Train operator First Capital Connect is trialling the use of 3G-enabled iPads for its drivers in a bid to improve information given to passengers, V3 has learnt.
The company, which carries 150,000 passengers every day on routes north and south of London, has rolled out 80 of the Apple tablets so far.
Drivers will be able to access email as well as bespoke software in order to access various documents and live service updates. The move looks to improve driver efficiency and increase the accuracy and timeliness of communications with frustrated passengers during service disruption.
Currently, driver notices are paper-based and can only be accessed at the beginning or end of a driver's journey; service notifications can only be received through telephones installed in the cab.
First Capital Connect's head of drivers, Paul Harding, told V3 the trial had been "very positive" so far, adding, "The ability to reference numerous documents relating to their role is proving to be very useful."
Harding said the company chose iPads due to their good reputation: "A variety of tablet devices have been adopted and are under trial within the industry. In our business we opted for the iPad," he explained.
The firm added that the driver would only be permitted to use the device when the train is stationary and while there are no other distractions, in compliance with regulations.
First Capital Connect will evaluate the project in the early part of next year to decide whether to roll out more of the devices. iPads are already in use among First Capital Connect's engineers when inspecting and maintaining trains.
The rollout of 3G-enabled devices will likely be helped by Network Rail making improvements to mobile signals along its routes. The news, announced last month, would see 30 percent of train routes covered by 2015.
The use of tablets among travelling employees is growing. Several train operators in continental Europe have begun rolling out tablets for drivers, while Microsoft won an order earlier this month to supply 11,000 Microsoft Surface 2 tablets to Delta Airlines pilots.
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