ScotRail bike hire scheme hit by technical problem

ScotRail roped in Graeme Obree to help launch the scheme but technical problems meant no one was able to use it. Picture: Chris Watt
ScotRail roped in Graeme Obree to help launch the scheme but technical problems meant no one was able to use it. Picture: Chris Watt
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SCOTRAIL today wheeled in cycle legend Graeme Obree to launch new “on-the-spot” bookings for its Bike & Go station cycle hire scheme - only for a website fault to prevent anyone from using it.

The train operator said the “spontaneous subscriber scheme” would enable people to sign up to the service and immediately hire a bike via their smartphones - in time for the start of the Edinburgh Festival on Friday.

Programmes and transformation director Ian McConnell said: “This really simplifies the sign-up process and we’re sure it’ll be a big boost for cyclists – especially at a time when Edinburgh streets are particularly busy.”

However, the website incorrectly showed there were “0 bikes currently available” at either of its Scottish locations at Edinburgh Haymarket and Stirling stations.

By contrast it showed cycles free at virtually all its other locations across northern, eastern and south eastern England.

A Bike & Go spokeswoman admitted: “I have contacted my colleagues at Stirling and Haymarket who have confirmed there are several Bike & Go cycles available at each location.

“Occasionally, when the scanner which issues the bikes at each location is offline, it will appear on the website as if there are zero available.”

The hire service, which costs £3.80 a day, was launched at Stirling in April by new Dutch ScotRail operator, which hopes to increase “sustainable” trips to and from stations - such as walking and cycling - by 10 per cent.

ScotRail later admitted there had been a “technical hitch”.

A spokeswoman said: “The introduction of instant registration required a website upgrade which is now complete, enabling travellers to log on and book their bikes immediately.”

Haymarket was added in June and Bike & Go is due to be extended to a further eight stations over the next two years.

However, John Dietz, an Abellio project manager, warned last year that to achieve the 10 per cent switch from car trips to and from stations, “customers will need to have confidence they can leave their bike at a secure and convenient location and they will be able to hire bikes to make onward journeys from their destination stations.”

Transport minister Derek Mackay, who took part in today’s launch, said: “I have always maintained a strong focus on improving connections between modes of transport, to help make public transport a more attractive and convenient alternative to the car.

“Bike & Go is just one example of how we are investing in new facilities to make it easier for customers to make door-to-door journeys and encourage more people to travel by public transport.”

Obree, a former world cycling champion, said: “This is an excellent initiative and hopefully one that encourages more people to see the advantage of using a bike as the perfect solution to cutting congestion in Edinburgh.”

The hire bikes have puncture-resistant tyres, front and rear luggage carriers and pedal-powered lights, although they have been criticised for being heavy and having uncomfortable saddles.

Currently, cycling accounts for 1-2 per cent of all journeys in Scotland, a fraction of that in the Netherlands, where 42 per cent of journeys to stations and 14 per cent from stations are by bike.