Great Western Railway bike reservation policy protested by thousands

Great Western Railway Image copyright Bethan White
Image caption More than 7,200 people signed a petition demanding Great Western Railway reverse its policy on mandatory reservations on cycle spaces on high-speed trains

Thousands of cyclists are protesting against a train company's new policy forcing bike owners to reserve bicycle spaces on high-speed services.

Great Western Railway (GWR) began the policy in May, meaning bicycle users must book two hours in advance.

Commuters have said the policy "discriminates against the cyclists" who buy open-returns, and several have criticised the booking system.

GWR said cyclists can take bikes on 85% of the network without a reservation.

'Clunky booking system'

More than 7,200 have signed an online petition demanding GWR reverse its policy.

It was started by Bristol cyclist and regular commuter to London, Gary Fawle.

Due to cost and "inaccessibility" for cyclists, the 40 year old has given up on using GWR trains and now takes coaches to London.

He said: "All the issues with reservations is flexibility on the return journey.

"Most people buy an open return and don't know what time they finish work, and you have to book your bike [on the train] two hours in advance."

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Media captionPete Ganton has said that the new policy "discriminates against the cyclists"

Reading cyclist Pete Ganton also regularly gets the train to London.

He said: "If you're asked what train you're going to be on the day before most people don't know as most people have open returns and don't reserve a seat. It discriminates against the cyclists."

Chairman of the Bristol Cycling Campaign Eric Booth said: "The biggest problem with GWR's policy... is an extremely clunky and difficult booking system."

Mr Booth attempted to book a place for his bike on a fast train in Bristol via GWR's hotline but was told that there were no spaces.

He said: "It's unbelievable in this day and age that you can't book your train ticket, your seat and your bike [all in one go]."

Image copyright GWR
Image caption Bike users have to reserve cycle spaces on GWR two hours before their train journey, which train guards will check before they board the train

GWR has said that it will allow a grace period for people to "get used to" the new policy where people unaware of the policy may be allowed on trains without a reservation.

Spokesman Dan Panes said: "We are the last train company to implement this across the regional rail network,

"We're hoping that this policy will guarantee a space on a train for cyclists."

GWR said it would compensate passengers who were not allowed to board trains with bikes that they had reserved places on.

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