— Mandatory but free booking on rush-hour Heuston Intercity trains from next Monday
— Stricter enforcement of rules to start in Heuston before being rolled out
— Folding bicycles are excluded from restrictions
Irish Rail are to enforce restrictions on the carriage of bicycles on all trains to/from Heuston station at rush hour and the company is to introduce mandatory but free booking on Intercity trains at rush hour from next Monday, October 19.
The railway company’s website states that “unless the bicycle is booked on Intercity services in advance on-line” the ban applies Monday to Friday on services arriving into Heuston station from 07.00 to 09.30 and services departing Heuston station from 16.00 to 19.00.
The move seems to be in response to large-scale flouting of existing rules where rail users in the Dublin commuter zone are taking bicycles on trains at rush hour, reportedly often taking up space and blocking doorways. The issue is made worse on the Kildare line where commuters are bringing bicycles on Intercity trains which serve the route — many of these trains only have space for two or four bicycles in racks, but these are hard to access where passangers from commuter areas are standing in between seats and in the narrow passageways.
Some commuters have taken to Twitter to express their anger at the new enforcement expected to start next week, but full-size bicycle bans at rush hour are normal in some cycling friendly countries, including the Netherlands. According to the English website of the Dutch railway company NS: “You can only take your bicycle with you on the train outside peak hours, which are 06.30 to 09.00 and 16.30 to 18.00 on weekdays.”
The Dutch system is designed to promote cycling to and from stations but not including bringing bicycles on trains at rush hour — commuters often have two bicycles for this, one for their hometown and one for the city they work in.
However, a clear difference in the Netherlands is that a station like Heuston would have very large and secure bicycle parking. Such parking would be staffed by attendants at least at train running times. The Dutch city of Utricht opened new bicycle parking for last year with 4,200 spaces, and is currently constructing a larger unit with over 12,000 spaces.
Irish Rail has advised that there are two DublinBikes stations at the station, while there are another two nearby at Parkgate Street. On Twitter, commuters have countered that the rental bicycles are quickly used up and not restocked until later in the day.
The issue of lack of space for bicycles on Intercity trains — even outside of peak times — has been on-going since Irish Rail purchased long-distance railcars with no guard’s van or other space for bicycles. Bicycle spaces were later retro-fitted (pictured above), but these only amount to 2 or 4 spaces per train set. When these are full bicycles are carried at the discretion of staff (although this is now to be clear-cut in peak directions into and out of Heuston). The company is recommending that passengers book the bicycle spaces at all times.
Irish Rail published the following leaflet on the planned enforcement of restrictions:
A major problem is that the online bike space booking system is broken! If the second leg of the journey uses a train with no bookable seats (e.g. the Heuston – Ennis service with change at Limerick or Limerick Junction), then the booking can’t be completed online. I emailed Irish Rail some time ago to notify them but received no response…
Would that Irish Rail would move into the European Norm space, where bikes are generally welcomed on trains, and usually free or at a reasonable fee!? Irish Rail policy is hampering the development of cycle tourism here in Ireland and they need to get their act together. This includes provision of covered bike parking at railway stations.
In fairness, I’m not sure if this shift in practice would impact on tourists. As it is focused on rush hour travel, local commuters will be impacted, and possibly only a relatively small number. I would expect there to be a significant safety risk here if bikes are blocking walkways and exits.