August 2012
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Bike-Rail Toolkit + conference

The Association of Train Operating Companies [ATOC] has published an exciting new 60-page ‘toolkit’ on how to greatly improve bike-rail integration, so as to make bike-rail a true ‘end-to-end’ journey from home to destination…

The Tookit [pdf 3.7MB] covers  the why and the how in considerable detail, including the importance of bike-rail, cycling to the station, travel within the station, bike parking, bike carriage, bike hire, bike hubs [and their definition], monitoring, maintenance and much more.

The toolkit is being accompanied by an ATOC ‘Interchange and Integrated Transport’ conference on 27 September, reporting and discussing several of the initiatives now underway in England, and the potential for big increases in door-to-door bike/rail travel.

The toolkit had been requested from ATOC by UK Lib Dem Transport Under-Secretary Norman Baker MP, who launched it – but being published by ATOC it is applicable just as much in Scotland as in the rest of the UK.  Now we need it to be used!!

Mr Baker, a regular cyclist himself, is known to wish for greater cycle use – but funding allocated to cycling is still extremely limited, and the Coalition government’s scrapping of Cycling England was a drastic own-goal.   The £560m referred to in the Minister’s Toolkit introduction is in fact over 3 years and includes many bus, rail, walking and other low-carbon initiatives as well as cycling – an obfuscation similar to the Scottish government’s multi-purpose ‘Sustainable and Active Travel’ budget which in fact includes everything from cycling and walking to Halbeath Park and Ride (i.e. a big car park with bus link).

On the other hand, the UK government has at least made a wee special allocation (£7m) specifically for bike/rail integration in England, unlike the Scottish Government.

Nonetheless, there are a few current initiatives on bike rail in and near our area, including the following [please tell us any others you know of] …

  • There are rumours that ScotRail, the Scottish Government, Stirling Council and others are working on a Stirling ‘bike hub’ – presumably to include supervised parking, maintenance facilities, etc.
  • The Edinburgh-Glasgow Improvement Project [EGIP] has promised improved bike parking at Haymarket station, which is to be almost completely rebuilt.   But we consider it shocking that such a major rebuild doesn’t yet include a bike hub [1.1MB] given the government target for 10% of all trips to be by bike by 2020.  We are also very concerned over the lack of clarity about bike capacity on the planned new electric trains [pdf 23k], especially given that bike capacity on the existing Edinburgh-Falkirk-Glasgow ‘flagship route’ is also of ‘flagship’ standard.
  • There has been considerable lobbying by Spokes and others to ensure that stations on the forthcoming Borders Railway are linked to nearby communities by decent cycling/walking routes – unlike Transport Scotland’s refusal to consider this in its recent Bathgate-Airdrie re-opening.  Bike parking at the station is the easy bit!!   This issue is also covered in the fascinating new book ‘Waverley Route: the life, death and rebirth of the Borders Railway‘ [pdf 44k] by David Spaven.  See below for some cycling-relevant extracts.
  • Following lobbying by Spokes and Linlithgow Cycle Action Group, ScotRail is to double the overflowing bike shelter on the Glasgow-bound side of Linlithgow Station.   Around 40 bike commuters already park at Linlithgow (total both sides) occupying a tiny fraction of the space used by the car park.
  • Cyclist information boards have been installed at several East Lothian stations, following the initial Spokes/ScotRail Linlithgow board [3.3MB][which is shortly to be updated].
  • There are rumours of a Safe Routes to Station project at Bathgate, involving ScotRail, Sustrans and others.   We know no more about this.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

  • If you know of other local bike/rail developments, please let us know.
  • If you are concerned about any issues above, or any other bike-rail issues, contact your MSPs [ www.writetothem.com ] or ScotRail, whichever seems more appropriate.
  • See also our bike-rail documents page.

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Postscript:  Cycling-relevant extracts from Waverley Route: the life, death and rebirth of the Borders Railway

[We are very pleased that the issue of walk/cycle links from stations to nearby communities is covered, but would have liked more emphasis on bike carriage on the trains and in particular the potential for bike-rail commuting]

“Provision for park-and-ride for motorists at all stations (except Galashiels, where space precludes this) has been a key objective from the earliest days of the official rail re-opening scheme. Cycle parking facilities at stations have not been forgotten, but the experience of the Airdrie-Bathgate re-opening has alerted sustainable transport campaigners to the danger that the quality and safety of access to Borders and Midlothian stations on foot and bike will be forgotten in the rush to cater for the motorist – as we shall see in Chapter 10.

“While most attention has focused on northbound rail travel to destinations in Midlothian, Edinburgh and beyond, ‘reverse’ flows will offer an important opportunity to fill up otherwise empty spaces on trains. Possibly the biggest potential southbound market is leisure / tourist travel to the Scottish Mining Museum at Newtongrange and a variety of Borders attractions – including Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford – accessible from Tweedbank station by local bus, bike or foot. Given Edinburgh’s massive visitor base, plus the significant resident population with ready access to Haymarket, Waverley and other stations, it will be a disappointment if the railway does not attract a significant number of new visitors to the line’s environs.

“However, unless – at the very least – a way can be found to extend the Tweedbank station platform tracks and – perhaps through innovative collaboration between ScotRail and charter train operators – to accommodate the tourist charter train market on the railway in the middle of the day on Saturdays, then this will be a sadly lost opportunity for the Central Borders economy, which is likely to embarrass both local politicians and Transport Scotland. Nevertheless, the standard ScotRail service – no doubt promoted in the same manner as other Scottish tourist routes – should allow walking and cycling to become a valuable source of patronage for the railway. The stations at Stow, Galashiels and Tweedbank will offer ready access to a wide range of hill walking routes, including the Southern Upland Way and St Cuthbert’s Way, as well as quiet country lanes for leisure cycling. But will the stations be attractive and welcoming locations with appropriate facilities, and also safe immediate approaches on foot and by bike? The experience of the latter on the re-opened Airdrie-Bathgate line is not encouraging, but campaigners have been highlighting these issues and there is still time to get this vital aspect of the new railway right – from Day 1. And there is also a small but important issue for walkers and cyclists who currently use the ‘Black Path’ over five miles of the former railway solum from the north end of Galashiels through to Darnick – only over the Tweed Bridge at Tweedbank will railway and path continue to share the same corridor. It would be ironic, and sad, if the arrival of an essentially civilised form of transport were to make conditions worse for the two most sustainable travel methods.

“One of the ‘soft’ issues neglected in the rail project’s inevitable emphasis on ‘hard’ infrastructure and train services is the potential relationship between the railway and the people of the local settlements served by the line. Will the right lessons be learned from the encouraging experience of Community Rail Partnerships in England and Wales, helping to shape and promote the local railway? Rather than the austere unstaffed stations of the Airdrie- Bathgate line – which look over-engineered even if they strictly speaking are not – will we see the spirit of ScotRail’s popular ‘Adopt a Station’ scheme taken on board, with station gardens cultivated by volunteers, and appropriate local businesses and services encouraged to develop at and around the new rail hubs?”


 

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