Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw has sought clarification of Great Western Railway’s (GWR) new rule for passengers bringing bikes onto trains. He says that because of uncertain parliamentary hours, having to reserve a space by 6pm the day before could affect his ability to do his job and believes that rail companies should be doing more to encourage bike use.
From May 16, any passenger travelling with a non-folding bike on one of GWR’s high speed routes has needed a cycle reservation with the firm saying it has made the change due to limited space on trains.
When the decision was announced earlier in the year, Sam Jones from Cycling UK said he feared that commuters would be worst hit – particularly those who may not always know what time they will be returning from work.
Bradshaw apparently falls into this category. Speaking to the Exeter Express and Echo, he said:
"I had serious concerns about this when it was first announced, not least as it would affect my ability to do my job.
"Because of the uncertainty of parliamentary hours and constituency commitments I often don't know in advance what time train I will be able to get to and from London.
"I sought urgent clarification from GWR and they confirmed that you will still be able to put your bike on their trains if there is space, while encouraging people to book in advance.
"But they must do more to improve their booking system. It is ridiculous that you can't book a bike online if you already have a ticket, but have to phone a call centre in India. I tried this on Sunday evening and couldn't get through.
"Rail companies should be doing their best to encourage not discourage bicycle use."
Dan Paines from GWR said that with more people bringing their bikes onto trains, accommodating them was becoming ‘more and more of a problem’.
"It's much more popular than it was even two or three years ago. What we're seeing is that people with bikes and tickets, turning up and finding that there's no space on that train, having to buy another ticket or pay a little bit more to get on the next one."
Sam Jones welcomed the news that bikes were still permitted on board without a booking but said GWR needed to be clearer about their rules.
“We’ve been hearing from concerned members that Great Western is currently not allowing cyclists and their wheels to board without cycle reservations since the new system was introduced. Cycling UK welcomes the involvement of Ben Bradshaw MP as, judging from the response he received, this is not the case and in fact their previous policy is still in play – just not necessarily practised by members of staff.
“Cycling UK would urge Great Western to make this latest return to policy clear to both members of staff and the public, so as to prevent further misunderstanding and misery.
“Last week we heard how there is an increase in the number of people turning to cycle-rail as a means of travelling and commuting. Until Great Western provides a booking service that will facilitate easy, fast and up to the last minute booking for cycles, the implementation of a mandatory booking system unnecessarily penalises those increasing numbers of commuters and season ticket holders who want to use cycle-rail.”