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London to Brighton bike ride made a pain by the train

June 21, 2010

Yesterday was the annual London to Brighton bike ride. This year, more than 27,00 people took part in the grueling 54-mile journey. Last year £4.1million was raised for the British Heart Foundation. And what was the response from the rail companies to support this amazing charity effort? Did they lay on special trains to ferry the thousands of cyclists back to London? Or, in an act of gibbering idiocy, did they banish bikes from an entire chunk of the Southern rail network, making sure that cyclist either had to abandon their bikes or get friends to drive them back? Yes, of course, it was the latter.

I was astounded by this. A quick check of the the website says, “For the safety and comfort of passengers over the weekend of the London to Brighton bike ride there will be cycle restrictions in place.”

Look at what you could have won!

Look at what you could have won! Thanks to @demoncheese for aces pic

Just to make life simple, the two rail companies who operate from Brighton had different rules in place. First Capital Connect decided: ‘Bicycles will not be permitted all day on trains between Brighton and Gatwick Airport. Bicycles will not be permitted before 12.00 (noon) on trains between London Bridge and Gatwick Airport’. And Southern Railway announced: ‘Temporary restrictions are in place depending on which station you are travelling from and to. At some stations cycles are not accepted all day. At other stations cycles will only be accepted after 1200.’

This event has been around for some 30-years. So it can’t be claimed that the rail companies had no time to prepare for this. On a purely financial level, the rail companies stood to make huge profits if they had laid special trains on. As a PR move it would have been unbeatable. Say they’d made a £1 donation to the British Heart Foundation for each passenger. Golden publicity.

What they have done instead is enrage and baffle thousands of people and create mayhem on the roads for the whole of the South Coast. Mayhem which, inevitably, the cyclists get the blame for – this then adds to the endless car users Vs. cyclists war which rages in the UK.

I don’t think it’s asking for much to expect trains to supply the passenger’s needs. It shouldn’t be too much to ask for trains to make a little extra effort when it’s crystal-clear that they are needed. What is unforgiveable is for the trains to force thousands of potential passengers into cars and on to the roads. Southern and FCC have a year to make things right. Lay on extra trains. Organise special carriages JUST for bikes. Make a donation to the charity. Emerge as heroes not villains for once…

I found this from clip from Ciaran Cuffe, Ireland’s Minister of State for sustainable transport and travel. He’s just seen the multi-storey bike park at Amsterdam’s Central station… Unlike Brighton station, no security there to keep bikes away…

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From → Rants

11 Comments
  1. Jon permalink

    Yet more proof that the railways need to be nationalised. If we own them, then we can decide what’s the best use for them!

  2. Paolo permalink

    This neoliberal model still isn’t working

    As you say, it could have been a PR success, but that is a decision for the companies to make. Its side steps the moral argument that bike riding is socially and environmentally responsible and therefore **should** be supported.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Paolo. I firmly believe that the railways need to be re-nationalised. If we bring prices down & bring them more in line with the rest of Europe (and yes, probably the rest of the world), then all of a sudden, travelling by train is the logical, cheap thing to do. So people will do it. So long as it’s cheaper to travel by car – or plane – than the train, then that’s what will happen. I included that youtube video at the end because it basically shows you that if you’re in a society – in that case, Amsterdam, where bike riding is the norm, then the world shifts a little to make everything easier for bike-riders. It’s such a no-brainer. Bike travel is better for the environment, for people’s health, for their well-being – the list goes on…

  3. It was a real mission getting up to London from Brighton in advance of the bike ride too. We were told we would have to wait 3 hours at Brighton station on saturday before being allowed on a train, yet then managed to get on a train from Hove to London with no restrictions.
    One ticket officer informed us that the rule was 2 bikes PER TRAIN. That seems crazy…

  4. Agreed, this is madness – luckily my wife and kids drove down to see us finish so had a lift, it’s madness every year – I don’t see why the train co’s can’t do as you say – ppl would prob even pay extra to have a charity donation if they could get on a train with a goods coach.

    I used to live in Brighton so know some good places to park, but traffic is generally madness for people that don’t know the quiet routes + draconian parking rules don’t make it easier – Brighton Marina, I’m looking at you – 4hr maximum stay?!

    Southwestern (for all their other sins) manage it for the London SkyRide event.

  5. Jonathan Morris permalink

    Didn’t the organisers make it very clear participants couldn’t use the train? 27,000 bikes won’t fit on a train – or even many trains – and they don’t have areas for bikes and you can’t build a special fleet of trains for just one day of the year.

    Even if there was a train that could take bikes, they’d need to be approved for that route and be driven by a driver that can ‘sign’ that train and route. In other words, they’d probably need to have got in some freight trains – and how many of these would there be? And then Network Rail has to approve ‘paths’. Oh, and the bikes and passengers would be split up, so there would need to be somewhere to reunite people at the end.

    All for one day? How much would it cost and who would pay? Basically, it would be a nightmare – and the organisers seem to have arranged road travel for bikes instead, which is probably a lot easier. I wonder how long people would have wanted to queue for the goods train to return from Victoria for the next ‘bike run’.

    I know that many years ago they had trains that had room for some bikes, but there was almost ten times as many people taking part as then. Seriously, TWENTY SEVEN THOUSAND people took part!

    Sorry to sound negative, and I’m not against having more space put aside for bikes on a daily basis like the old days, but it really isn’t worth complaining about a single day! Hope it was good though, as I may be adding myself to that 27,000 next time.

  6. Thanks for the comment, Jonathan – clearly you know a little more than most of us when it comes to train logistics!
    OK, my take on what you wrote – firstly, only a fraction of those 27,000 people would want to use such a train service.
    The situation that we already have is a nightmare – anything else would surely improve on things! Theoretically, it could run the entire weekend – sending Brightonians to London and then bringing Londoners back from Brighton.
    Given that people were queueing for hours already, waiting to load their bikes onto trains, then I think people would generally be OK about a wait, given the benefits of travelling by rail not road.
    But why does this have to be for just one day – if you have the ability to take people to work on their bikes why not do so!? At the moment, it’s pretty much impossible to commute to London from Brighton unless you have a fold-up bike. Change that situation & watch the roads fill with cyclists & feel the air get less polluted.

  7. eyejewels permalink

    It never fails to amaze me how councils and transport ministers can pay lip service to a concept and fail to act in any sustained significant way to make things happen. It should be mandatory for train companies to provide sufficient bicycle space for commuters and other travelers to take bikes with them. And as for BHCC who took the railings down in Churchill Square without providing an alternative for all those bikes that used to get chained to them and who seem to think the way a place looks is more important than its function… I despair…

  8. Paolo permalink

    Jonathan’s comments does make one think though.

    Perhaps we shouldn’t focus on the day as it is only an example of the lack of regard for cyclists inherent in English culture, which train company policies reflect.

    The question I have is “what will get people to move from their cars to their bikes?” – government incentive schemes? And what is the chance of that?

  9. Good question. I blogged today about the frustrations of cycling in Brighton day to day… initiatives like Bike Week, to me, are just uninspiring… This Tory council we have just don’t get it… I may be guessing here but suspect that *whispers* they DONT cycle…

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