Travel: Concern raised over Greater Anglia’s new approach to cycles

A Greater Anglia train on the Norwich to London line

A Greater Anglia train on the Norwich to London line - Credit: Bill Smith - Archant

Proposals on the future of rail services for passengers travelling with bicycles have been accused of concealing a “hidden purpose”.

Yesterday marked the final day of consultation on Greater Anglia’s proposed cycle strategy - which critics claim sets out to discourage customers from boarding trains with bikes.

The Dutch owned operator says it has no intention of reducing its current provision and instead aims to improve services by ‘stimulating behavioural change’.

Caroline Page, county council spokesman for transport, questioned the company’s commitment. She said: “Greater Anglia seems to be proposing to remove cycles from an unspecified number of their trains - up to and including all of them - preferring people to keep bicycles at each end of their daily journey or to use the company’s own version of ‘Boris bikes’ at an extra cost of £3.80 a day.”

Although insisting it will maintain free cycle parking and not charge for bikes on trains, Greater Anglia points to rising concern about the impact of cyclists and their bikes on the majority of rail users, and argues that demand for bike space on trains must be balanced with the views of customers voicing safety concerns. In the draft strategy, it says: “Our objective for the medium to long term is therefore to reduce the carriage of cycles on trains by stimulating behavioural change.”

Greater Anglia’s proposed solution is a ‘corridor approach’ wherever a specific problem exists with bikes on trains, and to provide secure cycle parking and hire at both ends of a train journey. It says there may also be options around wider use of folding cycles.

Ms Page, county councillor for Woodbridge, argued that both options were impracticable, adding: “It would be felt by all cycle rail users, but most particularly those with fewer choices; those using the trains from stops in rural areas, second-class passengers, those with complex journeys, and of course the young and less affluent. I am also concerned that Suffolk travellers will be particularly at risk because it seems as if decisions are being proposed on the basis of the status and usage of out-of-county stations (London, Norwich, Cambridge) with little concern as to the situation of the passengers who have to join or leave the trains on interim stops in Suffolk.”

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Jonathan Denby, Greater Anglia’s head of corporate affairs, said: “We are looking at how to improve provision for cyclists. Rather than just adopting a strategy, we are seeking people’s priorities for improvement. We have no intention of reducing the provision already in place. However, we need to consider the increased number of cyclists generally, given that there are constraints for the number of bikes trains can carry. It’s important to flag up challenges rather than pretend they don’t exist. It doesn’t mean we value cyclists any less than other customers.”

Consultation responses are being compiled.