Bikes and trains news

This article was published in 2000, in Newsletter 31.

As reported last time, WAGN’s new morning peak-hour bike ban came into effect on Tuesday 30 May.

Early in June, three Campaign members met with John Sarson and Gary Willey of WAGN, Councillor Shona Johnstone and Alan Browning of the County Council, and Kevin Dunseath of D.Tek, to try to identify solutions to the problems caused by the ban.

‘The SSRA will very soon be deciding on the terms and conditions of the new Thameslink 2000 franchise – which will determine provision for cyclists in this area for something like the next 20 years!’

It felt to me like a positive and encouraging meeting. There was much discussion about the need for more secure cycle parking at rural stations, supply of more accurate information, and influencing of future franchises. Kevin Dunseath was there to promote folding bikes, which are certainly a part of the solution for some people. We agreed to meet again to talk about longer term issues, like actually making space for bikes on trains.

Since the meeting, the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority (SSRA) has announced that a number of short-term rail franchises are being ended early, to be replaced by much longer franchises, so that rail companies can plan for real investment. (For more on the SSRA and franchises, see Urgent lobby for bikes on trains.)

Brompton (makers of folding bikes) have sponsored this leaflet about ‘Cycling by train’. Although very useful, it highlights the absurd complexity of the current rail system for cyclists. Copies are available from Cambridge station. (The leaflet was already out of date by the time it reached Cambridge, as it doesn’t include the new WAGN ban!)

WAGN (or its owner, Prism) is one of the companies that has surrendered some routes early (Kings Lynn to Kings Cross, and Peterborough to Kings Cross), to allow the SSRA to seek bids for a new integrated set of routes known as Thameslink 2000. The SSRA says, ‘The Thameslink 2000 franchise will enable passengers in Cambridge and Bedford to reach the heart of the City, South London, Gatwick Airport, the Sussex Coast and Kent, without changing trains or transferring to Underground or bus to cross London.’

What this means to Cambridge cyclists in the long term (if the current Thameslink 2000 public inquiry goes smoothly) is that, in several years time, we can expect to see around £800 million invested into the network, including significant lengthening of short platforms, and major increases in capacity.

What this means to Cambridge cyclists in the short term is that WAGN are now making investment decisions based on 9 months’ return, instead of roughly 3 years. We might have predicted that WAGN staff would therefore not be interested in discussing any local improvements. However, to their credit, they have assured us that they will continue to work on infrastructure improvements.

The SSRA will very soon be deciding on the terms and conditions of the new Thameslink 2000 franchise – which will determine provision for cyclists in this area for something like the next 20 years! Please read the article opposite to find out how you can have your say in this process.

There will be a meeting to discuss the details of our wish-list for the new franchises on Monday 7 August at 7.30 pm, in the Friends’ Meeting House, Jesus Lane. Please do come along, or let us know what you think should be included.

Back to Cambridge right now… we understand that the free bike-hire scheme has been very popular (perhaps not surprising, considering the number of cyclists affected by the ban) and so there has been a waiting list for free bikes. We have been told that WAGN are working to solve this as a high priority.

I had hoped to be able to give more concrete news of the consequences of our meeting with WAGN by now, but we are still hopeful of news in the not too distant future.

Clare Macrae