Meeting date: Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Meeting of the Parliament 24 May 2017
Agenda: Cycle Capacity (Railways), Business Motion, Security, Portfolio Question Time, Cyber-resilience, Business Motions, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, National Parks
- Cycle Capacity (Railways)
- Business Motion
- Portfolio Question Time
- Business Motions
- Parliamentary Bureau Motions
- Decision Time
- National Parks
Cycle Capacity (Railways)
The first item of business today is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-05106, in the name of Liam Kerr, on cycle capacity on Scotland’s railways. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.
That the Parliament notes the calls on Transport Scotland and ScotRail to reverse reported plans to reduce available cycle space on trains serving intermediate stations on the Edinburgh/Glasgow - Inverness and East Coast main lines; understands that, on 25 February 2015, the ScotRail Franchise Delivery Team informed a meeting at the Parliament that there would be improvements in 2018-19, with the introduction of four and five coach InterCity 125 High Speed Trains and an expectation that these would carry at least 20 cycles; further understands that the cycling campaign group, Spokes, has discovered that the increase in bike space has been gradually reduced, which means that, for the stations on these lines, there will be fewer spaces for cycles than at present; believes that almost all ScotRail trains are Class 170 Turbostars with four official bike spaces and that, although the new plans include a total of eight bike spaces, six can only be used at the termini, with only two spaces available for stations other than the departure and arrival points; notes the calls on Transport Scotland and the ScotRail Alliance to recognise the immense contribution that it considers cyclists bring to local economies, especially in the Highlands and the north east, and further notes the calls on the Scottish Government to bring pressure on Transport Scotland and ScotRail to reverse this decision and increase cycle space on Scotland’s railways, as it understands was promised in 2015.13:15
I thank all those members from across the Parliament who added their support to the motion, allowing us to debate what is, on so many levels and to so many different groups, a very important issue.
There are two things that I particularly enjoy—cycling and trains, and preferably together. Living in the north-east allows me to indulge in both. I frequently cycle along the old Deeside line, out past Banchory, down over the Cairn O’Mount to Montrose, where I will pick up the train back to Aberdeen. I and, often, four or five companions will stop and spend locally, perhaps at the Milton of Crathes, the Clatterin Brig or Fettercairn, which provides a no doubt welcome economic boost in the current climate.
According to Sustrans, cycle tourism such as that is worth £345 million a year to the Scottish economy. However, this is not just about tourism. The Scottish Government has an ambition for 10 per cent of journeys to be made by bike by 2020, which requires commuting. Bike parking at stations has improved tremendously, but many commuters want not only to cycle to the station but to get on their own bike at the other end.
Nearly all ScotRail trains between Edinburgh or Glasgow and Inverness or Aberdeen are three-car, class 170 Turbostars. Officially, they have four bike spaces on board: two in each of two carriages. If I get to Montrose with three friends in tow and there is a bike already on the train, one of us is stuck.
However, from summer 2018, ScotRail will start to introduce 26 refurbished class 43 sets. If members picture an Intercity 125 train such as the ones that Virgin Trains East Coast uses, that is what we are talking about. The sets are 40 years old, but they are still the fastest diesels in the world, and they will serve Scotland’s seven cities. They look fantastic. They will deliver a 33 per cent capacity increase, a reduction in journey times and a much more comfortable passenger experience. We will have all that, with completely revamped mark 3 coaches delivering what passengers told ScotRail they want.
What is more, in February 2015, on the penultimate slide of a presentation to the cross-party group on cycling, the ScotRail franchise delivery team stated:
“The Class 125s will have a capacity of at least 20 cycles”.
However, the Lothian-based cycle campaign Spokes, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary, has discovered that ScotRail has scaled that back. The new plan is for eight bike spaces per train: two in a vertical hanging rack in one of the coaches and three in each of the two power-car luggage compartments. Furthermore, the latter six spaces will be available only for end-to-end journeys such as Aberdeen to Edinburgh. They will not be accessible at intermediate stations due to the inevitable delays from getting pushbikes on and off the ends of the train.
If I want to go from, for example, Edinburgh to Inverness, some services require a change at Perth. In that case, the six spaces would not be available to me. For my trip from Montrose, I will have to take a chance on one of the two spaces in the coach being available, which is half of the current provision. I am grateful to a transport expert with whom I have been corresponding, who made me aware of the possible health and safety and loading concerns, too.
Will ScotRail review the situation? I believe so, hence my motion and this debate. I wrote to ScotRail in April to highlight the issue and ask for a meeting. That duly took place on 9 May and we covered a lot of useful ground. There are solutions. No doubt colleagues in the chamber will suggest their own. For my part, I appreciate that there could be timetable delays due to the loading and offloading of bikes at intermediate stations, but basic logistics adjustments ought to ameliorate that. Those might include allocating cycle reservations to a specific power car and booking the rider’s seats into the adjacent coach; platform markings showing the cyclist where to wait to load; station staff actively working with the cyclist and/or the guard with the cycle-passenger; or an online system showing available reservable bike spaces and their location on the train, as Great Western—which is, of course, running the new ScotRail sets right now—does already.
It is always difficult to read across directly, but I understand that French trains open their luggage doors at every station. I appreciate that it might be logistically challenging to do that at every station, but, at the very least, surely consideration should be given to opening the door at the key hub stations, such as Perth, Inverness, Dundee and Stirling. The Virgin class 43s to Inverness seem to cope with bikes in coach A and, because the bikes have to be pre-booked, the guard knows in advance when the door needs to be unlocked.
Perhaps we can look again at general capacity. Dave Holladay, a recognised transport expert, suggests having two bikes per carriage plus four or five in each of the two power cars. Questions have been raised around space in the “redundant toilets”—those unused in the new design, which will simply be locked up. In Spokes’s terms, that is “transporting air”. An earlier upgrading of the mark 3 coaches by Chiltern completely removed the toilet and luggage rack to create a large vestibule. That creates flexible bike space, but also extra space for buggies, pushchairs and so on, and for passenger surge at stations. Since the refurbishment work to fit the sliding doors will presumably involve removing the toilets and luggage racks at the coach ends to install the door pockets, would that really be so difficult?
Finally, a quick point, as I want to give the minister plenty of opportunity to clear up what I presume is a misunderstanding. I tried to draft the motion very carefully to avoid politicising the debate, but, despite it being out for nearly two months, as at today’s date not one Scottish National Party member has signed it. I am genuinely surprised at that and a bit disappointed. On issues such as this we need to put the politics aside. We need to work constructively with ScotRail to find solutions, particularly given the cycling targets that we talked of earlier. The minister will know that that absence of SNP signatures has been noted by those outside the chamber and I thought it fair to give him an opportunity to explain that omission in his closing remarks.
The Scottish Government is desperate for a modal shift to cycling by 2020, but it appears to be missing that target at the moment. ScotRail can play a major part in making cycle tourism easy, and also in encouraging cycle commuting. With the new rolling stock coming in there is a fantastic opportunity to do that. I look forward to continuing the dialogue with ScotRail with a view to a solution.
We move to the open debate, with speeches of up to four minutes, please.13:22
I thank Liam Kerr for introducing this members’ debate. I apologise for not signing the motion; that was an oversight on my part, and not politics at all.
Scotland is, of course, a fantastic destination for cycle tourism, and in the Highlands and Islands—the region that I represent—we boast some of the most scenic cycle routes in the country. Cycle tourism brings huge benefits and value to the Scottish economy—according to Sustrans it is worth £345 million a year. That is particularly great for the rural economy, because we know that cyclists will stop and spend money locally, injecting money into local businesses.
Cycle tourism brings significant environmental benefits compared with many other types of tourism. That is mainly because cyclists tend to use public transport to reach the start of their tour and for making onward connections, instead of using their cars. However, the picture in Scotland is mixed with regard to bike-rail integration. On the positive side, bikes are allowed on most trains free of charge and can be booked in advance. On the other hand, the number of bikes allowed on a train is typically very limited—at the moment, usually only four—and prior booking is often mandatory. Those factors provide a significant discouragement to larger groups who want to travel together, and they reduce flexibility in travel planning—for example, if there is bad weather, mechanical failure or illness.
For example, I heard from a group of four people who travelled from Switzerland to go on a cycling tour in Scotland. They had a really tight schedule and a week-long plan. Not being able to get a train would have thrown out their whole programme, because they had to book in advance. If another group had been trying to take the same train, someone would have been left behind. They also mentioned that getting bikes on and off trains was hard and pressured because of timing, as Liam Kerr mentioned.
I am pleased that ScotRail will be phasing in new high-speed trains in 2018 on the routes that serve Scotland’s seven cities. The new trains will provide extra capacity, but it is disappointing to learn that, rather than the expected rise in cycle capacity, the new trains seem to offer a reduction from what is already provided. I hope that the minister will clarify whether that is the case when he sums up. As I understand it, there will be eight bike spaces, with two in a vertical-hanging rack in one coach and three in each of the two power-car luggage compartments. However, I hear that those six spaces will be available only for end-to-end journeys, as Liam Kerr said. I would really like the minister to clarify that. If someone is trying to get on at an intermediate station such as Aviemore in the Cairngorms national park—a top cycling destination—but the two bike spaces are already taken, they will not be able to get on.
Given the social and economic benefits of cycle tourism in Scotland, that approach really misses an opportunity. As a member of the Health and Sport Committee, I fully support the integration of cycling and public transport as a way to make cycle tourism and commuting easy and to encourage people to get fit and active.
What solutions can be offered? In Switzerland, on routes that are popular for tourists and cyclists, there is an additional freight-style carriage at the back of trains for people to put their bikes on. That means that passageways or disabled spaces are not clogged and there is no risk of bikes falling down or hurting someone. On other trains, there are carriages with fewer seats that are especially for people with bikes, pushchairs and other bulky equipment, which keeps those items together, rather than spread throughout the train.
Another solution is perhaps to have more ceiling hooks from which bikes hang vertically on the front wheel, which means that they take up less space. Could there be more of those on the trains? I know that a key constraint is that space is limited, because the train gauge in the United Kingdom is small due to the 19th century tunnels, so hanging options might not be feasible. Accommodating the requirements of cyclists is no trivial task, but it is a worthy endeavour when we consider the benefits that cycling and cycle tourism bring to Scotland.13:27
I thank my colleague Liam Kerr for bringing the debate to Parliament. It is a shame that we are here, given that Abellio originally vowed to help Scotland to go Dutch and to create a Scottish cycle revolution. It took on the ScotRail franchise with big promises and a grand vision, and those of us who enjoy cycling got quite excited.
Sadly, progress has not been what we hoped for, but maybe it will get better. Let us look at Abellio’s bold vision. In its cycle innovation plan, it says that it will
“bring innovation to the relationship between the cycle and the railway; firstly, by increasing the priority given to cycles at stations and train; secondly, through the products and services that we can offer to cycle users and, thirdly, through the way that we communicate with our customers on cycling issues.”
That all sounds great but, as is shown in Liam Kerr’s motion, which came on the back of a cycling Twitter storm, the reality has been far different. Far from increasing capacity for bikes on trains, Abellio is cutting it on key routes.
The cycle innovation plan gives the game away and perhaps explains what Abellio means when it talks about going Dutch. It says:
“Our overall long term 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 our Bike & Go scheme for their onward journeys or maintain a second bike at their destination stations. We intend to replicate this successful approach on ScotRail.”
We have an admirable but unrealistic target of having 10 per cent of journeys in Scotland made by bike by 2020. That is less than three years away but, at the current rate of progress, reaching the target will take us 300 years. Abellio can be part of the progress that we need, but it needs to do better.
On 25 February 2015, the ScotRail franchise delivery team told a meeting at the Scottish Parliament that there would be improvements in 2018-19 with the introduction of four and five-coach intercity trains and an expectation that they would carry at least 20 cycles.
Spokes has since discovered that the increase in bike space on trains has been gradually but significantly reduced. On the Edinburgh and Glasgow to Inverness route and the east coast main line, there will be fewer spaces for bikes than there are at present. Abellio has also proposed to cut the number of bookable spaces from six to two on west Highland tourist routes. Transport Scotland has the power to specify that current bike capacity should be maintained, as it has to approve all new train configurations.
In Europe it is common for each train to have a flexible space in every carriage, which allows more people to travel not only with bikes but with prams and bulky luggage. That also allows more standing space in peak service trains.
There is a mood in the chamber to boost sustainable transport, which is why we have a cross-party group on cycling, walking and buses, of which I am the deputy convener. However, there are those who just do not get it. Last week, for example, there was a crazy proposal to scrap South Lanarkshire’s cycle partnership but, thankfully, that was knocked on the head. Cycle routes have been ripped up in some parts of the country after pressure from people in the anti-bike brigade. Councils and the Government need to stand up to those people.
Getting people on their bikes helps physical and mental health, helps productivity and saves expense to the public purse. It matters. Abellio is not in the negative column for cycling, but it needs to go the extra mile to do better.13:31
I thank Liam Kerr for bringing the debate to the chamber. I am the co-convener of the new cross-party group on cycling, walking and buses, of which my colleague Graham Simpson of the Conservatives is the deputy convener, and, along with Alison Johnstone, I was co-convener of the CPG on cycling in the previous parliamentary session. I am passionate about the development of cycling opportunities, active travel and integrated public transport.
This morning, I discussed today’s debate with cycle commuters in the female changing facilities. One said that she used to travel from Aberdeen to Edinburgh regularly for work by train and that she used her bike at each end of the journey. Another told me that she regularly took her car to a park-and-ride facility and cycled from there. Another highlighted the joy of taking bikes on the train to Gourock and then on the ferry to Dunoon at the start of a cycling holiday. Whether it is for work, leisure or a holiday, nobody should have to experience the stress of worrying about whether they can get their bike on a train.
As we heard from Liam Kerr, research by Sustrans has found that cycle tourism adds £345 million to the Scottish economy every year, and Transform Scotland’s research has shown that
“further development of the national Cycle Network and other cycle routes across the country could increase this figure substantially.”
The capacity for bikes on trains is fundamental to that.
In my region we have the Borders railway, which has proved successful over the past 18 months in encouraging tourists into the Borders. Cycle tourism is a significant contributor to the local economy. The Borders are a popular cycling destination, with many bike trails and cycling paths to enjoy. However, access to the area is made difficult for cycling tourists when trains do not have adequate bicycle storage.
I have taken a keen interest in bikes on trains for some time, and I am getting a strong sense of déjà vu. In September 2013, I asked the then transport minister Keith Brown
“what provisions for bicycle access and storage on trains and at stations will be included in the contract for rail passenger services to be issued in 2014”.
I suggested—as Maree Todd just suggested—looking at solutions that are used on the continent to improve train services for cyclists, such as cycle carriages. They could be used in the tourist season and even relocated for specific road cycling events. The minister replied:
“The next ScotRail franchise will commence in April 2015. Bidders will be required to develop plans to improve rail’s integration with the wider transport system, which, of course, includes improvements to facilities for cyclists.”—[Official Report, 12 September 2013; c 22365.]
I had thought of stating today that we must be sure that the next franchise tender sets more robust and imaginative demands for bikes on trains in its criteria, but then I stopped myself. The next franchise is years away, and increasing capacity for bikes on trains is imperative.
Liam Kerr’s motion mentions a meeting at the Parliament on 25 February 2015, which I attended, at which we heard from the ScotRail franchise delivery team about the introduction of more bike spaces on rail. Now we hear that each train will be able to carry only eight bicycles and that interim stops are even more problematic.
Spokes Lothian has clearly stated that it might be possible
“to convert some redundant toilets into bike spaces”.
Liam Kerr has made many positive suggestions, as have other members, as to a way forward. Spokes Lothian suggests:
“This problem could surely be resolved by a small cash injection from Transport Scotland.”
Way back in 1998, the then Scottish administration managed this area and made arrangements through match funding. Surely the present Government could do something similar.
I strongly agree with the motion, which I support. We need action now.13:35
I, too, thank Liam Kerr for the opportunity to debate the subject. I thank my fellow co-conveners of the cross-party group on cycling in session 4, Claudia Beamish and Jim Eadie, and I look forward to working with Claudia Beamish once more this session, as well as with Graham Simpson and other members. I am endlessly thankful to Spokes, the Lothian cycle campaign group, for its tireless work on this and many other cycling-related issues. I welcome its representatives Ewan Jeffrey and Jolin Warren to the public gallery.
Constituents frequently contact me and, I have no doubt, other members to express concerns about national and local active travel infrastructure. Following the debate, I will meet constituents who are presenting a petition in Parliament—probably at this very moment—to ensure that it is possible for cyclists and pedestrians to cross the Sheriffhall roundabout in Dalkeith safely.
Having a joined-up transport network that puts people’s needs at its heart affects all of us and all modes of transport. It is one of the issues on which I am most asked to press the Scottish Government for improvements. The lack of facilities for taking bikes on trains comes up in my inbox day after day, time after time. Although better bike parking and cycle hire solutions are welcome, they are not the solution for many people. We can take the example of a family of four or five who are on holiday up north. Asking folk to hire bikes represents an additional expense. Many people are absolutely in love with their pride and joy—their custom-made bicycle. That is the bike that they want to tour round the Highlands and Islands on.
There seems to be some tension. Network Rail took some persuading that cyclists should not be banned from Waverley station. When I took the opportunity to try the Borders railway with my bike when the route was newly opened, I tried booking a cycle space in advance to be sure, but I was told that the service was unreservable. That first-come, first-served policy is an outdated way of approaching sustainable travel. Given that leisure cycling and mountain biking are rapidly growing activities and given that cycle tourism contributes £345 million to the economy annually, as we have heard, the Scottish Government needs to do more to embrace the opportunities to make this an industry that Scotland is renowned for internationally and for which we can accommodate demand the length and breadth of the country.
I do not think that there is any good reason for provision to be so poor and so out of step with the experience in other European countries. I have travelled by train in Germany a lot—I just mention that, but there are many other good examples where multifunctional carriages are the norm, and there is space for 10 bikes. If the space is not being used for bikes, the seats fold down and people can sit on them. Buggies can get on the trains no problem. There are better models in the 21st century.
Spokes has highlighted the possibility that we could use former loos that will no longer be in use—although I am not sure that that is a comfortable solution. Transform Scotland makes the point well that we should not be preventing cyclists from boarding trains simply to speed up journey times. That is not progress.
The Scottish Government has a responsibility to include provision for active travel in all new major infrastructure proposals. The Greens have consistently raised that during budget discussions each year. Along with other organisations such as the Association of Directors of Public Health, we have called for 10 per cent of the total transport budget to go towards active travel, and we will continue to press for such changes.
To honour climate change commitments that were made in Paris and to bring our infrastructure into line with that of many of our European cousins, we have to take a different approach. I am not sure who said that the vision of 10 per cent of all journeys being made by bike by 2020 is unrealistic, but it is unrealistic only because of the level of investment that we are making. There is chronic underfunding.
The Government has to ask far more of those who are awarded franchises. Having two bookable spaces is woeful in this day and age. We are going backwards after being promised more, which is what is making people very angry.
You must come to a close.
In closing, I ask the minister to stop back pedalling on the issue.13:40
I thank my colleague Liam Kerr for bringing the debate to the chamber.
I was at best an occasional cyclist. I am to be seen now and again battering away with my head down and backside up flying around the roads of East Kilbride for a maximum of an hour at a time. My neighbour, who happens to have a boat down at Loch Lomond, recently invited me to cycle down to Loch Lomond with him, have some lunch there and get the train back. I thought that I could just about manage the 30 miles. I might look like John Wayne getting off his horse after a long day on the prairie, but I could just about manage it. However, there was no chance that I would have considered cycling all the way back.
It is easy.
Yes, for the people beside me who have all the gear.
I am becoming more of a cyclist these days because my youngest daughter, who is now nine, has got a bike and is desperate to cycle to school. I cannot let her do that. It is probably about a mile, but the road network around there would not be safe for her, even if I cycled with her.
What I have to do now is either put bikes on the roof rack or get on the train. We have done that a few times, and it is quite an adventure for the youngsters. We get on the train, go somewhere more conducive to cycling for youngsters, spend some time cycling there and then come back on the train. It is an adventure for my daughter and it is an adventure for me and a joy to be able to do that.
My daughter desiring to cycle to school but not being able to is an example of something that is endemic in this country. We are not joining things up particularly well. My personal view about cycling is that, instead of starting off by building massive cycle routes, we should develop primary schools for active travel so that people can be active when they travel to school, whether they want to walk, cycle or use their skateboards or scooters. I would like that to be a starting point. In my day, I cycled or walked to school every day and the bike sheds at my school were rammed full—it was difficult to find a space to put a bike. I looked at my daughter’s school the other day; there are six bike spaces and I have yet to see a bike in there. Now and again, there will be the odd scooter, but the children are not getting the opportunity to cycle to school.
For me, that is where we need to be. Cycle berths on trains are the end result of a policy that we could implement much earlier in life. Kids want to do this. Three or four children in my street would cycle to school if they had the opportunity, but we just do not have the environment in which they can. If we can look ahead and start to create an environment in which active travel to school is viable as a first step, perhaps when we debate this topic again in the future we will be calling for even more capacity for bikes on trains, as cyclists queue up to board.
We need to think about this as an end-to-end issue and treat it as such.
Thank you, Mr Whittle. Perhaps you will address the motion next time.13:44
I thank Liam Kerr for lodging the motion. The debate is very welcome because it is not often that we get the chance in the chamber to debate cycling and how cycling integrates with other transport modes. It is a good and timely topic for debate.
I declare an interest in that I have spent probably most of my working life travelling to my place of work by bike. Either I have cycled all the way; or I have taken my bike to the train station, parked it and got on a train; or I have taken my bike on the train and cycled when I get off at the other end. I have enjoyed that cycling, which has been good for both my mental and my physical health.
However, the current provision on trains for bikes, particularly in central Scotland with the class 170s, is quite bizarre. Most trains around Europe and, indeed, in the rest of the UK have a vertical hook for people to put their bikes on, which makes it easy to get and off a train with a bike and means that the trains can carry many bikes. However, the class 170s here have a horizontal rack that means that I have to choreograph stacking my bike on it alongside other cyclists and the loads of other people who are trying to get on the train. It is a complicated task and it means that I have to have a discussion every morning with four, five or six other cyclists who are trying to put their bike on the train at the same time. It is a great way to meet people and I have had great discussions with lots of people on the back of it, but it is an absolute hassle. I have to say that the guards are very helpful, though. There are only two places available in every two-car set, but most regular cycle commuters know how to stack their bikes creatively so that they can get at least four bikes into the two-place parking area.
We need to make progress on cycle capacity on trains. I recognise that the focus of Abellio ScotRail so far has been on ensuring that there are adequate bike parking facilities in our major stations, and we are starting to see some great improvements in that respect. I commend the bike & go bike-hire scheme, which I think is working well alongside other initiatives such as Nextbike. However, they do not suit everybody and they certainly do not suit people who want to join up their journeys and take their bikes with them, with tourists being a case in point. We have heard from other members that about £345 million comes to Scotland every year through cycle tourism, but we are in danger of losing that.
I am considering taking my family up to Inverness this summer for a mini-tour. We will probably take the Sustrans route down to Fort William, which is a great route that gets a lot of coverage and is very popular. However, the hassle factor on the trains is putting me off. We could be getting to a point now where it might become easier to stick a bike on a plane than to put it on a train. Obviously, cuts in air passenger duty could have an impact on that £345 million that comes into Scotland.
We have heard from members in the debate about possible solutions. I think that we could have more creative use of the vestibule areas in class 170s. I notice at peak times that not everybody wants to sit down and that people getting on for just one or two stops are quite happy to stand. Having more flexible vestibule areas would allow more bikes to come on board the trains and create more space for luggage and mobility aids. For the high-speed trains, Spokes has a good set of solutions. I hope that the minister will reflect on those and put pressure on ScotRail to open things up so that at least the Ruskell family can have an exciting holiday in the Highlands.
Ultimately, though, we recognise that bringing ScotRail back under public control would help and would give us access before profit. However, in the meantime, I hope that the minister is able to put pressure on ScotRail and that we can get a solution to the problem of cycle capacity on trains.13:48
I thank Liam Kerr for bringing the motion to the chamber. I also want to thank him for a couple of other things, the first of which is the constructive tone of his speech, which he always seems to strike in conversations and which I very much appreciate. I thank him also for engaging with ScotRail in a constructive manner and for his enthusiasm. When I first met Liam Kerr, he told me that he was a real train buff and he has done nothing to dispel that view of him since. However, I regret seeing a picture of him in Lycra in the briefing that I looked at this morning before breakfast.
I also thank Spokes, whose representatives are in the public gallery and whose ambition for cycling in Scotland has been very well reflected by members across the chamber. There will be disagreement on some issues, which happens with any campaign or lobby group, and differences on some issues between the political parties, but it is clear to me that everybody who has spoken in the debate has been driven by their ambition for cycling in Scotland, which is a good thing.
I welcome the debate and I will try to address some of the points that have been made. The disclaimer to set out at the start is that, as members have recognised, the day-to-day operation of train fleets and how passengers are managed on board rests with ScotRail. It is currently finalising the layout of on-train cycle storage and the operational aspects of how that will be managed to maximise the number of cycles that can be carried when the 26 refurbished high-speed trains enter service on Scotland’s intercity routes next summer. It is doing so as a result of conversations in which members and campaign groups such as Spokes and many others raised concerns about on-train cycle storage.
As we know, the HSTs will come into service next summer. Some £54 million is being ploughed into them and they will of course be refurbished to the latest standards of comfort and accessibility. As Liam Kerr said, the improved passenger experience will be much welcomed.
There is a recognition across the chamber that spaces on trains are always limited. There are a range of users: cyclists, foot passengers, people with disabilities, whom it is incredibly important to consider, people with luggage and people with small children. Notwithstanding that, we have heard about innovative solutions that allow everybody to be accommodated.
As I said, ScotRail is currently finalising the layout and operational aspects of the trains. I encourage it to listen carefully to what members have said about end-to-end provision and issues at intermediate stops, which Liam Kerr, Graham Simpson and others raised, and to look for innovative solutions.
I clarify that, as a member of a Government, I would not necessarily sign a motion—I am sure that Liam Kerr will understand that.
There is a bit of confusion about the part of the motion that states:
“there will be fewer spaces for cycles than at present”.
As members said, the HSTs will have eight spaces, whereas currently there are only four spaces, two of which are bookable. Not even through creative accounting can it be suggested that there will be fewer spaces—there will be more spaces. However, Liam Kerr made the valid point that there might be fewer spaces available at the intermediate stops. I reiterate that I encourage ScotRail to look at that.
ScotRail will keep its policy on cycles under review. It is committed to training its staff in cycle capacity procedures and how to provide additional ad hoc spaces where possible.
Members mentioned the retention of the class 170s, which is great news, particularly for the central Highlands, Moray, Aberdeen and places down the east coast. However, I do not take away from what members said: ScotRail should always look for innovative or inventive solutions for cycle storage, some of which were mentioned.
Some members characterised the position on cycle integration as a choice between cycle storage at stations and on-board cycle storage. There does not have to be a tension between the two; both should be looked at, as ScotRail is doing. I am pleased about the investment by ScotRail and the Scottish Government in improving facilities, with £194,000 from the Scottish stations fund to significantly expand cycle facilities at Haymarket, with around 90 spaces, and £100,000 from the same fund to install 200 cycle spaces at Waverley. Five thousand cycle storage spaces will be provided at stations across the rail network during the franchise—1,269 spaces have been created at 44 locations already. Bike & go facilities, which Mark Ruskell mentioned, have already opened at 11 stations, including Inverness, Aberdeen, Stirling, Falkirk High and Haymarket. There has been a lot of focus on cycle storage, but that is not to take away from what members said—ScotRail should be encouraged to look at cycle storage facilities at stations and on-train cycle storage.
Transport Scotland and I will continue to encourage ScotRail to work with Spokes and other campaign groups. I reiterate that, with the high-speed trains entering service, there will be an increase in the number of spaces. At the moment, there are four spaces, two of which are bookable. In future, there will be eight spaces, and they will not be reduced due to the layout or design of the train or due to wheelchair provision. That is welcome.
We have committed to continuing our record investment in active travel. I know that other members have today urged us to go further, but we will certainly continue it where we can.
As I said, we will continue to have conversations with ScotRail, and there will be an increase in the number of spaces. In the meantime, until those trains enter service next summer, I will continue to urge ScotRail to do what it can with its current stock. I certainly would not want to deny the Ruskell family a successful holiday in Inverness when that comes.13:55 Meeting suspended.
14:00 On resuming—