Scotland's train companies need to do more to enable cyclists to travel with their bikes – Scotsman comment

Tales of woe from cyclists who have travelled for any length of time on our railways about bureaucratic resistance and even outright hostility are not hard to find.

The new ScotRail Highland Explorer service has specially adapted carriages that can carry 20 bikes  (Picture: ScotRail/PA)
The new ScotRail Highland Explorer service has specially adapted carriages that can carry 20 bikes (Picture: ScotRail/PA)

One cycling body advised owners of folding bicycles to make sure they were carried in a bag to avoid being refused permission to board as “if they can’t see the wheels, it’s not a bicycle”. Even cyclists who booked a ticket for their bike have, on occasion, found themselves subject to the ire of staff and having to insist on their right to travel.

As recently as November, Scotland’s active nation commissioner, Lee Craigie, complained that newly refurbished trains on the Inverness main line only offered a “bare minimum” of space for bikes and accused the rail industry of “cultural resistance” against cyclists.

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And that is rather odd. One of the problems of train travel is that the station is rarely the end destination – you still need to get to where you are going.

The ability to take your own form of transport on a train to complete the rest of your journey would surely encourage more people to go by rail, rather than taking a car.

Happily, ScotRail seems to be starting to get the message, with news that carriages which can carry up to 20 bikes are being introduced on the West Highland line from Glasgow to Oban from Monday. They will even be able to accommodate a limited number of tandem cycles and have a charging socket for e-bikes.

But the benefits of a better integrated transport system apply just as much to commuters as they do to people taking a cycling holiday.

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