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I try out BEAM, the Virgin Trains West Coast on-board entertainment system

I promised to write about the new Virgin Trains (West Coast) entertainment system a couple of weeks ago but it slipped back.  I will correct that today.

When I was in Manchester in the Virgin Trains lounge, reviewed here, I saw a big poster suggesting that I download the Virgin Trains BEAM app to my iPhone so that I could check out the on-board entertainment.

BEAM is Virgin Trains’ complimentary on board entertainment service that you can access from your phone or tablet.  It has its own website here.

Usually I’m not the sort of person to download random apps.  However, as the wi-fi connection on-board Virgin Trains West Coast isn’t always great and I was never able to stream Netflix or YouTube, I decided to try BEAM.


Unless you want to use your phone’s 4G data allowance, you should download the app at home (or in the Virgin lounge) as the on-board wifi won’t let you download any apps.

The key thing to note is that, whilst it is transmitted using the on-train wi-fi aerials, the BEAM signal is not dependent on the quality of the external wi-fi connection.  The app was working when the wi-fi connection on my laptop was bad.

Once on board you need to connect to the Virgin Trains wi-fi and register your device with your email address.

Then you’re set up to watch box sets, documentaries, movies, play games or read magazines.

BEAM app enter contact details

Here is a screenshot of what a part of the selection looked like when I was using BEAM:


You can only use BEAM whilst onboard a Virgin train.  If your journey ends, the app remembers where you got to and next time you board a Virgin train you can finish your movie!

I also enjoyed the games selection:

BEAM app game

and had a look at the latest Cosmopolitan – no judging please!

BEAM app selection magazines cosmopolitan

BEAM is NOT exclusive to First class. It also works when you connect your device to the wi-fi in Standard Class.

I was quite impressed by the selection of movies/TV shows, games and magazines and it was a pleasant way to pass the time on the way back to London.

You can find out more about BEAM on this page of the Virgin website.

If you need a movie recommendation, I suggest watching Ex Machina – in my opinion one of the best films of 2015!

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  1. “the BEAM signal is not dependent on the wi-fi signal on the train and is broadcast separately”

    To clarify – although BEAM content is accessed and delivered to your device via the Virgin Trains onboard wifi, access to the BEAM content is not dependent upon the onward connectivity from the train. It is delivered locally from systems places on board the train so it will work even when internet access is lost.

    Also it will not count as part of any wifi internet access time/date purchased – as it is not accessing the internet, but the onboard systems.

    • I think rob said that in a very simplistic way

      • Agreed, Rob’s explanation sums it up perfectly in far less words.

        • Quark999 says:

          It’s not accurate though. If your WIFI signal on the train is bad, you will have a problem. It’s just not reliant on INTERNET connectivity, which is a different thing…

        • As pointed out by Quark999, the original wording does not sum it up ‘perfectly’. It sums it up in a highly misleading and somewhat erroneous fashion.
          No separate signal is being broadcast to your device, you do connect to the same Wifi network.
          As a result, I think it is worth clarifying for people that – even though it uses the same wifi network, it is not dependent upon connectivity beyond the train.
          And further, that using it does not count against or require any paid internet access via the wifi network.

      • or Anika!

  2. Did the magazine have any articles on shirts? 🙂

  3. can you use it on laptop as well?

    • They are working on a browser based version, currently it is app only (iOS or Android).

  4. I assume there is a cost to accessing content?

  5. OT – when virgin trains had the offer of 500 virgin miles when you book online
    as anyone had them posted? still waiting on my?

  6. Thanks for the reply’s

  7. Andrew H says:

    Nothing for me yet either

  8. The content is streamed from an onboard server on the train using the trains on board wifi routers.

  9. I tried to download the app to my lap top as the article said that had worked but can’t get google play to add my lap top to my devices. It still has my Blackberry as the only device. I’m betting the app won’t work on that.

    • Google Play is for Android devices. It might be possible to get it working on a Chromebook but it won’t work on a laptop unless they release a version of the app for use there.

      • Or unless you have an Android VM running perhaps.

        • Well indeed, but I suspected the person saying it wouldn’t install on their laptop from the Play Store wasn’t doing that 😉 😀

        • Not disputing that for a second.
          Just floating the idea for anyone who does.

  10. Double Beam failure for me. First time I had appalling lipsynch issues on the videos. Second time the servers crashed 15 minutes into the trip. Back to the Kindle!

    I’m assuming the “free” service is soak testing reading for a payable service, free in 1st Class? Can’t see myself paying.

  11. Lewis Watson says:

    Wonder if this is the way airlines will go. Must be cheaper than all those screens on the back of seats

    • I believe Air Canada (amongst others) have already starting implementing this. More in this Engadget article from a couple of years ago –

    • In the UK, Monarch already have this – on a limited number of their aircraft.
      Need to have download the Monarch player app before the flight. But theirs is limited free content, lots of paid.

      Air Canada – as Alan mentioned above – also do. Plus others.