Abellio, overseas arm of Netherlands' national rail operator, plans more openings...

An award-winning bike hire scheme from a Dutch-owned rail operator has now been launched at more than 40 stations across England. The initiative, called Bike & Go, comes from Abellio which operates the Northern Rail, Greater Anglia and Merseyrail franchises, and is modelled on a similar scheme in the Netherlands.

According to Local Transport Today, the initiative, which is modelled on the OV Fiets system operated by Abellio’s owner, the Dutch state railway service Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), and allows rail users to hire the bikes for £3.80 a day, has now been rolled out to 43 stations across the three networks.

Those stations are:

North East and Yorkshire

Almouth, Barnsley, Beverley, Bradford Interchange, Halifax, Harrogate, Leeds, Meadowhall, Rotherham, Shipley and Wakefield.

North West and Merseyside

Aintree, Altrincham, Blackburn, Blackpool North, Buxton, Ellesmere Port, Formby, Hooton, Knutsford, Liverpool Central, Liverpool South Parkway, Maghull, Morecambe, New Brighton, Ormskirk, Rochdale, Southport, St Helens Central, Todmorden, West Kirby, Wigan Wallgate, Wilmslow, and Whitehaven.

Anglia & South East

Bishops Stortford, Clacton-on-Sea, Colchester, Ely, Enfield Town, Manningtree, Harold Wood, Romford, Lowestoft and Southend Victoria.

Andrew Bristow, project manager of Bike & Go – which is co-ordinated by Merseyrail and last year won a national Cycle-Rail Award – told Local Transport Today that there are 10 bicycles at almost all of the stations included in the scheme.

He added that an app is in the pipeline that will provide information including how many are available at each location.

The stations have been chosen partly for their proximity to places such as higher education sites, as well as for demographic reasons, and Mr Bristow said that it could also be rolled out to other locations besides railway stations following enquiries from local authorities, a different rail operator, and even a charity.

Hopes to launch the initiative in Manchester city centre have not yet come to fruition, however, due to an inability to reach agreement with stakeholders involved.

Abellio does however plan to add more stations to the scheme, with Hebden Bridge, Hexham, London Liverpool Street, Stowmarket, Great Yarmouth, Ipswich and Chelmsford all set to join it, plus seven stations on the Merseyrail network.

The system itself requires users to sign up online and pay an annual fee of £10. For that, they receive a smartcard that needs to be presented at the station ticket office to receive a key to unlock the bike.

So far, 250 people have signed up since the scheme was launched in August last year, and one potential barrier is that the bike needs to be returned to the same station from which it was hired.

The following video shows how the scheme works.

Mr Bristow told Local Transport Today: “Do we want to move to the next level? That’s what we’ll be asking ourselves but we’ve got to get the basics right first. It’s also got to be viable for us.”

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.