Which train company is doing its bit for cycling?

At the Cycle-Rail awards for 2017, train companies battle it out for recognition
As the countdown to cinema’s awards season begins, in the cycling world, the annual Cycle-Rail awards are right up there. Cycling UK’s Sam Jones reports on the winners and runners up.

Last Thursday 23 November, the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) brought together the rail and cycle industry as it celebrated the winners of the 2017 Cycle-Rail Awards in central London.

Now in its 13th year, this awards ceremony recognises the progress made over the past 12 months by individuals, organisations, partnerships and projects in their efforts to improve and encourage greater integrated cycle-rail.

Throughout September, the RDG was accepting examples from the wider public across eight categories, ranging from best customer service to the coveted award of Operator of the Year. These were then judged by experts from within the rail and cycle sectors, and civil servants in the Department for Transport and Transport for London.

Despite the well-publicised difficulties Southeastern faced throughout 2017, when it came to encouraging greater cycle-rail integration the judges awarded them top marks, giving them awards for Operator and Station of the Year (Gravesend). The judges cited the £4.6 million of investment between 2015 and 2017 that has resulted in the creation of an additional 1,246 cycle spaces and ongoing work to improve cycle and walking routes to the their stations.

Eurostar’s Pierre Delalande and Dave Bridges were narrowly pipped to the post for the award of Cycle Champion for their work with Cycling UK; that was awarded to Stagecoach’s Steve Smith. Steve’s has helped South Western Railway create 1,400 additional cycle spaces, eight new cycle hubs, and innovative signing across the network’s stations.

Security is always at the forefront of any cyclist’s mind when leaving their beloved steed locked up at the station. Leyton Cycle Hub has it sussed though, and according to the judges is, “A great example of a well-used hub that uses the space in an innovative way.” The hub is the first and only “secured by design” accredited hub in the UK, and sits at the heart of Waltham Forest’s Mini-Holland project and is seen to encapsulate “the passion and commitment of the borough towards cycling”.

CrossCountry Trains and Merseyrail have not only identified common causes for complaint among cyclists, but they’ve come up with solutions which are allowing people to make complete journeys with their bikes, and with minimal fuss.

Cherry Allan, Cycling UK Policy Officer

CrossCountry Trains were recognised for their “simple but innovative solution” that has seen them using Twitter and Facebook to help passengers reserve their bike spaces in real time. Excitingly for other cycle-rail travellers who are not frequent travellers on CrossCountry is the ongoing work being done by the train line to encourage other companies to commit to this system.

One of the most dreaded phrases for the cycle-rail traveller is “bus replacement service”. Anyone who has been in this situation, will know the options are pretty slim, and usually vary between cycling the distance or just not travelling. MerseyRail however received, in Cycling UK’s opinion, a very well-deserved award for “Innovation”. During disruptions to their network in 2017, they provided an hourly “bike bus” that could carry eight bikes into the city centre and ensured those travelling with bikes could also use their rail tickets on all Mersey Ferries.

For their holistic approach to journey planning, Transpennine Express (TPE) came out top in the judges’ opinion. TPE are well on the way to producing clear and actionable plans for every station on their network, which will improve the integration between train services and local services. It’s unclear from the background on the judges’ decision how this will benefit cycling per se, but Cycling UK believes greater integration between local and rail services as a good thing.

An example of where integration has worked is demonstrated by the work done at Dunblane Station by Sustrans Scotland and Stirling Council, which won the award for Partnership Working and Local Government Schemes. At Dunblane, the station forecourt and local street underwent an ambitious redesign to facilitate more cycling and walking to the station.

Commenting on the awards, Cycling UK’s Policy Officer Cherry Allan identified two companies which stood out for her: “Reading through the list of winners and the decisions that led to their awards, two companies stand out: CrossCountry Trains and Merseyrail.

“Both companies have not only identified common causes for complaint among cyclists, but they’ve come up with solutions which are allowing people to make complete journeys with their bikes, and with minimal fuss.”

See below for a full list of the winners:

  • Best Customer Service – CrossCountry Trains
  • Partnership Working - Sustrans Scotland and Stirling Council
  • Innovation – Merseyrail
  • Door-to-door Journeys – TransPennine Express
  • Cycle Champion – Steve Smith, Stagecoach
  • Cycle Security – Leyton Cycle Hub, Waltham Forest Council 
  • Station of the Year – Gravesend, Southeastern
  • Operator of the Year – Southeastern