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Chiltern Railways

Chiltern Railways stands out as a premier Train Operating Company (TOC) in the UK, offering both commuter and regional rail services. Their routes connect Central London with the picturesque counties of Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and the West Midlands.

Learn how SPARK TSL provided a WiFi service that supports a Continuously Connected Passenger Journey. One of the first fully managed WiFi service to do so.

Chiltern Railway WiFi
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About Chiltern Railways

Organisation Type:  

Train Operating Company (TOC) 

Size of Operation  

  • 28 train stations 
  • 3 depots (Aylesbury, Wembley & Banbury) 

Client Since   

 

Product Suites  

  • SPARK® Connect
    • Analytics
    • Fully branded UX
    • Dual portal
    • Content filtering through Friendly WiFi
    • Managed service 24/7/365
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What makes Chiltern Railways brilliant?

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Chiltern Railways has been awarded Best Train Operator at the first ever Independent Travel Awards in 2015. They also won Train Operator of the Year in 2018 at the Rail Business Awards.

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With an aging fleet, Chiltern Railways faces the challenge of creatively decarbonising their trains to meet sustainability goals. They have won the 'Sustainable Development' category at the National Rail Awards in 2019 after their ‘Clean Air Zones’ campaign to help tackle pollution at Marylebone Station. They also won the Innovative Rolling Stock award at Spotlight Rail Awards in 2024 for their use of recycled vegetable oil powered trains.

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Recently celebrated the 125th anniversary of their London Marylebone station and engaged with the local community to celebrate. Each year they help fund community projects from charities to greener travel links.

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Goals

  • Seamless WiFi connectivity for a Continuously Connected Passenger Journey 
  • The need for data offloading and roaming capabilities 
  • Handle a high volume of WiFi users 
  • Provide safe internet browsing 
  • Two secure and separate networks for public and corporate WiFi 
  • WiFi analytics that can be combined with their existing system
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About Chiltern Railways

Chiltern Railways has been operating since 1996 and joined the Arriva Group in 2009. It is one of the UK’s leading Train Operating Companies (TOCs) providing commuter and regional rail passenger services from Central London to destinations in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and the West Midlands. Chiltern Railways is proud to have been an early adopter of technology in enhancing the passenger experience, being one of the first TOCs to offer free WiFi on their trains. 

Chiltern Railway Network
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The reaction to the WiFi launch has been excellent, with a significant increase in positive social media activity and press coverage. Despite an incredibly tight schedule the project delivered by Chiltern Railways, SPARK TSL and Icomera was on time and well within budget.

Ian Adams, IT at Chiltern Railways

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Choosing SPARK TSL 

As a pioneer for digital technology in the rail industry, Chiltern Railways recognised that seamless WiFi connectivity would be key for a superior passenger experience. After looking at several suppliers, they chose SPARK TSL to complete the project with Icomera. This decision was based on SPARK TSL’s experience and technical ability to roll-out this first-of-its-kind solution.  

 

The Solution 

SPARK TSL implemented a revolutionary solution which provides seamless digital connectivity for Chiltern Railways’ passengers, wherever they might be in the station. SPARK TSL completed a swift overhaul of 28 stations and three depots.  

The Solution Included:

SPARK TSL delivered high-quality WiFi connectivity using advanced Ruckus technology. The robust SPARK® platform and Ruckus hardware provides a more reliable service for users, with a 99%+ availability.  

SPARK TSL collaborated with Icomera to enhance train connectivity, facilitate data offloading, and enable seamless roaming capabilities. This partnership ensures a smooth transition of WiFi between trains and platforms, providing passengers with a superior connection experience without the need to use their own data. SPARK TSL enabled this to create a Continuously Connected Passenger Journey (CCPJ), an innovative solution which was a must for Chiltern and their technology goals. Not every WiFi supplier can say they have mastered the CCPJ as it’s a rather challenging service to pull off successfully. 

By incorporating a fully branded User Experience within the WiFi portal, passengers are encouraged to engage more with the Arriva brand (Chiltern is a part of the Arriva Group). This personalised WiFi experience allows users to enjoy a tailor-made connection while also providing the option to opt into marketing information. Below is one of the first iterations of the UI. Read below to see what the portal looks like now.

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The cutting-edge SPARK TSL solution not only simplifies the sign-in process for users but also ensures that their devices are recognised for a whole year, making connectivity seamless and hassle-free throughout their entire journey. 

SPARK TSL set up two separate SSIDs, creating a dedicated network for corporate use alongside the public one. This ensures that staff members can also enjoy a secure and reliable WiFi experience tailored to their needs. 

By utilising Intelligent Transport Analytics, Chiltern Railways can gain a deeper understanding of their passenger demographics and behaviours, thanks to enhanced data collection and the Location Analytics feature. This innovative tool empowers Chiltern Railways to gather and analyse data, offering valuable insights into customer interactions. Such insights are crucial for pinpointing areas for enhancing the passenger journey and delivering personalised marketing communications to travellers. 

Implementing content filtering is crucial for safeguarding WiFi networks against illicit activities and harmful content. This filtering not only ensures a secure online environment for young users, but also blocks any inappropriate material. Chiltern were the first Train Operating Company to offer Friendly WiFi for passengers, offering a protected and curated browsing experience. 

In 2023, more than 215,00 people used the WiFi service.

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At Arriva Trains UK we are passionate about being at the forefront of digital rail innovation, and SPARK TSL has been instrumental in helping us exceed passenger expectations for their WiFi experience at Chiltern Railways. The Continuously Connected Passenger Journey means our passengers can enjoy frictionless connectivity and the results truly speak for themselves. The solution has seen an increase in WiFi users and marketing sign-ups, reflecting passengers’ positive engagement with the Chiltern Railways brand. 

Sally Millet, Head of ICT at Arriva Trains UK.

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Continuing to work with SPARK TSL 

After the initial service installation as detailed above, SPARK TSL continued their relationship with Chiltern and helped them improve their offering when needed.  

2019 - Chiltern railways introduced a new ticket system which runs off the wireless network. There was a requirement to improve the SLA on the wireless network as it is now carrying business critical traffic. Therefore, SPARK TSL installed additional infrastructure to make the system more resilient and provide a level of failover. This included the installation of redundant switches and an additional AP to the SLA to cover the booking/ticket office(s). 

2019 – The User Experience portal received a fresh update, transitioning to the Chiltern brand and granting them access to the innovative SPARK® CMS platform. This empowers them to independently update banners, ensuring they stay current with ongoing campaigns. 

2020 - SPARK TSL extended coverage to Oxford Parkway platforms, whereas the previous requirement was only to cover the concourse area.  

2022 - SPARK TSL extended their services to the customers new offices at Banbury, replacing the Banbury Tramway site.  

2024 - Chiltern signed a contract with SPARK TSL to install two additional access points at Marylebone Station. Chiltern had upgrades to their boardroom and meetings rooms which therefore required additional access points to deal with a higher number of people. 

 

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In 2023, there were 535,000 connections to the WiFi.  

Awards in Conjunction with SPARK TSL

SPARK TSL, Icomera and Chiltern Railways were shortlisted in the Design Innovation category at the UK Rail Industry Awards in 2016.

SPARK TSL, together with Icomera and Chiltern Railways, won ‘highly commended’ for the prestigious Rail Business Awards in 2020 for category, Customer Service Excellence for their Continuously Connected Passenger Journey (CCPJ) across the Chiltern Railways estate.  2016. 

It’s great that finally someone has taken this approach and cracked this issue!

UK Rail Industry Awards Judges

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The Future 

SPARK TSL want the best for their customers and that includes updates to keep their service fresh, relevant and easy to use.  

Currently, Chiltern have a SPARK® Gateway, this is the physical hardware that hosts our WiFi platform. The Gateway was originally installed in 2016. The hardware has now aged significantly since its installation due to the speed in which technology evolves. Instead of choosing to update the Gateway, Chiltern are looking to move over to SPARK® Bridge - This is SPARK TSL's cloud-based solution, rather than physical hardware. SPARK TSL facilitated this update to keep Chiltern relevant and to help keep their status as a technology lead TOC. 

SPARK TSL are also in conversations about updating their portal to slicken the user journey even more. This includes updated visuals which look more professional while still aligning to the Chiltern brand. 

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To download a copy of the Chiltern Railways case study as a PDF, click the link below.

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