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ScotRail unveils forthcoming West Highland Line carriages with space for 20 bikes

Carriages are aimed at easing overcrowding and helping support growth of cycle tourism in Scotland

ScotRail has taken to social media to highlight new bike-friendly carriages that will be coming to the West Highland Line next year.

With space for 20 bike, the carriages – the first of their type in the UK – will also be able to carry bulky sports equipment such as ski bags, says the rail operator.

The carriages, which are being fitted out by Ayrshire-based Brodie Engineering, will also have seating areas complete with power sockets and Wi-Fi.

Five such carriages will enter service on the line and will be added to existing trains, rather than passenger carriages being removed.

The rolling stock will operate on the West Highland Line between Glasgow, Oban, Fort William and Mallaig.

The aim is to ease overcrowding on the route as well as supporting growth of cycle tourism in Scotland over the coming decades.

Their introduction follows a 2017 Scottish Government report in which it said it was exploring “introducing dedicated carriages for cycles and other outdoor sports equipment on rural routes in the north and west” of the country.

The coming introduction of the carriages contrasts with the situation elsewhere on the UK rail network, with the latest generation of high-speed trains causing problems for cyclists wishing to take their bikes on those services.

> Cycling UK slams "awful" cycle storage on GWR's high-speed trains

Besides limited spaces, the new trains, rolled out by GWR and LNER also require bikes to be hung vertically from hooks, and which turn out to be unsuitable for wheels wider than those of a typical road bike.

Moreover, people who lack the strength to put their bicycle on the hook, or who have heavy or non-standard sized bicycles are simply unable to use the services.

Even a run-of-the-mill hybrid-style bike can be very difficult to store on the hooks – causing train departures to be delayed as cyclists, sometimes with the help of on-board crew, try to put their bicycle in the designated space.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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A V Lowe | 4 years ago

I've been working on this, with Cycling UK in the project group, convened by Transport Scotland (who are the scheme sponsors).

The 5 vehicles, are being worked on by Brodies in Kilmarnock, the trays take a front (or rear) wheel which can slide down to rest at 3 points against the vertical support. Thus is required as hazard management recognises that randomly stacked, unrestrained bikes, in an open saloon, presents a significant risk to passengers in various ways. This also makes it easier to place & remove individual bikes.   

The middle 4 spaces, have slots in the centre partition, a design I worked on for the SWT Class 455, and since replicated widely.  It 'wins' 4-6" of space where the (front) wheel fits in behind the sloping seat-back. This happens because the radiator filler & other stuff intrudes into the saloon. 3 other bays are roughly 1.8m, and the 4 cab-end bays have approx 2.3m to the line of the old partition, which has been completely removed to give a clear run in from the doors.  Through the Scotrail Cycle Forum, we're always pressing for the change in official position on tandems, trikes and e-bikes, although the picture at the coal face is not always that which is set down officially.

The units will be 'softly' rolled out one route at a time. With the major demand on the Glasgow-Oban  route, this is the on planned for the initial service, although there is a possible problem. The current train length limit is 6 carriages, and the most popular Oban train is the 08.21 'splitter' with 6 spaces (always fully taken on a summer Saturday) for Oban and 12 for Fort Bill (often less than half full).  I've been directing disappointed cyclists to use the 08.30(09.00) 976 Citylink coach which connects with the same sailings for the time being.  Work on the gauging clearance for these trains to use routes they have never used previously, and the operational detail, to schedule 2 vehicles in service and one spare for Summer 2020, is therefore concentrating on the Oban route initially.

In other news I've also been at a meeting with LNER on the debacle of the Azuma/IEP bike modules, where a design change AFTER a group of CUK 'tested' the mock-up, made the units even more difficult to use.  Do let me of Cycling UK know of any problems you get with these* trains, already on GWR, and now due to enter service fully with LNER by the end of this year, and start operating with Hull Trains, Transpennine and East Midlands Railway, as more are delivered. *Especially where staff are tied up helping you load the bike, or the train is delayed by 'cycle loading', where we can grab a screenshot of the delay record.

The Scotrail IC7 HST's are also delivering great business for Scottish Citylink as displaced cyclists are just hopping over to catch the hourly services between Inverness and Glasgow/Edinburgh. The old LNER HST service used to load up to 30 bikes in Inverness to be emptied out at the 8 min stop in Edinburgh, and initially 20 bikes were promised, this dropped to 10, with 6 only available in the power cars at start and end of route stations.  An issue with putting bikes in the power cars, meant only the on train spaces (2 x 2) were available, and now, with a shortage of modified coaches, limiting the trains to 4+2 formation rather than 5+2, we've just 2 spaces... and they don't work well at all, as Lee Craigie Scotlands' Active Travel Commissioner discovered, when the handlbars of her bike, which would not fit the bike space smashed the emergency door release and delivered a full emergency braking 'event' and got her thrown off the train at Perth. - Ongoing!

Likewise the Cross Country Voyager saga, with The Guardian likely to take this up. I've a small portfolio of  still/videos of the bent  and broken hooks, and the damage caused by bikes swinging around (& video of same) with the 2-bike side having a 55cm opening, and the 1-bike 63cm - no surprise that the typical 70cm straight bars get wedged in tight, & 80cm  .....

Add to this the Scotrail Class 156, and Caledionian Sleeper (18kg weight limit!) & a lot to sort out

hawkinspeter | 4 years ago

I thought it was illegal for train companies to design for their customers instead of for profit.

brooksby replied to hawkinspeter | 4 years ago
hawkinspeter wrote:

I thought it was illegal for train companies to design for their customers instead of for profit.

Yup - when they start acting in the public interest it cuts into the funds available for buying bubbly at the shareholders' meetings yes 

AlsoSomniloquism | 4 years ago

It looks like two cages per stand and four stands per carriage so 4 bikes must just go into the front baggage area if they state 20 bikes.

Freshmn09 | 4 years ago

If you open the tweet then open the photo big, thankfully its a pretty high quality photo, it looks to be a pair of wheel cages a little off the floor to hold, presumably, the front wheel, so no frame contact or anything like that, so Ideal, so long as each stable is long enough for the more common bikes, (maybe not super cargos or tandems) but they would fit if the rear end poked into the alleyway. 

alansmurphy | 4 years ago

Looks to me like they go side by side in each of the 'stables' - whatever the design, at least the desire is there!

Tired of the tr... replied to alansmurphy | 4 years ago
alansmurphy wrote:

whatever the design, at least the desire is there!

True; I didn't mean to be quite so negative.. It's definitely much better than the "hook in a small cupboard" design of the new GWR and LNER trains and I guess people will just manage to arrange their bikes somehow, at least when the train is not totally packed, but these blue structures look like they make it difficult to maneuver larger bikes or trailers.

In mainland Europe I had good experiences with the multi-use space. Admittedly it often needed a bit of negotiation with other passengers ("Please, if you sit on the other side, I could fit my bike in on this side" ... "Are you getting off before me? Then we should swap spaces..." etc), which kind of added to the experience but might not be appropriate social interaction on public transport everywhere in the UK (although in my experiene, people in Scotland are very open, communicative and helpful).

Tired of the tr... | 4 years ago

I don't understand the picture. How do the bikes fit in there? Is this another hang-up-thingy that fails if you have heavier, longer or wider bikes?

What is wrong with a wider multi-use space that seems to work everywhere in mainland Europe? Is there a reason why they come up with new designs all the time in the UK?


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