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Train cycle reservation system could hit commuters hardest

Great Western Railway's new bike reservation system means cyclists must book at least two hours in advance by phone, or via the ticket office...

Great Western Railway plans to introduce mandatory cycle reservations for its new high speed routes a year before the new trains arrive, leaving a question mark over how – or even if – commuters will be able to travel as normal with non-folded bikes.

From May 16 2016 cyclists travelling on GWR's high speed lines will need to book a bike reservation at least two hours in advance by phone, or at a station ticket office. understands online reservation will not be possible.

CTC the national cycling charity, says they weren’t consulted on the changes, which they fear could worst impact commuters, who don’t always know what time they will return from work.

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CTC’s Campaigns Coordinator, Sam Jones, says: “The high speed trains are being introduced in 2017, so it seems a bit premature introducing [the new ticket reservation system] now.

He said: “We don’t have a problem booking a place as long as the infrastructure is there, i.e. if you can pick up a ticket from a guard or a ticket office. However, often the offices are closed at late hours, in which case how do you get your bike on the train? It needs to be easy and convenient for everyone.”

As part of £360m improvements to its rolling stock First Great Western's new privately funded High Speed trains, serving the South West, will have 24% greater seating capacity, or 1000 extra seats at peak times.

However, while the question of how to get a ticket after hours without a charged and working phone available don’t seem to have been addressed, GWR tells it isn’t currently planning on offering online booking, either. 

“We would like to think in this day and age it should be as easy booking your bike as it is booking your seat,” said Jones.

He says commuters may be worst hit by the changes, and thinks the assumption has been made commuters will use folding bikes, which don’t require a ticket, but this isn’t always the case.

“We have one member who has a 12 mile round trip; it is a bit too far to use a fold up bike, and a bit much to expect someone to buy one just to get on the train,” he said.

Last year CTC’s Eurostar campaign received 10,000 responses and an outcry which resulted in a policy u-turn from the international train operator on a proposed system where cyclists would need to box up their bikes to travel.

Jones says CTC wasn’t consulted prior to the changes, but has contacted GWR and urges them to get in touch.

“It would be nice if they reached out to cycling organisations like ourselves. We have only heard about it through our members,” he said

“We know from the Eurostar campaign cycle carriage is something that’s dear to us in this country. Imagine how many people use Great Western trains. We would rather not go to the nuclear option by creating an action [similar to the Eurostar campaign]”.

GWR were contacted for comment but have not yet responded.

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