service on these trains to ensure that all commuters have uninterrupted access to the internet for the duration of their journey.”

An expressions of interest process will be conducted during the next six months to determine which telecommunications company would provide the best value-for-money to cover the scheme. 

The five lines included in the Wi-Fi plan all run new V/Locity trains.

The state government claimed yesterday the service would be more effective to install on routes used by the new trains.

Mr Rich-Phillips estimated 40 per cent of high-use regional lines had no internet connectivity as of early 2014.

A spokesman for Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said the new Wi-Fi service was a means of distracting voters from the poor state of the transport system.

“Denis Napthine doesn’t get it — people just want their trains to run on time,” the spokesman said.

“A range of expert stakeholders have privately expressed concern at the complexity and scope of this project — so the public has a right to know how, when and at what cost this important new service will be delivered.”

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