July 2015

Glasgow-Edinburgh trains: please help

Scotrail are now planning the internal design of the new electric trains which will run on the Edinburgh-Falkirk-Glasgow main line and on various local lines in Central Scotland.  They are consulting Spokes and other organisations…

The current class-170 Edinburgh-Glasgow diesel trains have some of Scotland’s best on-train bike provision, but plans for the new trains are if anything less satisfactory, and don’t seize the opportunities to improve spaces or to make loading/unloading faster at stations.  If this concerns you, please make your voice heard, as below.

The new rolling stock forms part of the Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme (EGIP), due to begin operation in late 2017.  As electrification progresses, the new trains will also be introduced on other lines where bike provision is currently less satisfactory, giving hope for useful improvements here [the programme below is provisional] …

  • Edinburgh – North Berwick & Dunbar [2018]
  • Edinburgh – Stirling – Dunblane/Alloa [end 2018]
  • Glasgow QS– Stirling – Dunblane/Alloa [end 2018]
  • Glasgow Central – Shotts – Edinburgh [Spring 2019]
  • Glasgow local lines to Neilston and Newton [2018]

The new trains will generally be longer than at present, with four/eight cars instead of three/six on Edinburgh-Falkirk-QS main line – and three cars instead of two or three on the above local services.

Bike Space on the new trains

For a plan of what a 4-car unit looks like under the current proposals, see here. The 3-car units are similar, but without first class.

The plans have a single dedicated bike zone in each train.  They don’t also have a shared space signed for bikes or wheelchairs, like the existing Class-170 trains do, as new UK government rules mean that there must be space signed only for wheelchairs.

The proposed single cycle zone is described officially as being for two bikes (this being all that Transport Scotland asked for).  However, it is usefully larger than the existing Class 170 trains bike area and ScotRail expect that more than two could be accommodated – we think four.  Cyclists will need to cooperate so that bikes needing to get off at intermediate stations can be accessed easily.  The area will consist of a row of five tip up seats, but with bike priority signs and Velcro straps to secure the bike – the same design as the existing North Berwick electric trains.

In addition, ScotRail tell us that guards will be trained to be flexible and that further bikes can be carried if other space is available – some storage space elsewhere in the train may be usable.

An opportunity lost?

Overall the new EGIP trains will in practice probably carry roughly the same number of bikes as now – but an opportunity is being missed to make train layouts much more flexible, allowing more bikes spaces and quicker loading/unloading at stations.  Scotrail agree that there are operational and commercial advantages to more flexible space – but they have to follow a Scottish Government requirement to maximise the number of fixed seats.

Our proposal is that, as well as the planned single dedicated bike and wheelchair spaces, every coach on these trains (and, indeed, on every train in Scotland) should have a multi-use flexible space – with fold-down seats and designed suitable for bikes, prams, skis, bulky luggage/suitcases, shopping trolleys and so on.

In the appendix below we outline the benefits of more flexible space – for passengers, for ScotRail, and indeed for the Government, given its wish to encourage more use of bikes, more rail passengers, and maximum timekeeping efficiency at stations.

What you can do

The requirement to maximise fixed seats, thus reducing the options for flexible space, comes from Transport Scotland, the government body which implements transport policy.

Therefore we suggest you contact your MSPs and ask them to raise this with the Transport Minister and with Transport Scotland.  Find your MSPs at www.writetothem.com.  If you feel very strongly, ask in your email to meet them at their surgery.

Please also forward your email to Spokes at bikerail[AT]spokes.org.uk.   This goes to Ewan Jeffrey who handles bike/rail issues for Spokes.  He will pass on your comments to the ScotRail person handling the stakeholder consultation.   Please also send him any useful replies you receive from MSPs.

Point out that flexible space in every coach of every train benefits not just people with bikes, but a wide range of passengers and potential passengers. It may benefit you even without your bike – e.g. if you are travelling as a family with push chairs, or if taking sports equipment or a bulky musical instrument.

See the appendix below for some of the main arguments – but use your own words when writing.

More information

Appendix: Flexible Space in Every Coach – the how and the why

Provision of flexible-use space in every coach would bring commercial and operational benefits as well as benefits for those passengers with bikes or other bulky luggage.

Existing trains are furnished almost entirely with fixed inflexible seating. This sadly means that off-peak, if you are travelling with, say, a pram, golf clubs or a bicycle, it can be difficult or even impossible to get on a train even though it may have lots of empty seats.  Families with a pushchair or pram sometimes cannot sit close to it – and we have even seen such a family being barred from an off-peak train at Falkirk Grahamston as the storage space was full.

The advantages of our proposal for a multi-use flexible space in every coach of a train include…

  • People with bulky and/or heavy luggage can get into any coach, instead of having to struggle along the platform
  • A single person with a bike need not run the length of the platform – though groups may still wish to do so to use the dedicated bike area
  • There will be fewer cases where a bike has to be extracted from behind another at an intermediate station
  • For the above 3 reasons, trains are less likely to suffer delays at stations
  • Flexible space in every coach helps to keep vestibules clear both for emergencies and more generally to improve circulation throughout the train.
  • Flexible space will bring more people onto the train offpeak, knowing that they can easily travel with luggage, sports equipment, prams, etc – thus increasing discretionary off-peak revenue

People who would benefit include…

  • Commuters, for short distance seating and standing space in the rush-hour. Groups of friends will often choose to stand and chat informally.
  • Families with prams and pushchairs, with the benefit of being able to also sit nearby. There are marked pushchair spaces on buses, why not on trains?
  • People with walking aids or shopping trolleys
  • People with golf clubs (common on East Lothian and Ayrshire trains)
  • Any passenger with bulky luggage
  • Passengers with bicycles, particularly if travelling alone, giving extra flexibility on where to enter the train

Technically [see train layout map above]

In the EGIP units, a partial solution would be to create a flexible space at the No. 2 end of both coaches TPS1 and TS1, consisting of six comfortable fold-up seats beside the luggage stack, in place of the proposed six standard fixed seats and the two sub-optimal seats (being narrower and with much reduced pitch).

Such spaces are not a disadvantage to commuters on peak-time journeys whilst for offpeak travel there are anyway usually plenty of other fixed seats available.

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