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Cyclist in Yorkshire, Merseyside and the South benefit most from efforts to promote cycle-rail provision

Cyclists in the South of England, Yorkshire and Merseyside appear to be benefiting most from efforts by rail operators and others to make it easier for people to combine bike and train journeys. That’s the message from yesterday’s National Cycle Rail Awards 2011, held in the august surroundings of the Members’ Dining Room of the House of Commons, where those regions dominated the prizes.

Hosted by the All-Parliamentary Cycling Group and sponsored by infrastructure provider Broxap, the awards are organised by the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) and date back to 1997, taking their present form in 2004.

The awards were introduced by Department for Transport Minister of State Theresa Villiers, herself a cyclist, who said that besides cycling's role in areas such as tackling congestion and climate change as well as providing health benefits, it was more than anything else “a great way to get around.”

Moreover, she continued, it was one that opened up a wider catchment area to rail and underground stations – although like any cyclist who lives uphill from their local station, she lamented the contrast between coasting down to the station at the start of the day with the post-work slog back home, describing it as her own “personal problem with cycle-rail integration.”

Talking of the schemes nominated for the awards, she said: “The kind of projects we are paying tribute to today play an important role in persuading more people to cycle and persuading more people to take the train, both very worthy goals.”

Nominations for this year’s awards were described by the organisers as “the best yet.” Many of the award winners and highly commended schemes have previously been featured here on road.cc, and were held up yesterday evening as examples of best practice that others can seek to emulate.

One initiative we covered when it was launched last year scooped the prize for Innovation, sponsored by First Group. That was the Leeds Cycle Point, opened in September 2010, which combines secure cycle storage with a shop operated by Evans Cycles complete with hire and repair facilities.

Highly commended in the category was Virgin Trains for its Cycle Hub at Stoke-on-Trent station, with a special mention for its Brompton bike hire initiative enabling passengers to complete their journey by bike. The same operator was also highly commended in the Best Customer Service category.

The judging panel, comprising transport writer Christian Wolmar, who acted as compere, Martyn Brunt, National Cycle Network Development Manager at Sustrans, and Conrad Haigh, Integrated Transport Manager at ATOC, said that Leeds Cycle Point merited the Innovatin award because “it spearheaded a new approach to first-class provision for cyclists.”

It’s no coincidence that Northern Rail, which operates Leeds Station, is owned by a Dutch company, Abellio, with the Leeds Cycle Point following the FietsPoint model that has proved successful in the Netherlands.

Northern Rail itself won the award sponsored by its parent company, for Partnership Working, with particular praise reserved for its Northern Rail Cycle Forum which meets three times a year, with 35 regular attendees, which judges said had been “an effective tool to both the train company and cyclists in achieving their goals.”

They also highlighted the fact that the company’s nomination listed 57 partners, saying that “partnership working is key to the strategic delivery of all cycle-rail activities at Northern.”

First Capital Connect and Hertfordshire County Council were highly commended in this category due to their work including increased cycle parking provision at 14 stations, “encouraging cycling to station in an area of the country that has traditionally been heavily car dependent.”

South West Trains won the award for Operator of the Year, sponsored by Cyclepods, with judges citing its delivery of “more cycling facilities than any other train company” and its “innovation with new concepts such as Brompton Dock, a vending machine for hiring folding cycles at Guildford Station.”

Those and other measures had led to “a transformation of cycle facilities and cycle usage to the stations,” with a 9 per cent modal shift to cycling building on “what were already high usage figures.”

Mersey Rail’s shift of focus from on-train provision for bicycles to increasing station facilities represented a “step change in cycling provision” over the past 12 months, leading to it being Highly Commended in the Operator of the Year category, and it won the Best Customer Service award, sponsored by Brompton Dock.

In that category, the judges said they were “not just impressed with the scale of the changes implemented, but the evidence of success and personal testimonials of both stakeholders and customers,” with particular emphasis placed on Southport station’s Go Cycle scheme.

It was East Coast Trains and York Station, however, that emerged victorious in the Station of the Year category, the operator partnering with York City Council to improve access to the station for cyclists to encourage more cycle-rail use and also tying in with the council’s sustainable travel plan. The station is also home now to a branch of York LBS, Cycle Heaven.

Purley Station, operated by Southern Trains, was highly commended in this category for recent works to improve facilities for cyclists both within the station and on the forecourt as part of a recent regeneration.

That station also won the Best Station Travel Plan for Cycling award, with the judging panel stating that “it was felt that they had given a lot of thought to the end-to-end journey and done all they could to assist the cyclist at every stage.”

Leighton Buzzard was highly commended in that category, with cycling to the station identified as a key part of getting more people in general cycling in the Bedfordshire town. There has been a 68 per cent increase recorded in the average number of bicycles parked at the station.

Eastleigh Borough Council took the prize for Best Local Government Scheme due to a range of initiatives undertaken at a variety of stations in the area including Southampton Airport Parkway, Chandler’s Ford and Eastleigh, which the judges said reflected in part its “strategic approach to transport interchange across the borough.”

Highly commended in that category was the London Borough of Richmond, where increased cycle parking provision has been made at a number of stations with a cycle hire scheme also introduced at Richmond Station itself, in partnership with South West Trains.

One category, Cycling Champion, was open to individuals rather than organisations, and the judges found it impossible to split two nominees, resulting in both of them receiving an award.

Those were Ian Hall, of Northern Rail, for his work chairing the Northern Rail Cycling Forum, and Phil Dominey, stakeholder manager at South West Trains, for his efforts in promoting cycle provision within the franchise’s network, despite cycling not being the main part of his role with the operator.

By their nature, of course, the awards celebrate the positive aspects of the efforts by operators and others to adopt an inclusive approach towards cyclists, but it can’t be denied that elsewhere, bike riders still regularly encounter problems on the railways; indeed, one road.cc user has contacted us regarding his less than ideal experience of taking his bike on a train operated by a company not mentioned here, so look out for that story here very soon.

2011 National Cycle Rail Awards winners

  • Best Customer Service (sponsored by Brompton Dock) – Winner: Merseyrail
  • Best Local Government Scheme – Winner: Eastleigh Borough Council
  • Innovation (sponsored by First Group) – Winner: Leeds Cycle Point
  • Cycling Champion – Winners: Ian Hall, Northern Rail & Phil Dominey, South West Trains
  • Station of the Year – Winner: York Station, East Coast
  • Operator of the Year (sponsored by Cycle Pods) – Winner: South West Trains
  • Best Station Travel Plan Measure for Cycling – Winner: Purley Station Travel Plan
  • Partnership Working (sponsored by Abellio) – Winner: Northern Rail

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.