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Amtrak luring riders with free Wi-Fi access

updated 01:30 pm EST, Thu January 14, 2010

Amtrak to launch free Wi-Fi in some trains

Commuter train operator Amtrak on Thursday said it will begin offering free Wi-Fi service, at least initially, on its Acela trains that carry passengers between Boston, New York and Washington. The move is the latest in the company's bid to entice business travelers to take the train rather than fly. The service will launch in March.

Amtrak's Acela express service travels in 2 hours and 50 minutes from New York to Washington, which means uninterrupted Internet access, unlike on a similar flight that requires surfers to turn off their devices during takeoffs and landings. The plan is to add the service to Northeast regional trains next, and eventually, other markets than the East Coast.

However, offering an alternative to short-hop East coast flights from Delta and US Airways is only part of the reason for the new service, says Amtrak spokesperson Cliff Cole. The rail operator is also trying to introduce new ways that will bring more customers and profits.

While when the free service will stop and what it will then cost is unknown, but it may be close to what Delta airlines charges. For flights under 1.5 hours, the fee is just under $5, and nearly $13 for trips longer than three hours. Users with Wi-Fi devices such as smartphones pay about $8. [via USAToday]

By Electronista Staff
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  1. jreades

    Junior Member

    Joined: Feb 1999


    Amtrak & Innovation

    I really can't say that I miss Amtrak: on most of the long-haul rail routes in Britain you've been able to get free WiFi for something like two years now. And I think of Britain as being fairly backwards compared with much of the rest of Europe... in 2007 when I visited Estonia there was high-bandwidth, free WiFi *everywhere*. Even on the buses, and it was a much faster service than I got two years later on Bolt between Boston and NYC. I wonder when companies will treat WiFi as a utility like any other like, say, a working toilet or a desk?

  1. CmdrGampu

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2009


    No threat to airlines

    Amtrak has much bigger problems than Wifi. They can't seem to keep their trains on schedule to save their lives. Worse, their fares are often higher than the discount airlines like Jetblue. That said, if they could just fix their problems, I would choose them in a minute just to avoid all the security theater at the airports.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001


    Re: No threat

    Maybe that has to do with the fact that the federal gov't bends over backwards to 'bail out' airlines, give them whatever they need, spend money on airport infrastructure, etc, and then scoff when someone suggests even a small stipend for Amtrak.

    The one thing Amtrak has going for it is that no one pays much attention to them, so the terrorists ignore them, so there's no cavity searches just to board. Or having to show up over an hour early or any of the other stresses that plane travel has turned into.

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