What is the future of digital on-board services on public transport?

What is the future of digital on-board services on public transport? ...

From iconic London red buses, to Japan’s Shinkansen bullet train, there are a number of sophisticated, efficient and technologically advanced transport links around the world.


Rapid transit systems, such as metro/subway/underground, ferries, trams, trains, hybrid buses, intercity rail, and airlines, have all been enhanced and refined over the years to provide a service to passengers.

The attention has been on improving the infrastructure and design of these transport links, to the point where small incremental improvements are being made on a regular basis. What are the big improvements of the future? Where can the noticeable changes be made? There is an argument that the attention now needs to be turned towards digital on-board services – and how these can improve the overall passenger experience. Today’s transport needs to become digitally enabled.

More often than not, when on public transport, we whip out our phones to check our email, catch up on the latest news, watch TV or movies, or check social media. But this is using our own data plans instead of any on-board Wi-Fi, which is dogged with poor connectivity and stretched bandwidth. Most airlines provide digital on-board services without much problem, but what about having similar services on UK trains, buses and coaches? Some countries have already implemented these digital on-board services into their day-to-day transportation methods, and in this blog, we will take a look at what we can learn from other countries.

Learn how can transport companies can meet the passengers' demand for fast  continuous Wi-Fi without incurring a large amount of extra costs. <>


Best public transport systems for digital on-board services across the world

Japan – Shinkansen, the bullet train, has Wi-Fi, all forward facing seats plug sockets to charge devices, LCD displays for real-time information, including next stops, advertising and public service information all available in different languages.

Dubai – Dubai operates driverless trains, with Wi-Fi connectivity across all trains and stations, as well as providing a premium Wi-Fi service for a nominal fee.

UK – London Underground stations have Wi-Fi through a partnership with Virgin Media, providing hotspots at stations but not in the tunnels. There was a project to extend coverage, but ultimately abandoned due to commercial and technical difficulties. For longer train journeys, passengers have access to on demand, digital on-board services that can stream movies and videos to their device via an app.

In addition, National Express coaches provide Wi-Fi and allow passengers to access the latest TV shows, news, sport or read magazines by downloading the VUER app to their phone.  

Singapore – Singapore has 3G and mobile service available in every part of its train network. Underground stations and all trains are air-conditioned – perfect for that tropical heat!

China – China’s high speed trains include Wi-Fi, LCD TV sets playing movies or TV programs during a trip, headphone jacks and plug sockets to charge phones.


How to improve UK digital on-board services

  • More digital services and information As we move towards a truly ‘connected’ world, passengers will come to expect instant connectivity to the Internet and online landscape, as well as on board devices that can synchronise with their own.
  • Real-time InformationPublic transport services need to include more information about connections to other services, as this would be particularly useful for passengers who need to change to get to where they need to be, or for tourists visiting a city for the first time.
  • Hosted content Rather than connect to the Internet to download content whilst on public transport, or pre-load devices before a journey, passengers should be able to connect to a central server/hub whilst travelling allowing them to access a library of hosted content, including TV, movies, and music which they can listen to on the go.


What are the potential barriers to improvement

  • Cost and resourcesFor many transport operators, infrastructure and efficiency is their primary concern. The cost of implementing new entertainment systems to keep passengers happy can be costly in the short term, but in the long term, delivers excellent returns and customer satisfaction.
  • TimeMore so than cost and resources, many public transport operators simply don’t have the time to dedicate to the development of on-board entertainment solutions. If there was an easily-integrated solution however then this becomes a non-argument. If only there was a solution for this….

Bringing the transport network into the 21st century


If you are interested in reading more about how to bring public transport into the 21st Century, click on the link below to download our eBook:

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