Heathrow Express has become the first city-airport shuttle in the world to offer its five million annual passengers wi-fi enabled communication on its entire route, regardless of tunnel restrictions.
Speaking to ABTN on-board the Paddington-Heathrow shuttle this lunchtime, Heathrow Express managing director Brian Raven said: “We have sought to be at the forefront of customer service and moments as well as minutes count for our 15,000 daily passengers – they can be missed business opportunities.”
Heathrow Express has developed the system at an undisclosed cost with mobile technology operator T-Mobile and wireless network provider Nomad Digital, to allow passengers unlimited internet access during the 15 minute airport journey and even in the 7.5km (4.7 miles) of tunnels. “Heathrow Express customers demanded a quality experience and with Nomad, we have delivered that,” said T-Mobile head of internet on the move, Richard Warmsley. “It’s time to set the internet free as mobile broadband is expanding.”
And the system certainly works. Laptops were duly fired up as the 11:24 Heathrow Express slid out of Paddington and began accelerating to the airport. Some very senior Heathrow Express, T-Mobile and Nomad personnel held their collective breath as the train powered into those 7.5km of tunnel, but not a glitch, not a hint of interference passed over the screens in a faultless demonstration of mobile application. “The British railway scene is often highly criticised but the fact is that we have worked with flexible train operating companies [such as Heathrow Express],” said Nomad Digital co-founder Nigel Wallbridge, adding: “And London will be the first city in the world to have wi-fi on its airport rail shuttle.”
Despite Heathrow Express’ rapid transport time of 15 minutes, the BAA-owned train operator nonetheless remains convinced that business travellers already paying a relatively costly £15.50 ($31) standard single and £22.50 first class price, want to be able to use seamless wi-fi to catch up on last minute emails or presentations, both on out and inbound sectors. “If you are coming in from a nine hour flight and have to go to a [London] meeting straight away, you need to be up to date,” Heathrow Express sales and marketing director Kyle Haughton told ABTN on today’s launch service. “Travelling from the airport is dead time and people want an office environment.” And Raven, partly wearing a BAA hat, made an impassioned defence of Heathrow Airport itself, in conjunction with rail. “The airport rail link has a vital role in business and for UK Plc, Heathrow is at the absolute centre of British commerce,” he said. “Multiple access to Heathrow is essential and equally essential is rail growth in the future. We have to look decades ahead – public transport does not need to hold market share, it needs to grow it.”