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Tyne & Wear Metro operator rejects calls to allow trial of letting bikes on trains

If it's not a folder, you can't take it on board - but campaigners say full-size bikes okay on similar trains in Germany...

The local transit authority responsible for the Tyne & Wear Metro system has rebuffed calls for a trial of allowing bicycles other than folding ones to be taking on its trains that link Newcastle, Gatehead, Sunderland and North and South Tyneside.

According to the Evening Chronicle, local passenger transport executive Nexus says it is “not the right time” to let cyclists take their bikes onto services and on its stations.

The organisation has said that it wants to make integrated travel available potentially through enabling bikes to be hired at stations, but other than folding bicycles, they are not allowed on trains.

Even then, the Nexus website stipulates restrictions, saying: “Only folding cycles are allowed on Metro and must be fully folded whilst on Metro property.

“Folded cycles that have handlebars and pedals which stick out MUST be placed in a bag while on Metro. We do not specify the type of bag however it should be robust enough to prevent handlebars and pedals causing injury to other passengers.”

The Metro is one of only four light rail systems in operation in the UK, the others being London Underground and the Docklands Light Railway in London, plus the operated on behalf of Nexus by Arriva UK Trains, a subsidiary of German rail operator DB Regio.

The Tyne & Wear Metro is one of only four light rail systems in operation in the UK, the others being London Underground and the Docklands Light Railway in London, plus the Glasgow Subway.

Bikes are banned from the Glasgow Subway the latter and, other than folding bikes, the DLR, while the situation varies on London Underground.

Folding bikes are allowed anywhere on the network, while other bicycles can generally be taken during off-peak hours on above-ground sections, as well as those lines immediately below the surface – the District, Circle and Metropolitan lines.

Claire Prospert of Newcastle Cycling Campaign pointed out however that there seemed to be no issues the Metro operator’s parent company with carrying bikes in that company’s home market.

“We want to see a trial outside peak hours, involving a small number of Metro stations,” she explained. “We know that the Metro’s operator DB Regio runs light rail systems in Germany that carry bikes.”

While Newcastle Cycling Campaign says it has the support of Friends of the Earth, the Tyne and Wear Public Transport Users Group and some local councillors, Huw Lewis, head of communications for Nexus, said that while the ban on non-folding bikes would remain in force, the company was looking at how to make onward travel easier for bike riders.

“Cyclists are free to travel on Metro with folded bikes, and while there are good reasons why full-size bikes are not allowed on what is a very busy train system with deep underground stations, that's not the end of the story,” he insisted.

“We are about to trial new larger and more secure storage at two stations, while bidding in partnership with local councils and Sustrans for Government funding to pay for a much wider improvement of facilities.

“I don't think a limited trial allowing all bikes on part of Metro at certain times of day is a good idea right now, but it may come out of the work of the group,” Mr Lewis added.

“The last research we did with passengers showed a clear majority against the idea,” he added.

Last week, Transport Minister Norman Baker announced that his department was making £15 million available for cycling initiatives, of which £7 million would go to providing better cycle-rail integration, including improved facilities at stations.

For many cyclists, however, the immediate issue remains restrictions or outright bans on their being able to take their bikes on the train in the first place.

Simon has been news editor at 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.

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