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Bike and Rail:- Spokes Public Meeting Monday 15 June

(42 posts)

  1. Rosie
    Member

    Bikes and Rail
    Spokes Public Meeting
    Monday 15 June 7:30 – 9:30
    Doors open 6:45 for coffee, stalls, chat
    Augustine United Church, 41 George IV Bridge

    Subject:- Dutch company Abellio are now running ScotRail. What does this mean for bike/rail? What else is happening locally and in Scotland for bike/rail?
    Headline speaker:- Des Bradley, Transport Integration Manager for Abellio ScotRail.
    Support:- Sarah Ryan, Active Travel Officer for Sestran, the South East Scotland Regional Transport Partnership
    Susan Warren, Development Officer at Transform Scotland
    Robert Drysdale, Campaign for Borders Rail and longstanding bike/rail user

    This will have been posted before but their Cycling Innovation Plan for Scotland (see link below) does look pretty good.
    http://www.spokes.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/1506-ASR-Cycle-Innovation-Plan-June-20151.pdf

    They are planning better cycling parking and storage in stations. They envisage a massive expansion of the Dutch system (and Belgium – I saw this in Ghent – tiers of bicycles) of cyclists leaving a bicycle at one station and then picking up another at their destination.

    They are increasing the number of spaces on trains and training employees to provide additional ad-hoc spaces, which is certainly one of my bugbears, as a touring cyclist. They say that “In our HSTs, which will be deployed on the key InterCity routes commencing December 2018, there will be spaces for cycles in the former luggage compartment in the motor vans.” Does that mean guards vans?

    Anyway, it does look positive, and less piecemeal than the present system.

    Posted 3 years ago #
  2. fimm
    Member

    "...training employees to provide additional ad-hoc spaces..."

    Now that is a good thing. No more "computer train staff says no" when trying to put a third bike onto an almost empty train (SRD (I think) has a real horror story about this).

    Posted 3 years ago #
  3. barnton-to-town
    Member

    We're just back from a week on the continent, bookended by rail journeys to/from Newcastle.
    The attitudes in the Netherlands/Belgium/Germany towards cyclists is night and day to what it is here. Why oh why do we have this crappy "this is my space and you shall not impinge" attitude in this country???
    The UK rail journeys; on the way down, an unhelpful olatform manager didn't want us on a train because of a failure to reserve spaces, and 2/3 spaces were already filled. However, the helpful virgin cross country train guard sorted us out.
    On the way back; at Edinburgh, the virgin east coast guard went to town on us as our bikes were locked to the rail in his van. He may have been right, but there were no signs to say not to do so, though there was a sign to say "left at owners's own risk".
    His parting shot? "Cyclists shouldn't be on trains anyway. If you want to cycle somewhere, cycle to get there".

    Posted 3 years ago #
  4. PS
    Member

    I'd report that comment if I were you B-t-t. Train companies management do tend to want to keep their customers happy. It's a shame that their employees (who they inherit) are often in need of a reeducation. But the management won't know unless you tell them...

    Posted 3 years ago #
  5. ARobComp
    Member

    I've started to carry a few cable ties with me on trains to do a quick and subtle fixing that can be easily removed with a really good pull but which will stop a casual grab and run. Just have a tyre lever in your pocket to use as a lever to snap the cable tie when you need to get rid of it.

    Also report the train guard. That sort of stuff is just not on.

    Posted 3 years ago #
  6. chdot
    Admin

    Perhaps "worthy" is a good description of last night. Four solid (and somewhat stolid) presentations (I think Sarah Boyack used the word "dense" before she chaired the Q&A).

    Main presentation was from Abellio (or ScotRail as we will be calling it again soon!) Main points probably those in first post above - 'train staff to be (more) flexible about letting bikes on' and 'increased bike parking at stations'.

    Best presentation was the one from Transform Scotland about their Interchange project - photos and a nice video about the "cyclists' experience" (including uncovered bike parking at the far end of the carpark and lots of covered racks hidden away with no signs pointing to them.

    Lots for SR to deal with.

    The main 'problem' for many at the meeting was capacity on trains. I think it emerged clearly that there are, perhaps, three (overlapping) issues.

    Casual jumping on a train with a bike. This can include going to work. Rail companies have a genuine problem balancing "capacity" (space/seats) and users. Clearly there are train services that are 'full' or over-full, where even getting to the bike spaces can be a problem - not helped if these are in (sensible when not busy) tip-up seat areas.

    Long distance touring. This is a market (as in people actually paying money to visits/travel around Scotland) that is not well catered for. Having to book can be reasonable/reassuring, but - on some routes - it affects the more local 'jump on a train with your bike' people.

    The third 'category' is 'day trippers' people who expect to be able to cycle to (for instance) East Lothian and get the train back if it starts raining or the wind changes direction - or just to ride further without having to ride back.

    This opportunity/problem is about to become bigger with the opening of the Borders line - with the added fact that there will be many people wanting to get the train in both directions and do all their cycling down there. Little chance of getting the thousands of mountainbikers out of their cars.

    In an ideal world, rush hour trains could be full of people with 'reasonable' bike provision and off-peak have blocks of seats taken out. Not really likely to happen.

    For commuting SR genuinely intends to improve bike parking and will have more bike hire - for the final mile or so. The suggestion that people should have another bike at the other end of the their commute didn't go down well last night. But it has to be accepted that a 'Spokes audience' is not representative and more attached to their bikes than 'normal' people (same can be said for many CCEers!)

    Lots more subjective views on Twitter -

    https://mobile.twitter.com/search?q=%23SpokesMtg&s=tyah

    Posted 3 years ago #
  7. Morningsider
    Member

    I notice the Virgin Trains East Coast FAQ on bikes states:

    "We love bikes and they can be carried free of charge on all Virgin Trains East Coast services (as long as you have a valid ticket of course)"

    Also worth noting that they will carry tandems - but you have to book two bike spaces. Not sure that really makes sense given the layout of the bike spaces on most East Coast services, but very little about the UK rail industry makes any sense.

    Posted 3 years ago #
  8. chdot
    Admin

    One unasked question was 'would/should you pay to take your bike on a train'?

    Posted 3 years ago #
  9. PS
    Member

    For commuting SR genuinely intends to improve bike parking and will have more bike hire - for the final mile or so. The suggestion that people should have another bike at the other end of the their commute didn't go down well last night. But it has to be accepted that a 'Spokes audience' is not representative and more attached to their bikes than 'normal' people

    This is very true. If we want to get NL-level cycling in Scotland then we have to accept that we will not be able to accommodate everyone's bikes on the train.

    The characteristic Anglo-Saxon uptightness about our cars (compare the relaxed nature with which the French will use their bumpers to the howls of rages from the Brit driver when you so much as touch their paintwork) seems to extend to our bikes as well. "I've dropped a load of cash on my perfect bike, so it is my inalienable right to take it with me everywhere." If we want mass cycling fully integrated with public transport we really do need to loosen up a bit.

    It seemed to me that Abellio are proposing a lot of good stuff and have the right attitude, but I don't think Des Bradley was quite as in charge of his brief or as prepared for his audience as he might have been. Some members of the audience (was it Tulyar?) seemed to know more about the rolling stock bike-carrying capacity and Abellio's proposals than he did.

    A bit of a missed opportunity for Abellio to wow us all with their commitment, but I suspect it reflects the fact that Des is "ScotRail" rather than "Abellio", ie, he's worked through the FirstGroup regime where cyclists were an inconvenience, and it's possible he's not fully up to speed with what Abellio have promised and want to do. That sort of reeducation will be required of all the ScotRail staff. I hope it works.

    One other thought - I was surprised that the Bikehub in Edinburgh is going to be at Haymarket rather than Waverley. The Council is really going to have to get its Roseburn to Leith Walk segregated cycle corridor sorted out if that is going to work. Good opportunity to keep the pressure on.

    Posted 3 years ago #
  10. fimm
    Member

    I guess I'm a good candidate for "bike at both ends of the commute". However the big issue for me is security at the unmanned Livingston North station. (I believe bike theft is quite an issue in the Netherlands...) I don't have any confidence at all that even the most rubbish bike would still be there if I left it overnight, let alone over an entire weekend.

    It is a safety in numbers effect, really; if there were lots of other beaten-up bikes being left there over the weekend, the chance of mine being the one being damaged is fairly small. If mine is the only bike there, then it will get trashed (Boyfriend of Fimm had his town bike damaged, we think they just pulled off whatever metal they could easily remove for its scrap value).

    Posted 3 years ago #
  11. chdot
    Admin

    "was it Tulyar?"

    Well spotted...

    Posted 3 years ago #
  12. chdot
    Admin

    "I was surprised that the Bikehub in Edinburgh is going to be at Haymarket rather than Waverley"

    I seem to remember Waverley is controlled by Network Rail...

    Posted 3 years ago #
  13. Rosie
    Member

    About paying for your bike on a train - I'd be okay about that - say £5 or £10 or a percentage of the ticket as you are taking space. Also, that might mean there could be fewer no shows, people booking and not turning up, thus giving the impression that the cycle space is booked. I'm thinking here of touring and leisure, not commuting.

    There did seem to be an attitude that you absolutely HAD to be allowed on a train even at peak times and unbooked. You don't expect that when catching an aeroplane or a long-distance coach and even LRT buses can say "No more room." Trains are not infinitely flexible.

    I have seen the tiered caches of bikes in Belgium, where commuters are leaving their cycle (probably an old banger) at one end and then picking up another at the other end. There was resistance to that idea.

    "I've dropped a load of cash on my perfect bike, so it is my inalienable right to take it with me everywhere." If we want mass cycling fully integrated with public transport we really do need to loosen up a bit." - Agree.

    I think Abellio's plans are at least going in the right direction. I don't know enough about train design but couldn't some basic wagon be attached for cycles and luggage - not even a guard's van but something that you left your stuff in at your own risk. I can see that would slow the train down at stops but that would probably only affect favourite touring routes eg Pitlochry which is busy with bikes. Someone was saying there are very casual looking wagons in Czechoslovakia.

    The flexible foldable seats sounded like a good idea and I would have thought made marketing and economic sense. Families, cyclists go after the peak times. You have outside of peak time on the Underground for cyclists.

    Posted 3 years ago #
  14. chdot
    Admin

  15. fimm
    Member

    Yes, there's going to come a point where we are going to have to change the way we do bikes on trains (if cycling keeps increasing, that is).

    I'd love to use the Borders railway to do a loop from say Peebles or wherever, or just get out of Edinburgh a bit, but at the moment I don't see that being an easy thing to do.

    Posted 3 years ago #
  16. kaputnik
    Moderator

    I don't know enough about train design but couldn't some basic wagon be attached for cycles and luggage - not even a guard's van but something that you left your stuff in at your own risk. I can see that would slow the train down at stops but that would probably only affect favourite touring routes eg Pitlochry which is busy with bikes. Someone was saying there are very casual looking wagons in Czechoslovakia.

    It seems to be the logical idea, doesn't it, but railway folks will probably take great pains to tell you just how difficult and impractical it would be.

    It would have been very easy in the olden days of "loco hauled" services (that is, traditional engine at one end pulling a rake of carriages) to just tag on extra carriages to meet demand, sidings at major stations would always have kept reserve empty stock for various eventualities. These included "brake" wagons which invariably had ample storage for outsized passenger luggage, including bicycles. The railways even used to keep special carriages for the transportation and release of racing pigeons, amongst other things!

    Alas, it's just not practical with fixed sets of "multiple units" to do this. Occasionally there are programmes to re-engineer these consists to add extra cars or spliut larger units into smaller, but these are slow, expensive and technical exercises. Ironically, one of the early attractions in bringing in multiple units was their flexibility and cost efficiency. But technology has caught up with them and they are now both very expensive things to procure and relatively inflexible in service when it comes to reconfiguring them. The most an operator can do is either add another unit on the back if stock availability and platform length allows (which given it doubles passenger capacity at the same time doesn't make the best use of their assets), or undergo slow and expensive internal reconfigurations to add for a few extra bike spaces.

    I've often thought that the most rural/touristy of services, e.g. Far North lines, West Highland lines would benefit from turning the clock back to days of proper carriages and trains with proper luggage space and proper buffets and big windows with ample, well-aligned seats. It's not just nostalgia, to my mind it's a practical and attractive sort of stock to use for both operator and passengers.

    Posted 3 years ago #
  17. chdot
    Admin

    "I don't see that being an easy thing to do"

    Will depend on how flexible they become about letting bikes on on late Sunday afternoons!

    Posted 3 years ago #
  18. Rosie
    Member

    Thanks kaputnik.

    Fimm - yes, a Borders round trip is too much for my level of fitness. I looked forward to doing a one-way trip, but can't see it happening with that limited no of spaces.

    Posted 3 years ago #
  19. PS
    Member

    ... but railway folks will probably take great pains to tell you just how difficult and impractical it would be.

    Possible reasons I can think of:

    The additional time it would take passengers to go and get their bike from the extra carriage upon reaching their destination. The railways are congested and the coordination of trains in and out of stations like Waverley can be a nightmare. Passengers value on-time services, so performance against timetable is measured and delays cost money to the operator, even more so if they cause knock-on disruption to other services. Anything that delays departures is therefore a Bad Thing. Possibly less of an issue on long distance routes, but certainly a problem on suburban/commuter services.

    Operationally, an advantage of the multiple units is that when they reach their terminus they can just head off back the way without any need to hitch up a new power unit at the front. Your couldn't do that with a bike/cargo carriage at one end.

    There'll be some safety reason why an easy to use carriage won't be allowed, or need to put through a lot of hoops and be made super secure before it could be used. That'll cost you.

    Added wear and tear of these carriages on the track will cost you as well. As will staff and associated training to monitor/operate it.

    On high-capacity routes, there may not be adequate platform length to allow an extra carriage. It'll cost you to extend every platform on those routes.

    I'm sure there'll be more reasons.

    I suspect an easier approach is a larger flexible space on every train. although passengers do not like sitting on foldy-up seats. It'll only come if Scottish Ministers/Transport Scotland tell Abellio that they should do that. That will cost you, which means it is only likely to happen if there is too much demand/political pressure to ignore. Or Ministers decide that it's a Good Thing to do.

    Posted 3 years ago #
  20. kaputnik
    Moderator

    Your couldn't do that with a bike/cargo carriage at one end.

    Unless you build one that can i.e. a driving trailer... But then this adds costs and complexity to what is meant to be something cheap and simple.

    Posted 3 years ago #
  21. PS
    Member

    On the Borders train - it's still not clear what the bike carrying capacity on the refurbished 158s will be from what Des Bradley was saying.

    I may have dreamt it when reading all the "here's what Abellio are going to do" bumf put out when they were unveiled as winners of the franchise, but I seem to recall something about Abellio using "Scenic Trains" on the Borders Railway. And I seem to recall something about "Scenic Trains" having extra space for luggage/bikes (although I could be wrong).

    I suppose it's quite possible that they haven't finalised the spec of the refurbed train, so don't feel they can confirm what the capacity will be yet, but you'd have thought they could give an indication of intent at least.

    Posted 3 years ago #
  22. PS
    Member

    Unless you build one that can i.e. a driving trailer... But then this adds costs and complexity to what is meant to be something cheap and simple.

    And takes up space for what could otherwise be passengers' seats. Another performance measure is for how many/how long passengers have to stand in the peak. They don't like that at all.

    Posted 3 years ago #
  23. Rosie
    Member

    I suppose time was when people travelled with trunks in the guards vans and bicycles - even horses in earlier times - even coffins - that people expected some delay loading and unloading at stations. There were probably more staff to handle it - people like "porters".

    Posted 3 years ago #
  24. Rosie
    Member

    I booked a train to Peterborough. The staff were very attentive, bundling me & the bike on & off the guard's van so that the train wouldn't be held up.

    Posted 3 years ago #
  25. chdot
    Admin

    "I seem to recall something about "Scenic Trains" having extra space for luggage/bikes"

    Yes, the steam hauled ones will presumably use 'old style' coaches and may include a guard's van.

    But presumably higher fares too??

    Posted 3 years ago #
  26. chdot
    Admin

  27. kaputnik
    Moderator

    That looks like a non-scenic 158, which currently has no pony stabling area. Just a pony cupboard*.

    * you can't actually fit a pony in this.

    Posted 3 years ago #
  28. jdanielp
    Member

    One positive response to a question from the audience last night was that Abellio Scotrail are working to include bicycle reservations as part of the online booking process, but no time frame was mentioned.

    Some specific points about Abellio Scotrail that I took away from the meeting were:

    • they can only guarantee two 'official' bicycle spaces per train, but hope to be able to offer more on some routes (but not the Borders line);
    • they apparently already have, and intend to continue with, a policy of flexibility towards allowing additional bicycles in vestibules so it is maybe worth arguing the point with train guards;
    • they would like to minimise numbers of bicycles that are taken on trains;
    • they plan to increase bicycle provision (hire/parking/support) at stations, while not increasing the vehicle parking.

    Some general presentation points that I took away from the meeting were:

    • set up any technology (e.g. radio mics/slideshow clickers) in advance;
    • try to do some basic research about your company before talking or fielding questions about it;
    • do not cram far too much information into slides.

    Posted 3 years ago #
  29. PS
    Member

    "I seem to recall something about "Scenic Trains" having extra space for luggage/bikes"

    Yes, the steam hauled ones will presumably use 'old style' coaches and may include a guard's van.

    No, the Scenic Trains are going to be refurbed 158s, with all sorts of tourist-friendly features.

    See here

    Working with partners to attract international attention to the scenic beauty of Scotland’s railways with major upgrades to Scotland’s scenic trains to enhance the tourist experience:
    •Specially refurbished trains to align seats with windows
    •More luggage, cycle and ski storage
    •Additional service to Oban in peak season
    •A Tourist Ambassador and improved on board catering that showcases local Scottish produce
    •Special events in the low season to attract customers

    Steam trains whilst fun for tourists, train geeks and romantics, may prove just a little bit irritating for folk wanting a functional, frequent service from Tweedbank.

    Posted 3 years ago #
  30. chdot
    Admin

    "Steam trains whilst fun for tourists, train geeks and romantics, may prove just a little bit irritating for folk wanting a functional, frequent service from Tweedbank."

    True, but I thought that was 'part of the plan' - or is that just 'opening week'?

    Posted 3 years ago #

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