Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Scottish Hols–bicycles and stations

We had a late Summer holiday this year – for all sorts of reasons – but we managed to get away despite problems being thrown our way. Our original plan was to go on a Railway Journey in India – unfortunately the particular one we chose wasn’t running and with a change in circumstances in the end I picked up the phone and we arranged to go on a rail holiday in Scotland. The land of my father – yes actually.

Don’t worry I am not going to blog about all 700 pictures, nor even the 150 or so that got sent round to friends and family – in 7 emails. I have selected a few though. Which will trickle out over the next few days.

Since it was a rail holiday and as I prefer not to drive if I can help it we caught the train up to Edinburgh, where we started the Scottish bit of our hols. Because of our slightly odd routing and because the rail ticket websites seemed unable to cope with anything more complicated than an A to B return we got our tickets from the Cambridge ticket office. The lady who served us was very helpful also mentioning how scenic the route we’d chosen was.

Her trick was to create a return trip where we stopped short on the outward leg and basically discarded that last ticket then we returned from our ultimate destination using the full set of return tickets. It worked out cheaper and I probably wouldn’t have thought about that using the ticket websites.

We set off from Cambridge, changed at Peterborough and then York before getting to a wet Edinburgh. Although the weather for the rest of the holiday was really rather good, probably better than England.

I did think about taking my Brompton, but didn’t as it would have been extra to carry and I would have wanted to take  cycling kit with me as well. That didn’t stop me checking out the odd cycling issue though.

We had booked seats on all the trains and suffered the same problems that cyclists have when catching trains with their bikes – we were never quite sure where our train was going to stop along the platform, nor where the appropriate carriage was going to be. I used to travel around Japan in a previous job and was always impressed how well organised the trains were and how well marked the platforms were so even a gaijin like me could work out where to stand (and what train to catch).

As I stood on the platform at Cambridge I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the cyclists who were catching trains on the new island platform.   There is a titchy lift (well two actually) but most cyclists seem to carry their bikes up the stairs and over the bridge. Presumably the lift is too slow and not particularly large. There is a bit of angle iron to run your bike wheels along on the left – but too close to the railings to make it anything other than a hindrance.

It is no surprise that Cambridge cycling Campaign are urging  that the new railway station at Chesterton “Learn from past mistakes”. There are quite a few mistakes in the Cambridge Station and don’t get me started about cycle parking.

Carrying a bicycle up the platform bridge – Cambridge Railway Station

The last time I was at Peterborough it was to go for a cycle ride around The Deepings. I think I moaned because I had to carry my bike up stairs to get out. It seems I was a little unfair. They have a ramp and also have an electric buggy to take people over as well. As we waited for our next train I “discovered” it just down the platform.  I am not quite sure what the recommended maximum slop is – but this  was steep enough and yet as a result took up a fair bit of room.

This Government document (pdf) suggests 1 in 20 is preferred and no more than 1 in 12. It also suggests that the South Yorkshire Passenger transport Executive have calculated that a ramp need to give over-rail clearance of 4.8m above platform level would require some 76 in length at 1 in 12 or 126m at 1 in 20.

Access Ramps to cross between platforms  – Peterborough Railway Station

This is what the slop looks like from the outside – quite long. The Wiki link doesn’t mention the slope but does mention on-going developments that will add new platforms.

Access Ramps to cross between platforms – Peterborough Railway Station

Just before finishing this Post I have just read that some Rail companies are considering another tier of service. I find it hard to believe that there is demand for a Third-class – unless it is really cheap. many would argue that the current second-class service can by very third-rate especially when there is standing room only.

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