Wednesday, 18 August 2010

WiFi on Arriva CrossCountry coming soon! Not.

Telegrammed by Wired William
Exciting news for Arriva CrossCountry passengers!

Regular readers will recollect that Arriva singularly failed to deliver on its CrossCountry franchise commitment to fit WiFi to their HST and Voyager fleets by the 11th November 2009.

So what has the supine DfT been doing to hold Arriva to account for breaching its franchise agreement?

A Freedom of Information request reveals errr.. not very much.

The released data contains myriad electronic and hard copy communications between DfT's Franchise Manager and Andy 'Duff' Cooper, the MD of CrossCountry.

Duff initially offered a range of excuses as to why Arriva should be able to shirk its franchise obligations, including offering up 3G as a jam tomorrow solution and then cheekily suggesting that the prevalence of dongles obviates any need for on-train WiFi.

A clearly exasperated DfT wrote to Arrive CrossCountry on the 2nd December 2009 instructing the franchise to implement WiFi by 31st January 2010.

Amusingly CrossCountry's Franchise and Internal Compliance Manager (sic) then penned the following to DfT:

"As it is not possible to install Wi-Fi in less than 2 months, we have been unable to meet that deadline."

This letter was dated the 26th February - almost a full month after the compliance date. Evidently Arriva holds the Department in high regard.

Finally DfT's Cross Country Franchise Manager wrote to Duff on the 7th May this year saying:

Franchise Agreement: Appendix 11 Part 1 paragraph 2.1 (b) (iii)

I refer to the above clause contained in the Franchise Agreement requiring CrossCountry to provide operational WiFI at all seats on its HST fleet by the revised delivery date of 31st January.

CrossCountry has failed to fulfil this Committed Obligation, and is in contravention of the Franchise Agreement. The DfT expects CrossCountry to meet all of its obligations to provide operational WiFi at all seats on both its HST and Voyager fleets.


To enable realistic delivery of the HST and Voyager obligation and to include the obligations to offer complimentary WiFi to 1st class customers, the Department is prepared to agree to a revised delivery date of the 30th September 2010.

If CrossCountry would like to progress this proposal please advise me in writing so we can prepare the necessary documents.


The Department will take prompt enforcement action in respect of any future conravention. If Cross Country enters into this Contract Change and it appears likely at any time that you will not have complied with the relevant obligations by the new due date, the Department is currently minded to impose and enforcement order under section 55 of the Railways Act 1993, which may include a fine...

Fine words indeed!

But what's this?

As at the 6th August (the date of the last document released) the new date for WiFi fitment had still to be agreed by Arriva.

An email from Duff to DfT on that date contains yet more excuses as to why a date cannot be agreed, including:

  • Consultants "applying for their own jobs" following a merger which prevented a technical workshop taking place until the end of August
  • The need to secure a deal with REDACTED to secure better reception in Voyagers
  • The need for a firm programme before agreeing a contract change
Whilst Arriva continues to drag its feet the DfT shows precious little sign of enforcing any penalty on the recalcitrant franchise.

Meanwhile EMT has already started rolling out WiFi on its Meridians (Voyager derivatives).

With Deutsche Bahn due to complete its takeover of Arriva at the end of this month Eye wonders whether Teutonic efficiency can deliver where CrossCountry management couldn't?

UPDATE: This from Gricer Central...

Could you explain the link with Class 47 diesel locomotives that earns Andy Cooper the soubriquet "duff"?

The Fact Compiler being an old phart believes that Cross Country trains should always have a Duff leading!