"People will take priority over bikes" - rail boss explains why bicycles not welcome on Grand Départ trains

Tour de France spectators discouraged from taking bikes on local trains in Yorkshire next month

by Simon_MacMichael   June 5, 2014  

Catherine Murphy ' Waiting at the Station'

A director of Northern Rail has explained the reasoning behind the train operator urging people not to take bicycles on its services for the Grand Départ of the Tour de France next month, saying “people will take priority over bikes”

As we reported last month, Northern Rail and other local train operators in areas the race will visit said it would not be possible to reserve places for bicycles, and advised that people leave their bikes at home or risk not being able to board the train they want.

The news was greeted with disappointment by many people who had hoped to combine travel by train with a bike ride to be able to watch the Tour.

In a letter to the Yorkshire Post, Alan Chaplin, service delivery director, set out the reasons for its decision. He wrote:

It was interesting to read customer feedback on the rail industry’s approach to carrying bikes when the Grand Départ comes to Yorkshire in July (The Yorkshire Post, May 23).

The race symbolises everything that is exciting and brilliant about cycling; the speed of the riders, the thrill of the crowd, the sprint to the finish.

We understand this and have worked hard to develop a plan which will allow us to carry thousands of passengers to spectator points around the region.

For that reason, people will take priority over bikes.

Adding dozens of bikes to our trains would not only reduce the on-board space for spectators but also jeopardise the tight timetable we will be running to, as passengers put on, secure and take bikes off busy trains.

Some have asked why we haven’t added additional carriages to carry bikes but we are restricted on the size of trains we run by the lengths of platforms.

We believe the majority of our customers would be happier with additional passenger carriages as opposed to a carriage for bikes.

In partnership with 
organisers and other train operators, we’re asking cyclists 
to take a sensible approach, think before travelling and try to avoid bringing bikes onto busy trains.

The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) decided against enforcing an outright ban on bikes on services around the Grand Départ weekend from 4-7 July, saying last month: “It is normal practice under franchise arrangements agreed with the Department for Transport to suspend cycle carriage on trains at times of expected exceptional passenger congestion, particularly for large sporting events.

“It is in recognition of the importance of cycle-rail passengers and of the nature of the Tour de France that train operating companies have chosen to maintain carriage during the event.”

But local train operator First TransPennine Express is advising against travelling with bikes, telling them that “the Tour de France is a spectator event, and cycle carriage is not advised due to the busy nature of the event, stations and services.”

25 user comments

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Not exactly Mr Multi-Modal, is he? I saw some vintage video footage from the 1950s (or whatever), when t was common for people to take their bikes on a train. A dedicated carriage had simple hooks to hang the front wheel allowing fifty or more bikes to be carried. Given that it's a 'bit of a special occasion', you'd have thought train operators might have jumped at the opportunity to trial this approach again - the positive PR would do them no end of good.

dafyddp's picture

posted by dafyddp [181 posts]
5th June 2014 - 16:32

42 Likes

Funny that Abellio which is joint owner of NR is Dutch.

Imagine this will simply put off people from taking the train and encourage more to drive and ride. It would be nice to get a train to within 30 miles of a spot and ride the rest. Not even an option to book a place, if they added a couple of extra carriages with bike racks/hooks.

jaunty angle: bikes and communications
http://ragtag.wordpress.com

ragtag's picture

posted by ragtag [173 posts]
5th June 2014 - 17:46

24 Likes

Now you'll all know how I feel, not being allowed my bike on the train anyway Rolling On The Floor

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [9040 posts]
5th June 2014 - 17:53

37 Likes

dafyddp wrote:
Not exactly Mr Multi-Modal, is he? I saw some vintage video footage from the 1950s (or whatever), when t was common for people to take their bikes on a train. A dedicated carriage had simple hooks to hang the front wheel allowing fifty or more bikes to be carried. Given that it's a 'bit of a special occasion', you'd have thought train operators might have jumped at the opportunity to trial this approach again - the positive PR would do them no end of good.

Ah. Nostalgia ain't what is used to be!

I remember the trains in the 1950s because I'm that old. Dirty, smelly, draughty, slam door, no toilets, no corridors and 3rd class travel and if you wanted to take your bike you had to hang it up in the guards van and then hope that they stopped long enough for you to get off and reclaim your bike.

The vast majority of people going to the tour won't be 'cyclists', they'll be people going for a day out at a sporting event that they've been told they will enjoy. If they can't get on the train because it's 'full' (i.e. at least one) of bikes they will not be happy, and being the long-term users of this form of transport will complain like buggery to the train operators.

And it's not as simple as 'putting on a couple of extra carriages'. The platforms at most of the stations that serve the areas where Le Tour are going are not long enough to take longer trains. Do you want to be in the carriage that doesn't stop by a platform?

I went to watch the Olympics road race in 2012. My wife and I travelled from Guildford to Dorking by train to go to Boxhill and Denbies. They put on extra services just for the day both to and fro and they were rammed and you really had to enjoy other people's company in very close proximity. There were no bikes allowed on those either.

Did Nightrider 2013 and 2014 for Parkinson's UK. Might just have one last go in 2015.

jova54's picture

posted by jova54 [628 posts]
5th June 2014 - 19:08

35 Likes

ragtag wrote:
Funny that Abellio which is joint owner of NR is Dutch.

Where taking bikes on trains is also an issue. Which is why they have loads of station parking.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8505 posts]
5th June 2014 - 19:37

35 Likes

In 2007 as the date for stage 1 approached it began to dawn on Southeastern that they might not see such a surge in numbers as they had planned for with their extra trains, because of the rigorous restriction on cycle carriage which was being promoted. in the end I think we out around 100 bikes into bags supplied by CTC Shop, and other used their own.

So we managed to sort out a compromise. If you could get your bike packed down into a flat and neat package it could go on the train as your 'suitcase' allowance. This is widely practised on international trains across Europe, and during the £3 bike reservations regime of the mid 1980's I never reserved or paid for my 27" Scot fixed wheel bike which I took on trains, wrapped in an old groundsheet with a webbing shoulder strap/harness.

In this way bikes are also accepted on most long distance coaches, subject to the space being available, although with CTC and others I am trying to get some form of reservation facility to guarantee that you can get the bike on board.

Those who may be travelling earlier during this month might want to test the premise by bagging up their road bike and carrying it in the bag on to trains. Best to get the size right down though.

If you have a group, and want to view the stages outside the city centres, why not consider hiring a coach, putting the bikes in the hold and getting to a location from which you can ride in. That might be the A1 or other major roads which should be remaining open, with options to get dropped off close to main junctions and service areas. A full coach might cost £15-£20 for a day trip to hire.

Contact me via Road CC or CTC for other detail

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [504 posts]
5th June 2014 - 20:01

23 Likes

In 2007 as the date for stage 1 approached it began to dawn on Southeastern that they might not see such a surge in numbers as they had planned for with their extra trains, because of the rigorous restriction on cycle carriage which was being promoted. in the end I think we out around 100 bikes into bags supplied by CTC Shop, and other used their own.

So we managed to sort out a compromise. If you could get your bike packed down into a flat and neat package it could go on the train as your 'suitcase' allowance. This is widely practised on international trains across Europe, and during the £3 bike reservations regime of the mid 1980's I never reserved or paid for my 27" Scot fixed wheel bike which I took on trains, wrapped in an old groundsheet with a webbing shoulder strap/harness.

In this way bikes are also accepted on most long distance coaches, subject to the space being available, although with CTC and others I am trying to get some form of reservation facility to guarantee that you can get the bike on board.

Those who may be travelling earlier during this month might want to test the premise by bagging up their road bike and carrying it in the bag on to trains. Best to get the size right down though.

If you have a group, and want to view the stages outside the city centres, why not consider hiring a coach, putting the bikes in the hold and getting to a location from which you can ride in. That might be the A1 or other major roads which should be remaining open, with options to get dropped off close to main junctions and service areas. A full coach might cost £15-£20 per head for a day trip to hire.

Contact me via Road CC or CTC for other detail

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [504 posts]
5th June 2014 - 20:02

21 Likes

First and foremost this is a massive spectator sporting event. Not a participation event . I love cycling and I love watching it . I will be using the trains to travel to spectate this event as I live in the North West UK . I do not want to be crammed on with a load of bikes. The rail companies are going to be under enough pressure. I really hate idiots at big tours who stand at the hoardings with their bike taking up the room of 3 people. Either ride your bike to a remote place on the stage and watch or leave it at home unless your Chris Froome

posted by ratattat [40 posts]
5th June 2014 - 21:32

29 Likes

Unfortunate but entirely reasonable given the small platforms and large number of people likely to be traveling by train

posted by snifter83 [12 posts]
5th June 2014 - 21:34

26 Likes

I can absolutely see why there are no bikes on trains for this event. I have absolutely no problem with it at all. Perfectly reasonable decision that is entirely separate to the multi-modal debate

The only way I'd be taking my bike would be if I was riding there, which I could, except that I'd rather drink a skinful of beer and enjoy the atmos. So I'll take the train, ta.

Ghedebrav's picture

posted by Ghedebrav [1103 posts]
5th June 2014 - 21:41

27 Likes

Duplicate post deleted

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [504 posts]
5th June 2014 - 23:37

19 Likes

.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [504 posts]
5th June 2014 - 23:39

16 Likes

Simon_MacMichael wrote:
ragtag wrote:
Funny that Abellio which is joint owner of NR is Dutch.

Where taking bikes on trains is also an issue. Which is why they have loads of station parking.

Absolutely. If you are expecting a serious number of cyclists then the concept of carrying bikes on the train becomes an impossibility. If a full train carries 600 passengers and 1% bring bikes then they can be accommodated with no issue. If 40-50% bring bikes (as might be expected in the Netherlands) then there is no train on earth that could accommodate them. Not even trains from the good old days with Fred Dibnah driving.

For a train company to say 'we will always carry bikes on our trains' is tantamount to them saying 'cycling is and will remain a niche activity and we never expect to see many bikes'. I'm not sure that is really what we want.

posted by sponican [70 posts]
6th June 2014 - 6:51

22 Likes

As bikes will not be allowed on trains what additional measures are they putting into place to ensure there's enough bike parking at stations for people who want to ride at least part of their journey?

posted by teaboy [187 posts]
6th June 2014 - 8:30

23 Likes

I can see that Northern Rail have a point but the large numbers of people on local trains might not materialise if people can't take bikes for fairly simple logistical reasons.

In my local area there are four Northern Rail Stations, Littleborough, Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd and Sowerby Bridge all of which give reasonable access to the tour route but all of which are between 3 and 8 miles from good, hilly vantage points which is where many spectators will want to go.

For most people that will be a bit far to walk and for some completely impossible yet those same people with bikes can quite easily access those vantage points from those stations and without the issue of the roads being closed to cars for a much longer period than for bikes.

Those people won't be taking the train but instead will mostly travel by car, find a place to park in range of one of those towns and cycle to the vantage points.

Many others will want to make a weekend of it and apart from watching the Tour will want to go out and have a ride in the area - one of the primary drivers for Visit Yorkshire bringing the race here. They will also travel by car.

Northern rail run trains of up to 4 or 5 carriages to all of those stations and if they really wanted to they could run more frequently on those days and allocate more space for bikes.

Essentially they are saying: "people take priority" but meaning "we'd like lots of people to take the train for these events as long as we don't have to do any work beyond running standard trains on a standard timetable with maybe the odd extra carriage if we expect more people".

It always strikes me as odd how the real thought for customers in a business that relies on customers (and a heap of subsidies) to survive is so very rare!

Plus ca change!

Shay

posted by shay cycles [254 posts]
6th June 2014 - 11:45

16 Likes

Quote:
we are restricted on the size of trains we run by the lengths of platforms

I don't full understand that part. Lots of trains in the UK are longer than some of the platforms they stop at. When boarding you have to make sure you get on the right part of the train - or move once you are on - to allow you to disembark at your desired platform.

Obviously moving through the train with a bike is difficult but presumably you could stick the bike carriage and the wheelchair and pram spaces in adjacent carriages and leave the carriages that stick beyond the platform for the able bodied people who can just walk the length of a few carriages to disembark.

Andrew

posted by cqexbesd [30 posts]
6th June 2014 - 12:06

14 Likes

Has anyone actually thought of just riding their bike to where they want to go?

If it's really too far to ride then get a train with someone who will take your train to somewhere else and ride.

monkeytrousers's picture

posted by monkeytrousers [41 posts]
6th June 2014 - 12:06

16 Likes

In truth, train operators only want people on their trains. It must be galling for them that they have to waste space on seats, let alone bikes, baggage, prams, wheelchairs, etc.

Hundreds of people, all in crammed in and vertical, must be their vision of heaven!

Choose the bicycle and ditch the trains.

And, switch off when any politician starts rambling about a 'joined-up transport policy'!

posted by chaos [9 posts]
6th June 2014 - 18:38

13 Likes

OFFS - make one service a "free-for-all" and warn the tender travelling public that it will be full of bikes piled willy-nilly. Maybe even add extra space on that one service for bikes (if We Have The Technology).

Anyone wanting/needing to take a bike can book that service and then the Powers That Be can say they accommodated and made Special Provisions for the Bicycling Minority! Win-win!

Ride your own ride

posted by CanAmSteve [169 posts]
6th June 2014 - 19:23

9 Likes

teaboy wrote:
As bikes will not be allowed on trains what additional measures are they putting into place to ensure there's enough bike parking at stations for people who want to ride at least part of their journey?

Somewhere between "none" and "nowt".

posted by dp24 [195 posts]
6th June 2014 - 20:42

6 Likes

Simon_MacMichael wrote:
ragtag wrote:
Funny that Abellio which is joint owner of NR is Dutch.

Where taking bikes on trains is also an issue. Which is why they have loads of station parking.


And you can buy reasonably- priced bike tickets for the whole country for the whole day for a couples of euros. Don't believe everything Abellio says about Dutch trains. They can't do it here because they don't have the same control and flexibility over what train design/spec but criticising the UK government (who DO control it) would probably hurt their chance of ruining more franchises and making profits to invest in Dutch trains.

posted by a.jumper [726 posts]
7th June 2014 - 1:07

5 Likes

Trains can pull a maximum amount of weight and thus have a maximum amount of cars. This means you're going to choose either more passenger cars either more bike cars.

Its that simple. There's no magic. You should have thought that through...

posted by muffies [16 posts]
7th June 2014 - 3:23

8 Likes

monkeytrousers wrote:
Has anyone actually thought of just riding their bike to where they want to go?

If it's really too far to ride then get a train with someone who will take your train to somewhere else and ride.

I have absolutely no problem with cycling to a point to view any of the stages. The issue for me is that I would then have to cycle from Glasgow to accomplish this. Any travel arrangements involve making use of the train companies that are refusing to carry bicycles over this period. So what do I do? Book an extra 4 days leave to cycle down to Yorkshire, incur extra costs for hotels or bivvy on the road side as I travel? The train companies have made it impossible now to travel from further afield to take part in the Grand Depart. At least for the Giro in Belfast I would have been able to get across on the ferry. Set up base in Belfast and then cycle out to any given point over the three days as many I met did.

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1068 posts]
7th June 2014 - 6:52

6 Likes

Sorry, this is total bs from the operators, I spent 2 years commuting from Hull to Leeds and in all that time never arrived on time, the trains in Yorkshire run 29 mins late as default because of unrealistic timetables and the operators know that carrying cyclists will take them over the 30 mins late mark which incurs operator penalties and refunds to passengers all of which affects profits. The defence that they can only carry certain weights is also a joke, the train I used to catch should have been a 3 carriage train but was always 2 carriage to save on rolling stock costs and I doubt that the addition of a bikes only carriage is going to exceed the weight of the same carriage full of people. The decision is a short term cost only decision. Angry

posted by Gus T [63 posts]
7th June 2014 - 7:57

5 Likes

Welcome to britain, the country that likes to say "No we can't."

Andy

posted by jazzdude [61 posts]
9th June 2014 - 21:18

0 Likes