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TfL left red-faced as more than one quarter of docking station terminals crash on scheme's big day...

The much-vaunted opening of London’s Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme to casual users from 10 o’clock this morning descended into chaos as terminals at more than a quarter of the city’s docking stations crashed, meaning they needed to be manually rebooted.

In all, some 100 docking stations crashed, according to the London at Large blog on the Evening Standard's website, preventing would-be casual users as well as many of the scheme’s 108,000 members from using the hire bikes.

The blog post said that following urgent talks with Transport for London (TfL), scheme operator Serco, which also runs the Docklands Light Railway, had to send engineers to each docking station affected to resolve the problem.

Ross Lydal, Chief News Correspondent at the Evening Standard who wrote the blog post and is himself a user of the scheme, had earlier tweeted; “#TfL says 100 #Borisbike docking stations crashed at launch of casual use. Now down to 68 broken as #Serco gets b*llocking.”

His report added that by 1.30pm, one in ten of the 352 docking stations were still out of operation, and he also highlighted that there had been a bad omen yesterday when Kulveer Ranger, Mayor Boris Johnson’s Transport Advisor, had encountered problems when trying to show journalists at a press conference in Covent Garden how to release a bike by using a credit card at the terminal.

By 5pm the number of malfunctioning terminals was down to one, a TfL spokesperson told road.cc and Serco engineers, were working on that to get it back online as quickly as possible.

The Evening Standard reported a TfL spokesman as saying: “Our operator Serco has informed us that, due to a system error this morning, some Barclays Cycle Hire docking stations are not releasing cycle hire bikes to auto renew members and casual user customers, however annual members and members with a valid access period have still been able to access bikes.

“We would like to apologise to any customers that have experienced problems however the majority of casual users around London should still have been able to access the scheme today and we are pressing Serco engineers to resolve this as quickly as possible. They are on the streets now fixing affected stations.”

The problems with the expansion of the scheme to non-members this morning contrast sharply with comments made by London’s Mayor in a press release issued  ahead of the 10am launch.

“Our Barclays Cycle Hire bikes have already become a defining part of the London street scene. Now those who have only watched enviously from the sidelines can join the cycle revolution at the swipe of a card."

In some respects the extreme winter weather made today's opening up of the system a lot less fraught than it might have been with so many terminals crashing. Sources at TfL say that the weather has massively reduced hire bike traffic by as much as 50 per over the last few day with many people unable to get to London, and the weather there for those that do not being particularly conducive to casual cycling. Hopefully Serco will have things sorted when, and if, the thaw finally sets in.
 

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.