PUBLIC TRANSPORT INTERNET SERVICES
The Hon. TONY CATANZARITI:
My question is directed to the Minister for Transport. Will the Minister update the House on the rollout of internet services for public transport users?
The Hon. JOHN ROBERTSON:
I am pleased to inform the House that from this week, under a three-month trial taking place at Circular Quay train station, train commuters will be able to access free internet while waiting for their service. Under the trial, which started yesterday, customers with wireless internet—or WiFi—enabled devices will be able to browse the internet and check emails at no cost for the duration of the trial, scheduled to run until the end of November 2010.
Giving people access to WiFi on platforms will mean that they can check their emails, catch up with friends, check out the latest news or get a bit of work done—all for free and all from one of our major city train stations. The trial includes free WiFi access for up to 20 minutes per device for a morning and an afternoon session each day, with a download limit of 50 megabytes. Trials and testing have been taking place over the past few weeks and we are now ready to open up WiFi services at Circular Quay station.
Passengers will be able to access free WiFi from any portable device such as a laptop or smart phone. RailCorp will be seeking feedback from commuters to assess take-up rates and overall responses from customers during the trial. If the trial proves successful, it may be possible to extend free WiFi services to other stations on the network. This is something that passengers have been asking for and this trial is the latest step in delivering better facilities for public transport users. The start of the trial at Circular Quay station follows the introduction of free WiFi on the Manly ferry service in June this year. Manly ferry service passengers can access two free 30-minute sessions daily—one in the morning and another in the afternoon—with a maximum download of 30 megabytes. This allows passengers to browse the internet or to check their emails as they travel to and from work on the upper deck of the Freshwater Class Manly ferries.
The system has been especially designed for the Manly ferries, but to ensure that the WiFi is up to scratch technicians have been located on site to check speeds and access. The response to the introduction of WiFi on the Manly ferry service has been overwhelming, with more than 40,000 commuters logging on since the new service commenced. With such strong demand, technicians have been working hard to ensure services are running around the clock for the huge number of people keen to access free WiFi. In addition, Sydney Ferries has made staff available to assist some users to identify the WiFi access mechanism on their appliance—smart phone or computer—as some users are accessing free WiFi for the first time.
The service has been kicked-off with sponsorship from the ANZ Bank for the first two months, with the Sydney Ferries now maintaining the service. This deal means there is no cost whatsoever for passengers to log on and access the internet or emails using WiFi on Manly ferries. If customers wish to exceed the free download, a pay-as-you-go option is available at reasonable rates. The Government is looking forward to seeing how these strong results might translate to uptake of the service in the trial at Circular Quay station. We will continue to monitor these two initiatives to consider the practicalities of rolling out WiFi more widely for commuters on Sydney's public transport network.