The new Cycle-Rail Toolkit

This article was published in 2012, in Newsletter 105.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the station with probably the largest number of cycles in the UK met these recently published guidelines?

ATOC (the Association of Train Operating Companies) has published the booklet A Cycle-Rail Toolkit and in the foreword Norman Baker MP (Parliamentary under-secretary of state for transport) says:

I therefore welcome this Toolkit, aimed at Train Operating Companies, which sets out best practice in the provision of Cycle-Rail measures. I hope it will prompt train operators to consider what more they can do.

For those who not have followed the saga (can it still be called a saga when it seemed to start before the Vikings invaded?) I won’t start at the beginning…

Suffice it to say that since we knew an ‘island’ platform was to be constructed at Cambridge Station, we and others have expressed concern lest designers failed to provide adequate facilities for those with cycles. Volunteers from the Campaign counted all those with bikes using the station one cold March day in 2010, showing that 1,000 bikes went through the gateline in a single day (see Newsletter 90). This included extracts from a county council report expressing similar concerns. We even had someone from Network Rail come to a monthly meeting.

So what does this Toolkit say?

3.5 Gradients and wheeling channels

These {wheeling channels} should be sited on both sides if practicable or, if not, on the right side for the benefit of cyclists going up. Suitable ‘U’ shaped steel channels 100mm wide and 50mm deep with a non-slip finish are a common, low cost, retro-fit solution .… They should, however, run out at ground level to make it easier for cyclists to align their wheels before pushing their cycles upwards.

3.6 Lifts

The location of lifts … should be spacious enough to accommodate cyclists at the same time as other users with the minimum of inconvenience. Large lifts have the benefit of enabling cyclists to turn around within them to avoid reversing out to the possible inconvenience of other travellers.

Current provision

The existing channel does not start at ground level, in fact it isn’t even a channel but an L-section. It is extremely difficult to take a bike up with this arrangement, and rarely does anyone use it successfully!

The lift is hardly big enough for a single bike and rider but, as most will know, Cambridge is busy with the type of rail passenger with many bags. The lift is inadequate for those, without the added complication of those with bicycles.

It seems abysmal that these almost new facilities for the island platform so completely fail to meet or even approach the recommended standards.

We and others have not been silent on these issues. We complained even before the footbridge was open, and a modification at least meant it wasn’t totally impossible to use the channels.

We forwarded on some of the many complaints and in February were told that something would be done. Nothing has been done. I recently meet one of the members of the Cycle-Rail working group involved in the published Toolkit who was also party to some of the email exchanges. He assumed that the work had been done but has said he will follow up with colleagues.

Incidentally, I’ve also learned that Cambridge has lost first place in the bike rack stakes. We haven’t been beaten by Oxford but by St Albans. We may have more cycles parked but they have just gone through the 1,000 spaces barrier.

Perhaps by the time you read this all will have changed and we will, at the least, have usable wheeling channels that meet the specification in the ATOC publication?

You can get a PDF copy of the 60-page Toolkit from:

Jim Chisholm