Cycling in K.Lynn: Train Strategy

Letter to Greater Anglia (DRAFT)

Further to my earlier email, here is a fuller response to your consultation document from the King's Lynn and West Norfolk Bicycle Users Group.

We do not have any Greater Anglia stations in our area, but we do have some Greater Anglia services and many of our members' journeys will be to GA stations. Also, we are concerned that the actions of a previously pro-cycling franchise could be seen as setting a precedent for anti-cycling moves that will be followed by neighbouring operators.

The opening pages read like anti-cyclist letters to a local newspaper website, rather than a "vision for cycling". In general, I am surprised by the lack of evidence cited by this draft strategy.

In particular, are you sure of the claim that riders are a minority of your customers? 32% of people nationally ride bicycles (source: National Travel Survey 2011, DfT), and reportedly 47% cycle of people in Cambridge cycle once a week (Local area walking and cycling in England 2011/12, DfT). Moreover, I suspect riders are more likely to use trains than people who drive cars, so aren't cyclists likely to be a majority in parts of your area, or are you only counting people who actually take bicycles on trains? If so, could the reason only a minority take bicycles on your services be because it's already so difficult and unwelcoming to do so?

  1. Please would you publish details of the evidence that supports the claims and actions proposed in the strategy?

  2. Your strategy says that you wish for partnership working with local cycling groups. Could you contact us directly in future, please?

Under "Arriving at a Greater Anglia station", we welcome the additional parking listed in the appendix, but the the planned relocation of cycle parking from platforms to station forecourts is worrying. Cycles locked outside stations will more often be outside prime CCTV coverage and nearer to roads, so we fear they will be easier for professional thieves to steal and load into waiting vans, without being observed by gateline staff or passengers waiting on the platforms. This seems contrary to several "Secured by Design" principles, so I am disappointed if the British Transport Police are supporting it.

  1. Many Greater Anglia stations have platforms that are wider or longer than used by current services, so please would you reverse this cycle parking policy and aim to move all passenger cycle parking onto station platforms and inside gatelines over time?

  2. CyclePoint is interesting, but we do not expect one in our area because we have no GA stations, so please could passengers be allowed to take their cycles on all your trains from West Norfolk stations to Cambridge and Ely to visit your "flagship facilities"?

While it's good that there will be minimum standards, we feel they should be spelt out and at least as good as those in the DfT Manual for Streets section 8.2.

Under "Cycles on trains", it says that the cycle restrictions will broadly get no worse for now - which is to be welcomed - but that your long-term objective is to obstruct the carriage of cycles on trains, rather than to increase cycle accommodation. Surely this is the wrong approach if you wish to be the "leading train operating company in the field of Cycle-Rail integration"?

The consultation document says that providing more bike accommodation on services "is not a simple matter" - we recognise that, but it seems like you've given up and aren't even trying any more. There are some trains in the west of England which have flip-down commuter seats in the space used for bicycles off-peak. These or other flexible space usage solutions could be installed in new or existing trains.

Folding cycles, cycle hire and owning cycles at each end of a train journey are only viable options for richer people. As I'm sure you know, parts of King's Lynn are still amongst the most deprived areas of the country, so we do not agree with your approach. The lowest-cost option is probably cycle hire, but many Greater Anglia stations are small rural stations with no cycle hire and restricting carriage of cycles will also hinder hiring from a hub station such as Ely or Ipswich and taking it with you to your destination.

Even for people who can afford to buy a second bike for their destination station, that bicycle will need routine maintenance which may not be available near that station. Such cycles will probably still need to travel on trains sometimes.

  1. So please would you reverse your approach to cycles on trains, to seek more flexible passengers-at-peak/bicycles-off-peak spaces on trains to be provided during the next fleet refresh, to provide space for at least two bikes per door?

The same page also contains a claim that discouraging cycles on trains is "the culture in force in many parts of Europe". According to "The Man in Seat 61", bikes are allowed on off-peak Dutch domestic trains for around €6, bikes are carried on most Belgian internal trains by buying a 'bike card' for about €5, bikes can travel in the luggage van on most Italian local and regional trains for a €3.50 'bici in segito' bicycle pass or on some InterCity services for €5, bicycles are carried on most German InterCity (IC) trains for about €9 and bikes are carried free of charge in the luggage van on most local, regional and non-TGV inter-city trains in most of France. So what parts of Europe were you referring to?

  1. Please could the Greater Anglia approach be at least as good as the rest of north-western Europe?

Your poster shown on page 12 is inaccurate. It should say that you are unwilling to accommodate any cycles, rather than "unable".

Which brings me to "Charging Policy" - while some free parking is essential, we feel that free carriage should be reconsidered if it would enable more cycles to be taken on trains and the price of a whole-network day bike pass would be capped at the same price as a daily Bike&Go hire. Some premium parking provision may be useful, but it must not be used to excuse a deficit of free parking.

The "What we expect from our customers" section is missing key points about topics that worry passengers with cycles.

  1. Please could you add what you expect riders to do when all racks are occupied, which doors you would prefer people with non-folding cycles to use and what passengers unable to board the next train (due to timed advance-purchase tickets or the last train of the day) should do if you are unable to carry them?

Appendix 1 is interesting and does not cover our area, but I am surprised that Ipswich is marked for only a CP+ rather than a CPT like Norwich and Cambridge. Also, providing Bike&Go at March could improve access to the non-rail town of Wisbech along NCN Route 63.

Having a Greater Anglia cycling icon marking facilities is a good idea, but at a glance, the suggested design looks too much like symbol currently used for a motorbike in the Netherlands, so could lead to motorbikes being placed in cycle parking.

  1. Could you use the usual UK traffic symbol diagram 1057, which is similar to that used worldwide, please?

Appendix 2 on taking bikes on trains is vague and unclear on points such as whether cycles are banned on services only between Ely and Audley End, or on all services arriving in that area at that time.

  1. Could you produce a route map showing restrictions, similar to the one used by First Capital Connect, please?

Thank you for your attention and I await your replies with interest, especially to the numbered questions.

Yours sincerely,

MJ Ray,
Setchey, Norfolk, England

If anyone wants to discuss this please contact me. Thanks.

6pm, 10 Oct 2013, MJR