Scottish Greens are criticising the Scottish Government after it confirmed that the new Scotrail operator, Abellio, will have a policy of only allowing two bicycles per train on the new Borders Railway, which will run from Edinburgh through Midlothian to Tweedbank.

In response to concerns raised by local businesses, Alison Johnstone, Scottish Green MSP for Lothian, asked the Scottish Government for an explanation.

Transport Minister Derek Mackay has confirmed the two-bike policy, adding that Abellio’s strategy in the Netherlands has been to invest in storage at stations and encourage passengers to maintain a second bike at destination stations.

Alison Johnstone MSP, who co-convenes Holyrood’s cross-party group on cycling, said:

"Leisure cycling and mountain biking are rapidly growing activities worth tens of millions to the Borders economy, and yet this major public transport project will completely fail to match this with increased capacity. Other countries are way ahead of us with bike carriages carrying dozens of bikes, and even some older Highland trains take at least 6 bikes.

“Hiring a bike at the other end might work for some people, but I know lots of enthusiasts will want to take their own, much-loved bikes with them. I can see families considering a cycling holiday in the Borders giving the area a miss if they’re unable to take their own bikes by rail. I urge Abellio to scale up their ambition before September."

Pauline Stewart, Scottish Green Party candidate for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, said:

"Considering that we expect the train line to have a very positive effect on increasing tourism to the region which boasts some of the best downhill and cross country mountain biking courses in Europe the proposed two bike restriction on these trains is incredibly short sighted. The majority of mountain bikers who come to the area to utilise these world class routes or indeed to compete here will be very disappointed to hear that they are expected to hire bikes at their destination."


Alison Johnstone (Lothian) (Scottish Green Party): To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with Abellio regarding the proposal to allow no more than two bicycles per train on the Borders railway.

(S4W-24253)Derek Mackay: Abellio have confirmed that the current on train cycle policy of at least two cycle spaces per train will be preserved and this includes rail services to the Borders. In addition Abellio will ensure that all on-train staff involved are briefed on cycle capacity procedures and how to provide additional ad-hoc spaces where conditions allow. Abellio’s overall strategy in the Netherlands has been to reduce the pressure on cycle spaces on board trains by investing in better storage facilities at stations and encouraging regular cyclists to either join their Bike & Go scheme for their onward journeys or maintain a second bike at their destination stations. Abellio intend to replicate this successful approach on ScotRail services.

Alison Johnstone (Lothian) (Scottish Green Party): To ask the Scottish Government what it considers should be the appropriate level of cycle storage on trains on the Borders railway. (S4W-24255)

Derek Mackay: The appropriate allocation of space within a train is always challenging as rolling stock has to run on a variety of routes and cater for passengers with differing requirements. In trying to attract more passengers onto train services it is necessary to balance space for seating, cycle racks, toilets, luggage space, facilities for disabled travellers and pram users; and also to ensure safe and quick access on and off the train. Abellio have confirmed that the current on train cycle policy of at least two cycle spaces per train will be preserved and this includes the planned Borders rail services. Depending on the trains allocated to Borders services there may be more than two spaces available for passenger usage but this cannot be confirmed at this time. Abellio are working to finalise rolling stock which will be allocated to all services, including those serving Midlothian and the Scottish Borders.