After Mumbai Central, RailTel, the telecom arm of the Indian Railways today launched high-speed public free WiFi service at Bhubaneswar railway station in partnership with Google.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu accompanied by Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha, launched the WiFi service which will benefit 1.4 lakh visitors at Bhubaneswar station daily.
The Minister also announced that similar service will be made available at Puri Railway Station ahead of Lord Jagannth’s annual Rath Yatra in July this year.
The project will eventually be rolled out to cover 400 railway stations across India.
On Congress protest outside the station against the reported move to shift the proposed rail wagon repair factory from Narla in Kalahandi district, both the ministers were critical of the UPA government for having announced the project without making the requisite budget allocations for it.
“We do, what we say. But, earlier, they (UPA government) announced the project without making budgetary provision. There was no mention of Narla project in the pink book. The announcement was made on political consideration,” Sinha said.
“We are committed to the announcements made by us. This time during budget presentation, I have placed facts before Parliament on the work done by us as regard the announcements made in the previous budget,” said Prabhu during his speech here.
Stressing that no factory can be made by simply making announcements without required provisions, Prabhu said “we have said 100 stations will get WiFi service this year and we will do it. We do not make false announcements”.
Noting that Odisha got a meagre Rs 719 crore in 2012-13 rail budget and Rs 812 crore in 2013-14, the Railway Minister said the amount for the state was substantially raised by NDA government and this year it is Rs 6,000 crore.
On the proposed Narla wagon repair factory, Prabhu had yesterday announced that a joint working group will be formed to decide how to set up projects in Kalahandi and Ganjam districts, announcements for which were made by previous UPA government.
The group will decide what kind of projects could come up at Narla and Sitapalli of Ganjam if wagon repair factories are not economically viable in those places.
As internet adoption grows in India, easy and affordable access to high-speed networks is the real need of the hour,” Gulzar Azad, Head of Access Project, Google India, said.
About the launch, Chairman and Managing Director of Railtel R K Bahuguna said modernising and improving the amenities available to passengers of Indian Railways is a big part of our focus. And we are very proud to say that Indian Railways has taken the lead to offer the best Wi-Fi network experience available to passengers in the country.
And while the service will be free for a reasonable amount of time, our long-term goal is to make this project self-sustainable to allow for expansion to more stations and places, with RailTel and other partners, in the future, he said.
With free, high-speed WI-FI service being available at the station, passengers can now surf the net, do social media or stream high definition videos during the time when they wait for their respective trains.
With today’s launch at Bhubaneswar, Google has rolled out public Wi-Fi services across ten key Railways Stations now, enabling access to over 1.5 million people daily as part of the world’s largest public Wi-Fi project.
Starting with the first launch at Mumbai Central in January this year, the list of stations now offering public Wi-Fi services–Pune, Bhubaneshwar, Bhopal, Ranchi, Raipur, Vijayawada, Kacheguda (Hyderabad), ErnakulamJn (Kochi) and Vishakhapatnam.
As the project picks up pace, the target is to cover 100 of the country’s busiest stations by end of 2016.