July 2015

Public Mtg calls for Train/Bike space

Over 100 people came to our summer public meeting to talk about bike/rail integration.   The overwhelming concern during an extensive QA session following the presentations was about bike carriage on trains – space and certainty for passengers, and opportunities for operators…

Photo tweeted by @jamesks

Photo tweeted by @jamesks

There was a general understanding that during peak hours space is bound to be at a premium and, whilst bike carriage is still vital for some passengers, operators should also make every effort to maximise off-train opportunities including high quality parking, bike hubs [with maintenance, parts and supervision], bike hire, information and good routes to stations.

However off peak is a very different story, with bikes (and prams and some other items) sometimes unable to fit into a half empty train, purely because the train layout is too inflexible.  A flexible space within each coach would remove many passenger frustrations, as well as maximising revenue at times of day when trains are under capacity.  Yet train operators – and especially their political paymasters – are often fixated on maximising the number of standard seats.

Speakerslinks to their presentations are below

Desmond Bradley  [Transport Integration Manager for Abellio ScotRail].   Des is responsible for implementing the very exciting Abellio Cycling SPOKES_ScR_3-Small BIKESLIDEInnovation Plan for Scotland.   After a run-through of Abellio’s overall approach to ScotRail, he highlighted their planned cycling initiatives – see slide.

Sarah Ryan [Active Travel Officer for Sestran, the South East Scotland Regional Transport Partnership].  Sarah outlined what Sestran is about, and the role of the AT officer, then described how cycling and rail fit into their policies and actions.

Susan Warren [Development Officer at Transform Scotland]  Susan described Transform’s Interchange project, which looked at how well cycling is – or is not – and how it could be – integrated at rail and ferry interchanges.

Robert Drysdale [Campaign for Borders Rail and longstanding bike/rail user]  Robert gave a fascinating rapid slideshow of Borders Rail devBordersRailwayPresRobertDrysdaleFinal140615-Small MAPelopment from then to now, followed by his expectations for bike carriage – he sees huge potential, but feared we will see a mere 2 bike spaces per train, given that the line is to be served by 2-coach class 158 trains. His preferred solution was more coaches per train – the station platforms are designed for up to 6 coaches.  Alternatively the internal layout of the 158s could be modified, as on some other routes.

Panel discussion and audience QA

Chaired by Sarah Boyack MSP  [Spokes member, Deputy Convener of the Scottish Parliament Cross Party Cycling Group and Transport Minister 2001-4].

The session was very effectively chaired with many people getting a chance to put forward points to the panel.  See below for a report on the points raised.

In general people seemed very pleased with the intentions for bike facilities at stations, but there was widespread concern about bike carriage.  Indeed bike carriage, in its many aspects, dominated the questions and discussion, as outlined at the start of this article.

Closing statements

Ewan Jeffrey, our Spokes bike/rail representative [email bikerailATspokes.org.uk] summarised the feeling of the meeting that more thinking needs to go into bike carriage.

Offpeak trains are often fairly empty, but the same coaches must also cater for peak hours, as well as for other bulky items such as prams, golf clubs and shopping trolleys [wheelchairs must always have their own space].  The answer is a flexible space [with fold-up seats, and long enough for bikes] in every carriage of every train.   This would encourage more off-peak passengers, maximising off-peak revenue, whilst still catering for peak hours.  It would also save train delays at stations, since passengers with bikes or other bulky items could get in any coach.

Bike carriage is not the only issue concerning us – Transport Scotland and Network Rail have failed to consider cycling in many infrastructure issues such as ‘Fortress Waverley‘, no bike facilities at the new Haymarket Station and plans for a walk-only A8 underpass to the forthcoming Gogar rail/tram interchange station.

Sarah Boyack said the new ‘Alliance’ between Abellio and Network Rail, with a combined management team, and the Dutch experience, gave the opportunity for a new approach to bike/rail integration – properly in line with government targets on climate emissions and public health.  Cycling needed to be ‘mainstreamed’ into all aspects of government policy.

She urged everyone concerned about bike/rail issues to raise them with MSPs by email, or by visiting their surgeries.   Emails should be copied to Abellio/ScotRail.


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