Press release – Virgin trains holding Coventry customers to ransom
A city cycling campaigner has lambasted Virgin Trains for failing to provide more cycle parking at Coventry Station, even though a £300,000 subsidy from the Department of Transport had been allocated in February for such facilities. After using Coventry Station on Tuesday, but observing that there was no available space to park a bike, Mr Avery contacted Virgin Trains to ask when the new facility was going to be installed. The funding has been made available for 300 secure spaces as part of a "Bike Hub". Despite this cash being available to the tune of some £1,000 per space, more simple 2-cycle stands are available on the market from just £30 each.
This morning, Virgin Trains tweeted Mr Avery to say that the new parking would not be installed until the franchise issue had been resolved. This may take up to 2 more years.
Said Mr Avery:
The situation is totally unacceptable. Why should Virgin Trains be able to hold Coventry cycling passengers to ransom by not spending money that has already been given to them by the Department for Transport? Cycle parking provision at Coventry Station has been inadequate for many years, yet all they needed to have done would be to have allocated a small portion of the available space on the site for Sheffield type cycling stands. Meanwhile, Virgin Trains have invested millions of pounds up and down the country on multi-storey car parks. I have no objection to the park and ride concept, as long as parking is available for both types of user. The commercial case for providing more cycle parking is very clear – make it easier to get to the station and park your bike, and people use your trains more.
Coventry station currently only has parking for around 80 bikes. By contrast, Utrecht Central Station in the Netherlands, which serves a similar population to Coventry, has recently upgraded cycle parking to provide 22,500 spaces.
Said Mr Avery:
Obviously, Coventry doesn't need that many spaces at this time, but it would certainly not be unreasonable to talk about planning for around 1000 cycle parking spaces over the next few years, as the city invests in the Cycle Coventry initiative. It shouldn't be necessary to have to kick up such a fuss to install such a basic piece of infrastructure, especially when you can park around 14 bikes in the same space as one car. Virgin Trains might earn plenty of revenue from car parking, but we all know that they also make good margins on the train services they provide, so anything that increases customer numbers should be a no-brainer. It's no coincidence that rail also has a 40% larger portion of the market in the Netherlands when compared to the UK.
My response to Virgin Trains' excuses will follow tomorrow.