Take action: Cycling's zero stars for Eurostar

Help get Eurostar to reverse its regressive policy on boxing up your bike

Take action: Cycling's zero stars for Eurostar

CTC is spearheading a Europe-wide campaign urging “hypocritical” Eurostar to reverse its controversial decision to make cyclists dismantle their cycles before travelling.

Alerted by CTC that the high-speed train provider is planning to change its cycle carriage policy, ECF (European Cyclists’ Federation) has criticised the move in a letter which was received by Nicolas Petrovic, CEO of Eurostar, on Tuesday 13 October. CTC was initially informed about this change in Eurostar policy by member, Joseph Banerjee.

Currently cyclists can pay a £30 fee to take a complete bicycle on Eurostar via a registered luggage system. But from 01 November, cyclists will be forced to dismantle their cycle and box it up using the same service – a move CTC Chief Executive Paul Tuohy believes would treat them as “third-class passengers”. 

CTC has teamed up with European partners from France, Belgium, Holland and Germany to tell Mr Petrovic this backward policy shift would worsen an already far-from-ideal situation for cyclists wishing to take their bike with them on their Eurostar journey, whether for work or recreation, and is also calling for cyclists to make their frustration known by writing to Eurostar.

No UK train operating company employs such restrictive measures and European cycle bodies are concerned these proposed changes would prevent new cyclists and those who rely on cycling as a mobility aid from using a sustainable transport means to travel between the UK and Europe.

With 2.3 million cycle tourism trips in the EU every year worth more than £33billion (€44bn), CTC believes this regressive step would make air and bus travel more attractive to the UK cyclist venturing to the continent, or a European cyclist looking to come to the UK. 

Eurostar is in its fourth year of sponsoring the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Travel which celebrate pioneering travel initiatives in the UK, France and Belgium.

At this year’s awards, Mr Petrovic said: “We hope that by celebrating the most innovative sustainable travel initiatives across the markets we operate in, we encourage more people to adopt environmentally friendly modes of transport, and really put sustainable travel in the spotlight.”

CTC believes Eurostar’s planned new cycle-rail integration is contrary to such a statement, and is urging Eurostar to reverse a policy which would discriminate against cyclists and sustainable travel.

Paul Tuohy said: “It’s hypocritical that an organisation with a history of sponsoring awards celebrating the achievements of pioneering travel initiatives could come up with such a barmy policy on cycle carriage. 

Cyclists should not be treated as third-class passengers and we urge Eurostar to reverse their planned policy.”

Paul Tuohy, CTC Chief Executive

“There is nothing sustainable about this policy, as it would actively discourage the people we want to see cycling more from using what is otherwise a fantastic service. For the new cyclist or those who rely on cycling as a mobility aid, dismantling and reassembling a bike for transit is too difficult. 

“With London, Paris, and Brussels each vying to be top cycling cities and Amsterdam, arguably Europe’s cycling capital, due to join the Eurostar network in 2016, now is not the time to take a step back in cycle rail policy.

“Cyclists should not be treated as third-class passengers and we urge Eurostar to reverse their planned policy.”

As well as co-ordinating ECF’s response, CTC’s Communications and Campaigns team is generating national and regional media publicity to highlight the issue, with the BBC, the Press Association, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent and the London Evening Standard among the media outlets running the story. Even a radio station in Slovenia contacted CTC asking for an interview.

A Eurostar spokesperson following pressure from a Road.cc article published over the weekend said: "Passengers with bikes have and continue to be important to us. Our new policy has been introduced so that we can use the space on our trains more flexibly, by carrying the same or  more bikes depending on the demand from passengers. 

"The only change is that bikes will now need to be carried in a bike box, which we are happy to provide. When packaging bikes in this way, they take up less space which means that we can carry more bikes, or any other type of luggage."

It is clear however that Eurostar has not thought of how to help all its passengers. CTC member Rosemary Dooley, 68, from Kendal, recently took her assembled bike on Eurostar.

She said: “I have to take my own bike everywhere due to arthritis in my hands, hence small adaptations. I am also not mechanical. But it seems now that I will have to learn to remove and replace the front wheel. I just hope it doesn’t involve strong fingers like changing an inner tube.”

Nicolas Clifford, Logistics Manager and CFO at cycle tour specialists Blue Marble Travel, said: “In 2015 alone, close to 100 of our clients have crossed the Channel with their cycles via Eurostar – this despite the obvious failings of a poorly-designed system.

“If Eurostar puts its plans in place, the only realistic choice for cyclists seeking to join the type of ‘itinerant’ trip we offer will be short-haul air, which makes a mockery of the company's 'green' mantra.

“Some will, indeed, fly, or drive to the continent.  Others will renounce their cycling holidays and choose to motor instead.  It is absolutely clear that a better-conceived and managed system could be profitable.

“As a company, but also as environmentally-concerned citizens in a time of great environmental danger, we are disappointed in Eurostar’s lack of civic responsibility.”

CTC is also urging supporters, members and cyclists who are concerned about the planned changes to write to Eurostar expressing their concern.

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Comments

I signed the petioton and posted it and got a glib answer that can be summarised as 'tough!' I suppose that sending a block campaign letter I should expect a block standard reply :-( There's always the ferry which is much more exciting...

"Thank you for contacting us regarding the recent change to our bicycle policy.

First and foremost, we would like to reassure you that the new policy isn’t designed to penalise cyclist or to hamper the carriage of bicycles on our trains. On the contrary, passengers travelling with bikes continue to be important to us and we have therefore adapted our policy to provide a more straightforward, standardised service that takes into account the fact that we are moving towards a mixed fleet service with varying layouts of storage space.

As you pointed out, the fundamental change is that bikes will now need to be transported in a bike box, which you can source yourself or we are happy to provide when you register a bike. The reason for this is that when packaging bikes in this way, we are able to accommodate them on any one of our trains in a cross-compatible, dedicated space. We would like to reassure you that any reasonably sized bike box will be accepted.

In addition, the bikes will be stored more securely, eliminating the potential for damage in transit. Bike boxes also take up less space which means we can therefore be more flexible in catering for the demand from our passengers on any given day. In fact, the capacity on each train remains the same and on certain trains we plan to accommodate more bikes than before.

We fully understand your concern and hope that you will gather that our efforts will provide a better and more robust service for cyclists. Rest assured that our staff are trained and ready to assist with the new procedure to ensure it is a seamless experience for our passengers."

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