Fabian Kuster, ecf, 02.08.2012
Austrian railways ÖBB is changing its policies and has now begun allowing bicycle carriage on railjet. As for the rest of Europe’s trains however, there’s still a long way to go.
Try booking a train trip with a bicycle, and then try booking the same trip without one. The difference in travel time is astonishing. A trip from Brussels to Cologne will take a little under 2 hours on a high-speed train. However if you wan to take your bicycle along, beware: that 2 hour trip has not become 6 and a half hours.
Despite this grim image, thankfully, things are changing…
Austrian railways ÖBB announced last week that its premium train ‘railjet’ will be equipped with one bicycle compartment per train. When completed in spring 2013, each of the 51 railjet trains will allow for the carriage of 6 bicycles. Rail jet not only operates within Austrian borders but also services Munich, Zurich and Budapest. ECF welcomes this measure as an important step in improving bicycle carriage for daily cyclists and (international) cycle tourists alike. Vienna is at the crossroads of the EuroVelo routes 6 (Atlantic – Black Sea) and 9 (Baltic – Adriatic).
This policy change comes only a few years after the railjet was put in to service, but why? Customer demand made this change possible, ÖBB comments. Additionally, each of the 6 bicycle racks will also come with a plug allowing for the recharging of electric bicycles. Bicycle carriage on all Austrian trains will continue to need reservations, though; and the regular cost of a bicycle ticket is € 10.
On its website, ÖBB takes pride at being the most punctual railway company in the European Union. The ‘punctuality’ argument has been often used by various railway companies as an attempt to discard offering bicycle carriage, in particular on high-speed trains. The solution ÖBB believes to have found is to install the bicycle compartment in front of the train, while still providing enough (door) space to ensure easy handling of the bicycle both inside the train, as well as while (dis)mounting. Customers will also receive announcements on the platform, and the carriages with the bicycle compartment will see a bicycle logo on the outside. The refurbishment came to a total of over € 1.2 million, according to ÖBB.
This positive development came just a few months after Germany’s Deutsche Bahn announced that the new generation of ICx trains, which are gradually replacing the existing ICE-1 and ICE-2 fleet, will offer bicycle carriage for up to 8 bicycles as of 2016. In relation to this, ECF’s long-standing demand has been that all national and international trains should be equipped with bicycle compartments.
Fabian Küster is a Senior Policy Officer at the European Cyclists’ Federation and is regularly following EU developments and legislation, liaising with key stakeholders. He has previously worked in Brussels for a German Member of European Parliament and the German Embassy. He has wealth of experience in and around the EU institutions, and is an expert in the EU policy field of bicycles
ECF’s position Paper On Trains: Bike and Train_A European Odyssey_ECF position paper