THERE are not many places between Ballarat and Melbourne where internet service is not readily available – that is, unless you are on a train.
Although there is some internet coverage during the 90-minute trip, travellers are unable to access any form of internet for the majority of the journey.
There is no doubt it is an issue with regular commuters.
New research by Ballarat ICT shows the lack of internet coverage on the Ballarat line is preventing many people using the rail service. The majority are even willing to pay for internet.
The two-month survey showed most train users were highly educated people who wanted to improve their work or study productivity by using the internet on the train.
Ballarat ICT executive officer Ian Fry said the study looked at transforming trains into a “mobile office”, which Ballarat would benefit from.
It will now be used as part of the Committee for Ballarat’s FastTrack Ballarat project, which will be officially launched in two weeks.
Mr Fry said the results gave strong indications the vast majority of users felt internet was needed on the V/Line train service.
He said he was surprised to discover the vast majority of passengers were highly educated, most of whom would benefit from being able to use the internet. 43 per cent of travellers had a postgraduate education, while a further 40 per cent had an undergraduate or TAFE qualification.
“These are educated people we are talking about, most of which would be far more productive if they had internet access on the train,” said Mr Fry.
Vice-president of the Internet Society of Australia George Fong said making internet available would have massive advantages, but would undoubtedly be a costly exercise.
He said there would still need to be further tests conducted to determine the major black spot areas.
“There needs to be a solid connection and of course, there is then the question of who pays for it,” said Mr Fong.
V/Line spokesperson James Kelly said telecommunications specialists were currently assessing where the blackspots were. He also said an antenna had been placed on top of a train as a trial to see if it improved reception.
“We are supportive of greater internet connectivity and coverage on our trains, however our first priority is delivering our service and improving on it,” said Mr Kelly. “The provision of Wi-Fi is expensive, and not something V/Line can provide.”
Asked whether the government was planning on installing Wi-Fi services, Transport Minister Terry Mulder said in a statement that it already existed at Flinders Street Station.
However, he would not say whether it would be installed on V/Line trains.
“There are some technological barriers to overcome such as the difficulty of obtaining reliable coverage for passengers in VLocity railcars in particular,” Mr Mulder said.
Key findings of the survey:
78 per cent believe they will benefit from internet on trains.
96 per cent of train users see internet as a key to improving productivity.
66 per cent use the train because they can do work, which they cannot do driving a car.
76 per cent of car users would consider using the train if it had internet access.
60 per cent would pay at least $1 for internet, with $1.20 per trip the average amount people were willing to pay.
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