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How a clever cyclist managed to get his bicycle through a railway station's ticket barriers....

The Times April 20, 2006


It's a wrap: how the clever cyclist can get round train ban
By Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent





A CYCLIST left stranded by a train company’s ban on carrying bicycles has found a loophole that allows him and his mount through the ticket barriers.

Angus Macfadyen discovered that a few sheets of wrapping paper miraculously transformed his bike into a “parcel”. He was waved through by station staff at London Bridge even though the handlebars were poking out from an unmistakably bicycle-shaped present.

Mr Macfadyen, 34, a BBC cameraman, arrived cold and wet at the station last week after cycling across London and was hoping to avoid pedalling another five miles in the rain to his home in Lewisham. It was 4.30pm and the trains were not yet full of commuters, but the barrier attendant refused to let him on to the platform.

South Eastern recently began rigidly enforcing a ban on taking cycles on to trains in London between 7am and 9.59am and 4pm and 6.59pm on weekdays.

The company had previously allowed staff to exercise discretion and judge whether there was enough space for bikes. But it decided to change this policy after the London bombings last July led to a surge in rail commuters bringing bikes on board to avoid having to use the Tube.

Not relishing waiting for 2½ hours, Mr Macfadyen asked to see the stationmaster. “I asked him if there was any limit on carrying bulky luggage or parcels and he said there wasn’t. He agreed that I could take my bike on if it was gift-wrapped. His parting words were, ‘Make sure it has got bows on it’.”

Mr Macfadyen went to W H Smith and bought a packet of wrapping paper and some parcel tape. The assistant helpfully provided some large polythene bags to complete the package.

“When I returned clutching my unwieldy parcel, the stationmaster gave me a big, beaming smile and a look of respect. ‘You’re free to go,’ he told me as they opened the barriers.”

Mr Macfadyen said that his experience revealed the absurdity of the rules. “Station staff have been told to make no exceptions but they know there is often spare space and it is possible to be flexible.”

CTC, the national cycling campaign group, has received hundreds of complaints from members who have suddenly found themselves barred from their usual trains even when they are half-empty.The Department for Transport lets each company decide its own approach, which is why there are 25 different sets of rules.

South Eastern said that overcrowded trains could be delayed by the extra time taken to load and unload bikes.

Mike Gibson, the company’s public affairs manager, said: “It also causes conflict with other passengers. I have witnessed an almighty row when a bike chain rubbed against someone’s suit.”Mr Gibson is a keen cyclist and takes his folding bicycle on to trains. Folding bikes are carried by all companies at all times.



KEEPING TRACK OF THE RULES

25 train companies, 25 sets of rules on carrying bikes:

Arriva Trains Wales, Central and Northern carry only two bikes a train. GNER carries five; First Great Western, six

The ban on bikes on London-bound commuter trains starts at 7am on Southern, 7.15am on South West Trains, 7.20am on c2c and 7.45am on Chiltern

Gatwick and Heathrow Express trains carry bikes at all times while the Stansted Express has a complete ban

One charges £3 for a bike to Norwich, but there is no charge to Ipswich

Eurostar charges £20 a bike and requires it to travel separately from the owner

South West Trains requires 24 hours’ notice for bike reservations; First Great Western, two hours


thetimesonline.co.uk