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Dunwich Dynamo 2015 - 'cycle friendly' train company bans bikes on some trains, severely restricts numbers on others

Abellio Greater Anglia says growing popularity of annual 120 mile overnight ride creates delays and inconveniences passengers

Dunwich Dynamo riders will have to find alternate ways to get home from the annual 120 mile overnight ride from London to the coast after train company Abellio Greater Anglia banned bikes from some of its trains and limited others to carry 50 bikes.

On its website the company says the changes are due to increased popularity of the event, which takes place on the night of Saturday 4 July/Sunday 5 July, and the pressures on its trains and inconvenience for fellow passengers.

In March of this year Abellio Greater Anglia won the Integrated Transport Excellence Award at the National Rail Business Awards - in large part due to the company's claims to be promoting cycling. Abellio Greater Anglia is always a past winner of multiple National Cycle Rail Awards. 

Most Dunwich Dynamo riders and their bikes make it back to London on coaches organised by Southwark Cyclists - around 1,000 of the estimated 1,700 who attempted the unsupported ride last year.

But others who took the train posted photos of lage numbers of bikes piled on empty train seats with people standing in the aisles instead.

Participants in this year's July 4 'Dun Run' who don't get a place for themselves and their bikes on the pre-booked return coaches and lorries can book their bikes on the train via a special web page, but they will have to get to Ipswich, 30 miles South West of Dunwich, first.

That's not necessarily the first thing you want to do when you've just ridden well over 100 miles, especially one that has a symbolic end in the shape of the sea. What's more, you need printed proof of booking, otherwise you won't get on the train - so you need to make sure you get to Ipswich on time.

The company's website says: "Due to the growing popularity of the annual Dunwich Dynamo cycle event, and to maintain a punctual and safe service, Abellio Greater Anglia will this year introduce partial cycle restrictions on its network on Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th July."

Last year riders crammed bikes into every available space on trains

On the Sunday, up to 50 pre-booked bikes will be allowed on the Ipswich service, for which Abellio Greater Anglia is able to put in a special timetable and give a longer station stop to load the bikes. This won't be possible for riders going to London on Saturday, however.

Riders won't be able to take their bikes from Dunwich to Ipswich on the East Suffolk line on Sunday either.

Abellio Greater Anglia said: "Last year we carried several hundred bikes on trains which are not designed to carry many bikes. This made it uncomfortable for other customers and caused a number of problems including delaying services and inconveniencing other rail passengers".

On the intercity route from Ipswich 50 bikes will be stored in a part of the train where usually just six are allowed while from Norwich eight bikes will be permitted. The company is also doubling bike spaces to eight on its rural routes for Saturday 4 July only, for those taking trains to London to start the ride. Due to Crossrail work Abellio Greater Anglia said it is unable to run extra services.

The company said: "We are likely to be completely full for most of the day so we would recommend either travelling later or using one of the organised buses/lorries back to London.

"We expect most customers with bikes to board at Ipswich. You will not be permitted to board Intercity services with a bike without the appropriate reservation at any mainline station."

Last year riders praised the train company for squeezing so many bikes on, and while many understand the logistical limitations some are far from happy about the changes.

One said, after the announcement of changes to service: "Surely anyone with any business sense at all would see 'the growing popularity of the annual Dunwich Dynamo cycle event' as a huge opportunity, only to be capitalised upon by laying on more capacity for BIKES". #stupidityincharge

Abellio Greater Anglia sign after last year's event

Another said, after last year's event: "Staff at Ipswich were also excellent and well briefed, we turned up long before our booked tickets and they took the sensible choice and got us loaded and gone before it got busier."

The Dun Run has become somewhat a bucket list event, started in 1993, reputedly by couriers who decided on a whim to ride to the coast one night. It's a turn up and go event with no official organiser, though Southwark Cyclists and others arrange return coaches and lorries for attendees and their bikes respectively, and enterprising locals set up feed stations along the route.

Return coach spaces are left, though limited in number, and can be booked, via Southwark Cyclists, here.

The restrictions for the Dunwich Dynamo, from Abellio Greater Anglia's website, are as follows:

Bikes will be prohibited on the following routes: Lowestoft - Ipswich, Lowestoft - Norwich. 

Bikes will be restricted to a maximum of 4 on the following rural routes: Ipswich - Cambridge, Norwich - Cambridge.

Only 6 bikes can be carried between Norwich and Ipswich.

Intercity services starting from Ipswich travelling to Colchester/Chelmsford/Stratford/London will carry a maximum of 50 bikes per train only and must be reserved in advance - a free bike ticket will be generated and this must be presented before boarding.

Stopping services that start at Ipswich at XX:09 past the hour will be prohibited from carrying bikes.

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40 comments

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crazy-legs | 9 years ago
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What Some Fella said ^^.
Train companies don't just have loads of spare carriages knocking around waiting for a once-a-year opportunity to be used.
(Some of) the stations can't take longer trains, you can't "just" put on 6 trains an hour instead of 2 or 3, the capacity isn't there in the rest of the system (destination stations, staff) to accommodate it.

They've not said they won't take any bikes, sod off. They've just said there will be a formal booking system. They've publicised this well in advance. I don't really see the issue to be honest. Plan ahead!

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Matt eaton | 9 years ago
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Usually I'm pretty anti when it comes to train companies and bikes but in this case I've got a bit of sympathy. We should remember the distinction between a multi-modal utility journey (which the train companies absolutely should cater for) and the management of exceptional demand associated with travel to/from a sporting event.

On the other hand it seems a shame that they are unable to identify this as an opportunity to sell more tickets and cater accordingly.

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farrell | 9 years ago
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"“The photo shows how the station was awash with bikes"

Am I looking at the right photo? The one of a train and one blurry bloke walking his bike?

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Simon_MacMichael | 9 years ago
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Different approach from a different train company (but not big difference in number of cyclists once you exclude those booked on coaches).

Source: http://road.cc/content/news/138567-northern-rail-wins-operator-year-cycl...

The winner of the Photography award was Phil Dominey for his picture By Royal Appointment which he took during September’s Richmond to Windsor cycle ride.

South West Trains put on longer trains and more carriages, enabling 600 cyclists and their bikes to get back to London from Windsor & Eton.

“The photo shows how the station was awash with bikes, but the station management instigated a well drilled plan to load trains with each coach identified for a specific station,” said the winner.

“The team kept everyone informed, resulting in South West Trains receiving praise via Twitter on how well organised the train service was. No complaints were received, no trains were delayed and considering that South West Trains didn’t know the level of demand, all of those involved including train crew and station staff, were pleased with the outcome.”

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Dnnnnnn | 9 years ago
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https://www.sleeper.scot/on-board/cycles-and-pets

If Serco can do this without knowing when there will be sufficient demand, why can't other rail companies who know full well when there are specific major events?

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vonhelmet replied to Dnnnnnn | 9 years ago
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Duncann wrote:

https://www.sleeper.scot/on-board/cycles-and-pets

If Serco can do this without knowing when there will be sufficient demand, why can't other rail companies who know full well when there are specific major events?

One imagines the anticipated demand is far lower than for an event like the DD when all of a sudden there are hundreds of bikes to transport.

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Dnnnnnn replied to vonhelmet | 9 years ago
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vonhelmet wrote:
Duncann wrote:

https://www.sleeper.scot/on-board/cycles-and-pets

If Serco can do this without knowing when there will be sufficient demand, why can't other rail companies who know full well when there are specific major events?

One imagines the anticipated demand is far lower than for an event like the DD when all of a sudden there are hundreds of bikes to transport.

That's my point. It's more straightforward to prepare for a once-a-year event where you can predict considerable demand. Much more worth the company's while than having a standby arrangement 6 days a week which might/might not be needed. It sounds like Abellio just couldn't be bothered to think about it.

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Aapje | 9 years ago
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Seems like a great business opportunity if you own a van/truck and live somewhat close by. Turn up at the event or rail station and transport the bikes for a fee, while the riders take the train.

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FluffyKittenofT... | 9 years ago
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I'm not a fan of the private rail companies, but maybe there's a case for never cycling anywhere you aren't prepared to cycle back from?

(I know whenever I've wimped-out and tried to get a train back from somewhere, invariably the train will be delayed, cancelled or re-routed, and it ends up taking longer than cycling would have done - the cycling God is a jealous God)

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IanW1968 | 9 years ago
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Done this several times, the staff at Ipswich have been excellent and really well organised.
Consider the logistics part of the challenge.

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Some Fella | 9 years ago
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The British railway 'system' is so fragmented and hamstrung by bureaucracy that its not just a case of putting a couple of trains on. The train operating companies (TOCs) lease rolling stock off rolling stock operating companies (ROSCOs) and have no spare capacity. Timetables have to be agreed with Network Rail months (if not years) in advance.
British Rail was run as public service so 'specials' were easy to organise and negotiate. The current system (a profit driven business) does not a flying fuck about some cyclists so its just easier to ban them.

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Pat Hayes | 9 years ago
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Can't beleive people on a cycling site siding with train operator .DD is a small event and the Darsham line is usually deserted on a Sunday so it's just nonsense to say other travellers inconvienienced . Probably one UKIP voter complained and train company leap to impose a ban . People squeezing in has worked for years

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Pat Hayes | 9 years ago
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Can't beleive people on a cycling site siding with train operator .DD is a small event and the Darsham line is usually deserted on a Sunday so it's just nonsense to say other travellers inconvienienced . Probably one UKIP voter complained and train company leap to impose a ban . People squeezing in has worked for years

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Legin | 9 years ago
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The days of British Rail are sadly gone; Greater Anglia is not a public service it is a profit centre for Abellio. Many of you will know that Abellio is the Dutch National Railways so every penny of profit they rip out of users in the UK subsidises the Dutch Rail User!

Right Wing Politicians got rid of British Rail because it was a Nationalised Industry; now our Rail Industry is run by the Nationalised Rail Industries of France, Germany, Holland, China; the difference is a worse service and they take a profit from it to subsidise their own Rail Industry!

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atgni replied to Legin | 9 years ago
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BR was great! When wearing rose tinted memory specs  3

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Legin replied to atgni | 9 years ago
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I deal in facts not BS; BR was the most efficient of all National Railways in terms of level of service; cost to the tax payer and cost to the passenger. Go check the research that is available before you come out with glib comments. We all pay a lot more today for a dysfunctional rail industry whose prime motive is profit.

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Al__S | 9 years ago
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for L2B if just half the cyclists tried to take the train back that would be 12500 cyclists. A 4-car unit on that line can seat ~240 people, three of these can be used together. So 720 seats. That's over 17 train loads. Without the bikes. On a summer Sunday when the trains are already busy.

Tell me again how Southern are unreasonable?

For the Dynamo, there's stations on the line cannot (these days) take any more than the two carriage trains used. Yes, Darsham can longer- but then you'd possibly be withdrawing service from rural villages just to please a bunch of lycra clad nutters. Even then, it would still be the same sort of trains without any guards van. Can you imagine how popular putting bikes on the seats would be if it was a wet year?

(Looking to do it for the first time this year- planning on heading up to Lowestoft to get trains back to Cambridge via Norwich)

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mtm_01 replied to Al__S | 9 years ago
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Al__S wrote:

For the Dynamo, there's stations on the line cannot (these days) take any more than the two carriage trains used. Yes, Darsham can longer- but then you'd possibly be withdrawing service from rural villages just to please a bunch of lycra clad nutters.

It's a fair point but they manage it in my local area. Stratford to Birmingham has 'The Lakes' where anyone wanting on/off does it from the front carriage. The London to Great Malvern huge train has a number of stops where you need to be in the front 4 carriages.
The trick to it would be put on another two-up connected to the front one with passengers in the front two and bikes in the back two. Then you only need to stop the front half in the shortened platforms as the back half happily waits until Ipswich.

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Iamnot Wiggins replied to Al__S | 9 years ago
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Al__S wrote:

for L2B if just half the cyclists tried to take the train back that would be 12500 cyclists. A 4-car unit on that line can seat ~240 people, three of these can be used together. So 720 seats. That's over 17 train loads. Without the bikes. On a summer Sunday when the trains are already busy.

Tell me again how Southern are unreasonable?

Yes, because I'm sure that Southern couldn't possibly afford to put on some extra trains for the event. Whatever would the shareholders who they pamper say?! And, wait, they surely can't spend any of the millions that Network Rail pay them for the constant delays that we as passengers see so little of. Can they?

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Al__S replied to Iamnot Wiggins | 9 years ago
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Iamnot Wiggins wrote:

Yes, because I'm sure that Southern couldn't possibly afford to put on some extra trains for the event. Whatever would the shareholders who they pamper say?! And, wait, they surely can't spend any of the millions that Network Rail pay them for the constant delays that we as passengers see so little of. Can they?

By the time you add in space for the bikes, you're talking about 30-35 extra trains. Even on a Monday morning they don't run more than six trains an hour from Brighton through to London- because with all the other trains that need to get through East Croydon the railway has no capacity to take any more trains

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Paul M | 9 years ago
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Some readers glibly say "put on a guard's van" but I don't suppose it is nearly that easy. Rolling stock simply doesn't have guard's vans any more, and I doubt that the multi-coach units used for most services now could accommodate a tack-on goods car - none of the necessary power connections, or brakes, etc, would be available.

Surely this must be a business opportunity for a "man with van" or three? Offer to carry the bikes back to the terminus station by road while the rider sits comfortably on the train. fter all, Southwark Cyclists provide trucks to accompany the coaches rather than putting rider and bike in the same vehicle.

Either that, or do it on a Brompton. A colleague of mine did the whole LEJoG on one, and he would no doubt regard the Dynamo as for pussies!

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mtm_01 | 9 years ago
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I've caught the train from Darsham the morning after and it's a right mess - last year sounds like like they struck a decent balance and fairplay. This year will cause some issues but looking at those affected it looks like heading north to Norwich is the best way to get back to Birmingham.
Failing that it's only 25 miles from Dunwich to Diss and 33 from Dunwich to Norwich...not a lot of difference between 120 miles and 150!

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Kestevan | 9 years ago
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Agree anyone with an ounce of wit would see the opportunity to stick a couple of extra goods vans on each train.....

However it's better than most. Contrast with the Manchester to Blackpool ride - Northern Rail simply ban ALL bikes on the day this event takes place.....

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Albert Herring replied to Kestevan | 9 years ago
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Modern trains come in pre-assembled sets rather than individual vehicles, so you can't just stick a goods van in the middle (and since passenger trains don't carry parcels or mail any more there aren't too many goods vans out there either anyway...).

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Zebulebu | 9 years ago
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Did it last year, rode back to Ipswich and got the train from there (it absolutely f***ing hammered it down and I had trenchfoot). No problems whatsoever at Ipswich - hardly any bikes on the train at all (though we probably did it quicker than most, and hardly anyone seemed to bother riding back to Ipswich)

Station staff at Ipswich and on the train couldn't have been friendlier. If it had been Southern Rail, they would have had about 40 guards preventing entry, challenging you for tickets and getting physical with you!

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Iamnot Wiggins replied to Zebulebu | 9 years ago
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Zebulebu wrote:

If it had been Southern Rail, they would have had about 40 guards preventing entry, challenging you for tickets and getting physical with you!

Or, just like the London-Brighton ride, just banning bikes outright with no negotiation.

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TeamExtreme replied to Iamnot Wiggins | 9 years ago
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Iamnot Wiggins wrote:
Zebulebu wrote:

If it had been Southern Rail, they would have had about 40 guards preventing entry, challenging you for tickets and getting physical with you!

Or, just like the London-Brighton ride, just banning bikes outright with no negotiation.

In fairness to Southern the BHF London to Brighton bike ride is a completely different scale. The Dun Run is a small event (1700 people), so even if 10% of them show up at Ipswich train station, a few trains on a normal service might just about cater for them.

The L2B has close to 30,000 people doing it every year, if even a small percentage of those were to show up at Brighton station and expect a train back to London it would be absolute carnage. An outright ban is the only way to get that message across unequivocally.

That's twice that I've defended the railways in as many comments now! Someone start talking about ticket prices...

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Iamnot Wiggins replied to TeamExtreme | 9 years ago
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TeamExtreme wrote:
Iamnot Wiggins wrote:
Zebulebu wrote:

If it had been Southern Rail, they would have had about 40 guards preventing entry, challenging you for tickets and getting physical with you!

Or, just like the London-Brighton ride, just banning bikes outright with no negotiation.

In fairness to Southern the BHF London to Brighton bike ride is a completely different scale. The Dun Run is a small event (1700 people), so even if 10% of them show up at Ipswich train station, a few trains on a normal service might just about cater for them.

The L2B has close to 30,000 people doing it every year, if even a small percentage of those were to show up at Brighton station and expect a train back to London it would be absolute carnage. An outright ban is the only way to get that message across unequivocally.

That's twice that I've defended the railways in as many comments now! Someone start talking about ticket prices...

I appreciate that L2B is on a larger scale but there are better ways of dealing with it than Southern just coming across as arseholes. Allowing bikes on the train but having a member of staff standing by the cycle bit to ensure it's not over crowded and restricting access once it's full, putting on extra services to cater specifically for cyclists going back to London with limited stops etc. I pay this shithole of a company enough money every year for an absolutely diabolical service, I expect more!

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choddo | 9 years ago
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These people should be ashamed that they're not riding back  3

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Yemble replied to choddo | 9 years ago
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choddo wrote:

These people should be ashamed that they're not riding back  3

It bears repeating: the DD is Not A Sportive. Or an audax for that matter. It's the longest ride most of the participants will ever do in their lives.

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