Friday, 22 June 2012

Getting bikes on trains

I'm a non-driver, so I'm often found taking trains around the country.  I'm also not a cyclist, but that's mostly because my girlfriend has banned me from "pedalling the pedals" for the safety of both myself and those around me (I admit I can get rather easily distracted or absorbed in thought - more than once I've done the hour long walk to work and suddenly realised as I opened the building door that I couldn't  remember actually crossing any of the roads to get there!).  However I think cycling is a great way of commuting for folk how are a bit more mentally with it.  If you live within 5 miles of work, cycling directly there should be something you should consider for your own health, to help reduce road congestion and help cut down on pollution.

Couple a bike with a commuter train and you've potentially got a great commuter transport option: cycle to the station, catch the train with your bike and then hop back on the bicycle for a quick cycle to your place of work/education.  I know several people who do just that, coming to Loughborough from Nottingham, Derby or Leicester, and I've seen people at Loughborough station who are obviously doing the opposite run.

Whilst I'm a non-cyclist my train usage means I've seen plenty of bikes, both "folders" and normal non-folding examples, popped into carriage vestibules or wedged into one of the little cycle spaces that are provided on some services.  I'm also old enough that I can remember "proper trains" with large guards vans that could take large numbers of bikes (and push chairs and folks in wheelchairs and large luggage) that unfortunately modern train designs have swept away.  Thus I'm very aware that there's not actually that much space available for bikes, although what space is available seems to be offered for free to riders by most train companies.

Today there's a bus drivers strike going on in London, and I noticed that Chiltern Railways (one of the best UK train operating companies in my experience) where encouraging folk to walk or cycle where possible when they got to the capital.  My first thought was "good on yer Chiltern Railways for promoting walking and cycling".  Then I thought, "hmm, I wonder how many bikes they can get on each train to allow this?"  A bit of Googling threw up the AtoB website's cycles and trains page, which seemed to unfortunately indicate that cycles aren't allowed on some of their peak period trains!  You'd think they'd at least allow

However the thing that really struck me was the wide range of rules and regulations on cycle carriage from all the train operating companies.  Even companies that are using more or less the same rolling stock have completely different rules and attitudes to cycle carriage on their trains.  The fact that lots of them seem to restrict (at least on paper) the carriage of cycles, even folding cycles in some cases, on peak hour trains rather stuffs up the cycle-train-cycle commuting option for many people.  I guess at least if you are a regular commuter you can get used to rules implemented by the particular train operating company(s) that you regularly use.  However this mish-mash of contradictory regulations doesn't encourage the occasional use of cycles for the first/last mile of other, less regular train journeys such as people going to meetings, visiting granny, nipping to a city for shopping, etc, especially as those sorts of journeys are more likely to require changes between different train operating companies.

In the past the Government via the Office of the Rail Regulator has got the train operating companies together via their ATOC association to force them to review and try to simplify ticketing rules (with admittedly limited success).  I wonder if they, or anyone else with some clout, are capable of getting the cycle carriage rules standardised across the network (or at least across identical rolling stock)?  I guess another solution would be a national "Boris Bike" scheme were you could pick up a loaner bike for a few hours at every railway station but that's another post for another day!

1 comment:

  1. All I have to do is fold my bike and after that keep commuting!!!