Today SmartRail World talks to Claudio Diotallevi, Director of Information Systems at Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori (NTV) the Italian operator of high-speed trains which launched passenger service in April 2012. NTV serves 9 cities and 12 stations on 2 main axes from Turin and Venice in the north to Naples and Salerno in the South. NTV has become quickly known for its strong emphasis on the passenger experience whether its virtual tickets, fine dining or offering a choice of ‘journey ambiance’ coaches, including a “Cinema Coach,” where passengers can watch the latest films. We ask Claudio where the role of Wi-Fi fits into the development of their service…
Claudio Diotallevi (CD): "Hello, I was one of the first to join NTV in 2007 and we immediately saw that we had an amazing opportunity to create a new and modern train service. We understand that in a liberalised rail market and the end of a monopoly in Italy, the passenger became a customer and could make choices accordingly - as a result we had to offer an amazing on-board experience to match our latest-generation Alstom designed High Speed trains. Let me give you one example – all of our staff members have been through our Training School and not sourced from employment at other railways. They are trained in the specific way that NTV delivers service and being employed on permanent contract we consider they offer an excellent service within in a fulfilling skilled job.
NTV was set up to be friendly and easy to contact, highly accessible and tailored to fit passenger needs. And within this offering, on-board Wi-Fi was to be significant aspect of this positive passenger experience."
Luke Upton (LU): So tell us more about the development of on-board Wi-Fi for your passengers?
CD: "Firstly we have made it completely free for all passengers, and not one that is designed to deliver a separate revenue stream as some railways do. This was an easy decision as we saw Wi-Fi as part of our commitment to a modern passenger experience. To ensure that bandwidth is fairly distributed certain services like file sharing or video streaming are limited or blocked. Whilst our Wi-Fi solution combines three different technologies (satellite, UMTS and Wi-Fi) which are used to deliver uninterrupted high quality navigation and good coverage. It’s easy for our passengers to use – they need to simply log on to the on-board portal from their PC or other connected device via Wi-Fi with either a temporary username and password sent to you in a text message or your Loyalty Program username and password and away you go!
In addition, we also offer an on-board portal, Italolive, which enables passengers to watch TV, films, news and sport this is again free and offered through our Wi-Fi service."
LU: It sounds a very comprehensive offering that you give to your passengers, can you tell us about some of the challenges that you’ve faced delivering this?
CD: "Well, for many the business model behind the Wi-Fi offering is a challenge but for us the free model was never in question. But the geography of Italy presents a challenge to the on-board experience with a large number of long tunnels and narrow canyons to be navigated hence our use of different technologies to maximise transmission capacity. There are also questions of bandwidth capacity, should all our passengers use the onboard Wi-Fi but we allow significant use so is rarely a problem."
LU: And what about some of the opportunities for further development for onboard Wi-Fi?
CD: Well, technology in this sector is evolving quickly so we do have to move to keep pace with it. Areas that can be developed are improving the passenger experience by investing in more bandwidth and 4G when it becomes available for us to deliver on-board. A second area that can really be developed is the message to the customer that time isn’t wasted when traveling on train – they can take advantage of our Wi-Fi to work or socialise or watch a film or catch-u on the news or sport. This is an advantage that NTV has over other forms or transport and is one that will only grow in the coming years.
LU: Thanks very much Claudio, sounds like a fantastic service - looking forward to hearing more later in the month in Amsterdam