Train charge gone but cyclists no better off - Hutt News

SIMON EDWARDS - Hutt News | Wednesday, 23 July 2008

A two cycles per unit restriction has "undone" any benefits from scrapping the $4 charge for taking a bike on Wellington's commuter trains, says Cycle Aware Wellington (CAW).

"It's worse now than it was," CAW's Claire Pascoe told Greater Wellington Regional Council's transport and access committee last Wednesday.

In a bid to make it easier for recreational cyclists and those starting/ending their commute to work on two wheels, GWRC made it free to put up to two cycles in the baggage compartment (or 'dog box') of each Tranz Metro double unit. But each dog box used to be able to take five bikes, Ms Pascoe said, and now loading has to be done with railways staff supervision. CAW's discussion with the Rail Union confirms that train staff don't like dealing with bikes.

The new trains coming in 2010 will have multipurpose spaces for carrying cycles, large prams and the like, "but that seems a long way away," Ms Pascoe said.

CAW is suggesting that on each Tranz Metro double unit one bench seat be removed and hooks be put in the carriage ceiling to carry up to four bikes. That sort of system is common in trains throughout Europe, Ms Pascoe said, and tabled photographs her brother had taken in France.

If hand-holds were also put above the space where the bench seat was removed, when the area was not taken up with cycles passengers could stand there.

An alternative is to allow cyclists to take their bikes onto passenger areas of trains at non-peak times and take responsibility for them, which Ms Pascoe said is also common practice overseas.

The "trial" of free cycles on trains is nothing of the sort because of the restrictions. Ms Pascoe said GWRC should allow cyclists to take responsibility for holding their bikes in passenger compartments and see what the ramifications are.

Committee chair Peter Glensor (Lower Hutt) was sympathetic. One Hutt Valley commuter had told him that because cyclists further up the line took up the limited space on the trains she caught, "she felt she'd never get her cycle on". But he said taking out a bench seat would not be simple.

"(Councillors) wanted to see more hand-holds installed on units but we were gobsmacked at how expensive it was going to be."

Public transport divisional manager Wayne Hastie said it is "very early days" into the evaluation of the new system.

"Taking seats out is not a simple matter and there is also the question of the structural integrity of the roof (not designed for hooks for bikes)."

The idea of cycles in passenger carriages may be looked at as part of the evaluation of the new system in 4-6 months, he said, "but it won't be an option in peak times".