Cycle parking at Cambridge Station tomorrow?

This article was published in 2011, in Newsletter 99.

Image as described adjacent

Or should that be mañana instead of tomorrow?

Despite the best efforts of many people in many agencies, creating extra spaces at the station is a time-consuming and frustrating process. We’ve worked with the County, City Council and Train Operating Companies over many months. Some small numbers of stands have appeared as part of this process, but other small increases stalled because of the need to ensure any new stands are covered by CCTV.

As part of the changes to bus stops, we’d expected that a significant number of stands (enough for nearly 200 bikes) would be placed in the former bus lay-by on railway land to the north of Station Road. This plan has been changed as it is realised that swapping this with some of the ‘short-term’ car parking would be of benefit to all. This should reduce congestion caused by setting down or picking up on the actual roundabout and will put the new cycle parking next to existing provision.

As a second strand, it is proposed to use some double-deck (two-tier) racking in this new area. The Cycling Campaign, and others, do have concerns about double-deck racks. Firstly, you don’t get anywhere close to as many as twice as many bikes, because of the need to have wider spacing and especially wider aisles. Secondly, they are very much more expensive, hence poor value for money unless space is at a real premium. It is difficult for many to get bikes on the top deck, and in a congested location you may not have the choice of using the lower deck. Finally, should ‘extra’ bikes be locked at the lower level it may then be impossible to retrieve a bike previously placed on the upper deck.

We’ve had sight of some first plans of the layout, and there is a need for some adjustments. In addition, there is the suggestion that more than one type of double-deck rack may be used. National Express’s stakeholder manager is aware of several different types of stands at other stations in the area (Colchester, Upminster, Kelvedon). I’ve seen those at Liverpool Street and Paddington.

We should support such trials because they should lead to better decisions when, eventually, the major 3,000-space cycle park is built as part of the CB1 development. Much of the cost of this current work should be covered by S106 agreements.

These are not the only opportunities. It is proposed to move some toast rack stands to the area by the bus stands to the rear of platform 3. This is land managed by National Express, and we identified this area for possible cycle parking some time ago. There is now clearly the potential for even more parking (Sheffield stands) on the very wide footway by the new bus stops. We will approach the County about this area.

So what are the prospects?

Firstly, most of this land is in the ownership of Network Rail, even if managed by other groups. Because of the fragmentation of the rail industry, any significant change proposed by one party may need to be signed-off by other parties with no apparent involvement or interest. Secondly, as many will be aware, Abellio will be taking over the East Anglia franchise in February 2012. Because of this imminent change, it may be that they will also need to approve such changes.

The Campaign, and others including Cambridge’s MP Julian Huppert, will continue to press for increased cycle parking at the station.

More progress elsewhere

Other areas seem to be having more luck with cycle parking. Just a few weeks ago the National Cycle Rail Awards organised by the Association of Train Operating Companies took place. Merseyrail won awards for its cycle centre at Southport station with 188 cycle spaces. Eastleigh Borough Council won awards with 175 spaces at Southampton Parkway. Leeds Cycle Point with 100 daily users also won an award.

Of course, even the sum of all these extra spaces would do little to scratch the deficit of provision at Cambridge. I’ve watched how slowly progress has been made at the station over 15 years, in part because of the problems of planning blight. Perhaps next year we will see Cambridge featured in these awards, or will it just be the wooden spoon again?

Jim Chisholm