Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw has expressed concern a new rule for passengers bringing bike’s onto Great Western Railway’s (GWR) high speed trains.
From 16 May, passengers with a non-folding bike need to book a cycle reservation by 6pm the day before travelling on GWR trains due to limited space on trains, although a bike can be brought on board without booking if space allows.
Mr Bradshaw, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport between 2009-2010, criticised the new rules for making it difficult for people with unfixed working hours who commute by both train and bike.
“I had serious concerns about this when it was first announced, not least as it would affect my ability to do my job,” Mr Bradshaw told the Exter Express and Echo.
“Because of the uncertainty of parliamentary hours and constituency commitments I often don’t know in advance what time train I will be able to get to and from London.
“I sought urgent clarification from GWR and they confirmed that you will still be able to put your bike on their trains if there is space, while encouraging people to book in advance.
“But they must do more to improve their booking system. It is ridiculous that you can’t book a bike online if you already have a ticket, but have to phone a call centre in India. I tried this on Sunday evening and couldn’t get through.
“Rail companies should be doing their best to encourage not discourage bicycle use.”
But Dan Panes, GWR head of communications, said: “It’s getting more and more of a problem as more and more people bring their bikes on.
“It’s much more popular than it was, even two or three years ago.
“What we’re seeing is that people with bikes and tickets, turning up and finding that there’s no space on that train, having to buy another ticket or pay a little bit more to get on the next one.”
Sam Jones of Cycling UK said he was pleased that GWR were still allowing bikes on board without a reservation, but called on the train operator to clarify the policy.
“We’ve been hearing from concerned members that Great Western is currently not allowing cyclists and their wheels to board without cycle reservations since the new system was introduced.
“Cycling UK welcomes the involvement of Ben Bradshaw MP as, judging from the response he received, this is not the case and in fact their previous policy is still in play – just not necessarily practised by members of staff.
“Cycling UK would urge Great Western to make this latest return to policy clear to both members of staff and the public, so as to prevent further misunderstanding and misery.
“Last week we heard how there is an increase in the number of people turning to cycle-rail as a means of travelling and commuting. Until Great Western provides a booking service that will facilitate easy, fast and up to the last minute booking for cycles, the implementation of a mandatory booking system unnecessarily penalises those increasing numbers of commuters and season ticket holders who want to use cycle-rail.”