Commuters across NI will have used a Translink bus or train in recent years and will have been dazzled by the news that from 2012, ‘free wifi’ will have been available, first on NI Railway trains and Goldline buses, then Enterprise services.
It cost the taxpayer £700k to set up and £400k per year to run (source) the free wifi service.
Having been contacted by a number of readers about the appalling wifi service particularly on NI Railway services, which allowed users to log on, but provided little or no online service, or simply refused to allow users to connect, BtP undertook to investigate.
We asked Translink to give us the following information:
The number of complaints relating to onboard WiFi across all applicable vehicles since its installation
The cost any any repairs to vehicle on board WiFi broken down by number of vehicles since its installation
If a review of the current provider of onboard WiFi will be reviewed at the end of the contract, and the date when the contract ends.
Translink told us that the cost of repairs were included within the current contract and so they had no record of costs. Luckily so.
Since installation in 2012, Goldline bus service users have lodged only twenty complaints about the wifi service on board – the highest, 11, lodged in 2014.
However, the situation on NI Railways services, including Enterprise, couldn’t be more different. Users complained a staggering 566 times about the wifi service on board trains.
In line with the complaints lodged by bus users, 2014 was the highest year for complaints by train users – with almost three hundred complaints (283) lodged with Translink.
So, all of these complaints would surely prompt Translink to change contractors and get better value for money for taxpayers and service users who want a reliable wifi service, right?
No. Translink tell us that they review the wifi contract quarterly, and this was recently renewed on 17th February 2016 – and will be again in September of this year. They did not indicate that the contract provider had been changed despite the evident customer satisfaction problem.