CrossCountry rail favouring surfers over cyclists

Bikes are banned from extra summer services to Cornwall

CTC - the UK’s national cyclists’ organisation, says it is disappointed that rookie train operator CrossCountry will be excluding bikes from extra rail services linking Newcastle and Manchester with Cornwall this summer.

CTC’s Public Transport Officer Dave Holladay said: “While we are pleased CrossCountry are putting on extra services for holidaymakers, it makes no sense for the train operator to provide this additional capacity for luggage and offer the special concession of allowing surfboards, but specifically exclude bicycles.  Cornwall is a very popular holiday destination for cyclists and there is a pressing need for more cycle spaces on services, as many cyclists travel to the South West to start a Lands End to John O’Groats ride or cycle the Camel trail.

"Since the withdrawal of online reservations for bicycles in September 2004, it is now a nightmare for cyclists trying to book tickets by phone or at a Rail Travel Centre where a mixture of different conditions are being applied," added Mr. Holladay. "CTC's network of over 60,000 members increasingly report difficulties in reserving cycle spaces. For example on CrossCountry Voyager trains only two spaces are being offered despite the train being equipped to take at least four bikes. At least six spaces are needed on popular trains heading for the South West”.

CTC says it is keen to work with train operators to get a better deal for cyclists. The organisation’s first agreement with UK rail operators to secure a standard arrangement for cycle carriage was in 1882 - four years after the club was founded.

Cross Country trains took up their franchise - the most extensive in the UK - only last November and will hold it until 2016. The company’s communications manager David Ewart said that CrossCountry wanted to encourage cyclists on its services but explained that when configuring its rolling stock the company has to weigh up that consideration against the high demand for seating. He said that there are alternative rail services available to cyclists traveling to Cornwall and that if bookings are made in advance, spaces for bikes will be guaranteed. However, End to End and other leisure riders hoping to travel to the West Country on some of the summer's busiest Saturdays, will find they are simply not permitted to book their bikes onto the trains they want.

Ultimately it seems likely that while bikes remain barred from certain High Speed Train services apparently to enable the carriage of more surfboards, CrossCountry are likely to remain open to the criticism that they are favouring one relatively recent British pastime over another with a far greater history of rail usage. 

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