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Highlands & N.E. bike-rail cuts: MSPs call for action

ScotRail presentation at Scottish Parliament in 2015

Our revelation that new and supposedly bike-friendly HST trains from Edinburgh & Glasgow to Inverness & Aberdeen will in fact cut available bike spaces from 4 to 2 at all intermediate stations has brought public anger and disappointment – and now a Scottish Parliament motion which highlights the need for action by the Scottish Government, its agency Transport Scotland and ScotRail.

Quick link to ‘What people say’
Quick link to ‘What you can do’

The whole thing is made worse by the fact that these trains had been heralded by the Scottish Government and by ScotRail/Abellio as bringing a new era in bike/rail between the central belt and the Highlands and North East – rail services which already severely constrain cycle tourism opportunities* and make bike/rail commuting impossible for many.

*Cycletourism is already worth over £300m a year to the Scottish economy

A presentation at the Scottish Parliament in 2015 had promised “at least” 20 bike spaces per train – but the latest plans are for a mere 2 spaces at intermediate stations (including Pitlochry, Aviemore, Arbroath, Montrose and many more) with another 6 spaces accessible only at the 4 cities.  More details in our original story.

Within just a few days of the story appearing, it had become our third-ever most popular tweet, with over 70 retweets; many angry, bewildered and upset comments and a report in the Scotsman.

Concerned individuals are now contacting their MSPs, and as a result the following motion has been lodged at the Scottish Parliament by North East Scotland MSP Liam Kerr…

Motion S5M-05106

That the Parliament notes the calls on Transport Scotland and ScotRail to reverse reported plans to reduce available cycle space on trains serving intermediate stations on the Edinburgh/Glasgow – Inverness and East Coast main lines; understands that, on 25 February 2015, the ScotRail Franchise Delivery Team informed a meeting at the Parliament that there would be improvements in 2018-19, with the introduction of four and five coach InterCity 125 High Speed Trains and an expectation that these would carry at least 20 cycles; further understands that the cycling campaign group, Spokes, has discovered that the increase in bike space has been gradually reduced, which means that, for the stations on these lines, there will be fewer spaces for cycles than at present; believes that almost all ScotRail trains are Class 170 Turbostars with four official bike spaces and that, although the new plans include a total of eight bike spaces, six can only be used at the termini, with only two spaces available for stations other than the departure and arrival points; notes the calls on Transport Scotland and the ScotRail Alliance to recognise the immense contribution that it considers cyclists bring to local economies, especially in the Highlands and the north east, and further notes the calls on the Scottish Government to bring pressure on Transport Scotland and ScotRail to reverse this decision and increase cycle space on Scotland’s railways, as it understands was promised in 2015.

If the motion gains sufficient signatures from MSPs (from several parties) it is likely to be debated, in which case hopefully there would be a government response.

Liam Kerr himself uses some of the affected services and has written this article explaining the background and reasons for his motion.

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What you can do, if this concerns you…

  • Contact your Constituency and Regional MSPs.  Find them hereAsk them to sign motion S5M-05106 – and explain why this matters to you.
  • If you have already contacted your MSPs please send another brief email/letter, referring to your previous message and asking them to sign this motion, which you have just read about.
  • If you live outside Scotland  Email MSPs from you favourite holiday area, tell them how this will affect you, and ask them if they will sign the motion.  Find them here – e.g. select the appropriate area of Scotland in the drop-down list, or just flick through all the MSPs.
  • Re-tweet the tweet of our original storyhere – once it passes 82 retweets it will be our second-most popular ever.  Interestingly, our most popular ever was also about bike/rail space cutbacks – this on the Oban line, and prompting a re-investigation of options [we still don’t know the result].

What Transport Scotland & ScotRail could do…

UK expert on bike/rail and bike/bus integration Dave Holladay summarised in 3 tweets [1, 2, 3] the measures that could be adopted by Transport Scotland and ScotRail to ameliorate many of the problems – though still below the “at least 20 bikes” originally promised.   In summary…

  • Carriages – Convert the out-of-use toilet in each carriage to provide 2 bike spaces available at all intermediate stations.   Dave Holladay suggests a particularly effective approach used by Chiltern Railways.
  • Power cars – Install the bike-hanger rack system used by Virgin East Coast –  this would allow 4 or 5 bikes per power car, instead of just 3, as currently planned.  Avoid use of the Voyager trains hanging system, which is at the limit of safe handling and can result in bike damage.
  • We also believe that it should not be necessary to prohibit access to the power car storage space at every intermediate station – our previous story suggests measures that could allow this at least at the larger intermediate stops.

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What you say…

Here are a few email extracts and tweets from the many we have seen, expressing concern, upset and/or anger…

  • Spokes member letter to her MSPPlease take action urgently – we are already failing to book our bikes on the Inverness/Edinburgh train we want for a day in AUGUST and are having to go via Glasgow!!!! These lines take lots of bikes to the Cairngorms and elsewhere and we have often been on trains where cyclists are refused. Please insist that Transport Scotland look again, keep the promises made, and work to INCREASE capacity in order to increase tourism in Scotland. It is currently virtually impossible for a family to take bikes on holiday – as we used to do with 3 children in the 90s. That is a really bad indication of the way things are going with a government which says it is encouraging cycling.
  • Spokes member letter to her MSPI am appalled at yet more disregard for cyclists by our government department, in utter opposition to the stated target of substantially increasing cycling journeys …  6 of the spaces will be available for end to end travel only, and not intermediate stations: that is, all the wonderful mountain and touring routes in the Highlands and East Coast plain will be inaccessible for most of the bike journeys on these trains! …  This is such a foolish plan that I hope you will take it up urgently with Abelio Scotrail and Transport Scotland.
  • Spokes member letter to his MSP:    I am at a loss to understand why your Government is permitting this further and significant discouragement to cycling and to cycle tourists. It’s actions (or lack of them) like this that have led to your Government’s missing its own 2020 target for a modal shift to cycling by a huge margin: to me, you are now failing to deliver on yet another commitment.
  • Spokes member letter to his MSP I recently tried to book a trip to Wick from Edinburgh, 2-1/2 months in advance. It took me several hours and I had to try several combinations of routes / times to find trains that would take my bike. Very off-putting. I cannot imagine how bad it will be to try and book if I want to take my family of 4 (impossible most likely). Which is a real shame because I would really like to take them on a cycling holiday up North, without relying on the car.  …   Cyclists do not carry much and they get hungry. They therefore tend to spend locally. Remote local economies desperately need their business. Contrast this to campervans (and motor cars) who carry everything they need and tend to buy everything in big supermarkets in the cities and never spend a penny in the local stores.
  • @John_Lauder [Director of Sustrans Scotland]  This is baffling & contradicts what I took from meetings in late 2016. Transport should support tourism.
  • @RurigdhM  @ScotRail I love you, but this is completely unacceptable.
  • @yew4n  This is ridiculous. Anyone who used their bike to get to Edinburgh or fife knows its already a nightmare!
  • @ElaineDowns1  Campaign for bike spaces on trains. Contact your MSP to remind them that sustainable transport benefits all.
  • @SutherlandGill  Travel from inverkeithing to Aviemore or back so this will really impact me.
  • @afmell  Just mailed my MSP about reduced bike capacity up north.
  • @spoinged  2 bikes is not progress and not good enough.
  • @BCCletts  With better design of hanging system 4-5 bikes/power car incl trikes/tandems as ‘proved’ with @Virgin_TrainsEC  trials + 5 coaches x 2 bikes
  • @graeme_wyllie  Bad situation brewing for cyclists – easily resolved by Transport Scotland?
  • @crabbitcopy  So much for integrated transport.
  • @johnc_outdoors  Taking my bike on the train saves my employer around £1000/year on travel expenses. Bikes on trains are good for businesses.
  • @RangiRevo  Vertical hanging racks are unusable for panniers (touring), people with back problems, most disabilities, e-bikes, heavy/large bikes…
  • @bikerbill1953  This is ridiculous! Could someone please circulate details of any petitions etc that we can support?
  • @Gadgeagoogoo  Did i read this right? They’re refurbishing the 125s, cutting bike space and locking some toilets?
  • @MattJackson_  This is concerning. @HumzaYousaf – is this being looked at by @ScotRail / @AbellioRailBus? Last chance to fix
  • @sunildvr  This is bonkers. Essential to have plenty of bike spaces to make the most of the Highlands tourist potential – let alone others!

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