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Photo number:
Photo #183348

[Image taken 6.3.20] Illustrative image of space provided on Azumas (LNER) for cycles. The nearest one does not fit inside the cage. The door cannot be shut and locked. See also: #174286, #173797. For explanatory caption about taking cycles on trains (TPE) see: #173854.
[NOTE: This caption was written 7.6.22 based on an interview on 6.6.22]
Two parents, late 40s, one of whom has epilepsy, so is not permitted to drive. Two children, both pre-GCSE teens. One Disabled railcard. One Family and Friends railcard. Both plastic not electronic.
Pre-children the parents used to take their cycles on long-distance trains for one or two holidays a year but also day trips.
When the kids came and got old enough to cycle independently the breaks restarted. Until the arrival of Azumas in 2019. These do not have a guard’s van. There is a 4-cycle limit and you must hang your cycle on a hook in a cage with very limited space to move.
The problem of train travel now is the: “stress of boarding” – being able to get onto the train in time, and “bike hanging”.
The mother says: “I can’t physically lift my bike. I have to rely on someone else to do it. It is a real equality issue.” Then there’s the reversing process at the destination (or repeating it if there are changes along the route). “On shorter journeys, I also worry about potentially blocking other cyclists from being able to take their bikes.”
The family no longer makes day trips as “the hassle is too much” and “it requires too much mental energy”. They’d use the train to make day trips and go on holiday more if travelling with cycles wasn’t “so flipping annoying and stressful”.
“We did a [cycling] holiday in the Netherlands in 2019. By far the most stressful part of the holiday was getting all the cycles on the train in the UK. [The route between York and the port – Hull - is operated by Northern. It has a two-cycle limit but enforcement is down to the train staff. Cycle carriage is free but it’s not possible to reserve spaces on Northern trains.] This was much more stressful than the ferry, though we had never travelled on a ferry as a family before.”
The family is returning to the Netherlands for a holiday in 2022, again taking their cycles. This time they are taking the ferry from Newcastle. This means they have to take an LNER Azuma. They were able to book all four bikes on the same train from York to Newcastle but could not find a service with space for four cycles for the return journey. This was despite attempting to book on the day the tickets were released. As a result they are having to split the group. This meant “deliberation about who travels in which group”. They will all have to go to Newcastle station in time for the first service. The mother and one child will travel on this and the father can load both cycles. The mother will have to rely on someone unloading both bikes for her at the other end. There’s another problem: the railcards. If you have physical rail cards and need to split the group you can’t use the same railcard. You can’t even book the journeys together. The family booked one adult and one child on one service using the Disabled rail card. They booked the other two family members using the Family and Friends rail card.
What would work for them? “Wheeling cycles onto trains on a ramp like that for wheelchair users” and “attaching cycles to a Sheffield stand” and being able to leave them and "more spaces for cycles on trains".
Summing up the problems:
- there are “not enough spaces on trains for even a family of four to be able to travel together reliably;
- the hangers [cycle hooks] which are physically difficult for many people;
- help is not a “failsafe”. “I’ve heard of people in wheelchairs who have been forgotten so a woman with a bike won’t be high priority.”
Where does the mother think the problem lies: “There was no consultation with users and now no recognition of the problem or willingness to take action to solve it.”

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