Bikes on Trains

Every now and then, a group of us meet to go cycling after work. We usually end up at a pub for a meal before cycling home later in the evening.

It would be great to be able to hop, with bikes, on a local train and travel up the line to say Builth Wells. From Builth you can cycle along the Welsh National Cycle Route – the Lon Las Cymru – as far as Rhayader in just an hour or two, and from there, take the cycle path to the Elan Valley Dams.

From this idea it’s only a small leap to people inventing new train/bike commutes to work as well. But the options for groups and even individual commuters wanting to take (non folding) bikes on trains are very limited. Train Operating Companies across the UK are usually only able to take a couple of bikes ‘subject to space being available,’ although reservation systems are improving and secure bike storage is also an option at larger stations. This being said, in almost every “you can’t do that” situation exceptions do exist, and here are some early pioneers of the bikes on trains revolution, which must surely come …  

Stuttgart, Germany

Stuttgart Zacke

The Stuttgart Rack Railway is known locally as Die Zacke and first opened in 1884.

It connects the urban districts of Marienplatz and Degerloch in Stuttgart, and over its 2.2 km route, climbs a height of 205 m with a fantastic view of the city centre. Die Zacke is integrated with the metropolitan railway network of the Stuttgarter Straßenbahnen and is also a popular tourist attraction.

In 1982 the railway network trialed a demonstration wagon designed specially to transport bicycles. This was so successful that it led to the permanent inclusion of this fantastic platform.  

Wonderful Copenhagen

Bicycles-on-trains-Copenhagen

In 2010, Danish State Railways [DSB] first announced their intention to allow all bicycles to travel free on the red S-trains that serve Greater Copenhagen and suburbs.

DSB have set a trend, making everyday journeys easier for Copenhageners and this has encouraged many more people to use their bicycles.  

Massachusetts, US

MBTA Bike Coach Train

If you happen to be in Massachusetts, bikes are in.

Negotiations began way back in 1977 between the cycle to work organisation Massbike and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). The very first step was a one off trial allowing bikes on two trains a day on weekends to and from Boston to Cape Ann.

Progress getting a bikes on trains agreement was slow, but worth it, and nowadays Massbike works with the MBTA on the Bikes and Transit Committee that meets 4-6 times a year. Bicycles are allowed on the subway and Commuter Rail, although not at peak times, and there are also timetabled bike trains.

Closer to Home?

The Heart of Wales Line runs 120 miles between Swansea and Shrewsbury. Maybe this is the sort of line that might be better able to adapt to needs of cyclists etc than trains on the larger commercial routes?

A community partnership of local councils, businesses, passenger groups and the rail industry, (called the Heart of Wales Line Forum) now have the support of Welsh Government for a 3-year development plan, starting with an extra train in May 2015. The next three years are a unique chance for communities to get involved in this process.

To find out more about the Heart of Wales Line Forum follow @heartofwales1 on Twitter, Heart of Wales Line on Facebook or visit the Heart of Wales Line online at www.heart-of-wales.co.uk

R.Francis www.sharpeningpencils.co.uk

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