Borders Railway's bicycle-friendly credentials queried

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Bike rackImage source, Thinkstock
Image caption,
The transport minister said bike storage at stations was part of Abellio's plans to cope with cycling demand

A Green MSP has raised concerns about the capacity for bicycles on the trains which will run on the new Edinburgh to Borders railway.

Alison Johnstone brought up the issue after being approached by local businesses.

She said a guarantee of just two bike spaces could "fail to match" demand for cycle trips to the Borders.

Transport Minister Derek Mackay said plans had not been finalised but space allocation was always a challenge.

The line between the capital and Tweedbank in the Borders is set to open to passengers in September this year.

It is hoped it could be used by one million passengers a year within five years.

However, the Scottish Greens have criticised the level of bicycle space being planned for services running to a region renowned for its mountain biking trails and cycling events.

'Increased capacity'

Ms Johnstone, who co-convenes Holyrood's cross-party group on cycling, said the sport was worth millions to the Borders economy.

She said there was a risk that the major transport project would not provide the "increased capacity" that cycling deserved.

"Other countries are way ahead of us with bike carriages carrying dozens of bikes, and even some older Highland trains take at least six bikes," she said.

"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."

Image source, Border Railway
Image caption,
It is hoped one million passengers a year will use the route within five years of it opening

She urged Abellio, which will run services on the route, to "scale up" plans before September.

In two parliamentary answers, Mr Mackay said the firm had confirmed there would be "at least" two cycle spaces per train.

"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," he said.

He said the Dutch firm's approach in the Netherlands had been to reduce the pressure for bike spaces by investing in better storage facilities at stations.

'Always challenging'

It also encourages regular cyclists to either join its Bike & Go scheme or maintain a second bike at destination stations.

"Abellio intend to replicate this successful approach on ScotRail services," said Mr Mackay.

He added that space allocation was "always challenging" due to competing needs for the likes of seating, cycle racks, toilets, luggage space, facilities for disabled passengers and people with prams.

"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," he said.

He stressed that number might be increased once rolling stock plans were finalised.

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