Fans wanting to ride out to top vantage points in Yorkshire to watch the world’s greatest cycle race are being told to leave their bikes at home if they want to travel by train during the Tour de France Grand Depart.
With the arrival of the world’s most watched annual sporting event just over six weeks away, transports chiefs have warned that cycling fans could face losing their seats on busy trains if they bring a bike along with them during the Grand Depart weekend of July 5 and 6.
Operators such as Northern Rail and Grand Central have stated riders cannot reserve bike spaces - the former stating its trains carry only up to two bikes each - while no firms have put forward proposals to lay on additional cycle carriages.
The guidance came as rail industry chiefs unveiled their plans at Leeds City Station today as they aim to cater to an expected influx of 3m visitors to Yorkshire during the July spectacle.
A wide-ranging transport plan includes extra train services, the provision of more than 90,000 extra seats for passengers travelling by rail in Yorkshire from July 4 to 6 as well as emergency response proposals.
A statement by the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) states: “It is normal practice under franchise arrangements agreed with the Department for Transport to suspend cycle carriage on trains at times of expected exceptional passenger congestion, particularly for large sporting events.
“It is in recognition of the importance of cycle-rail passengers and of the nature of the Tour de France that train operating companies have chosen to maintain carriage during the event.”
ATOC urges those travelling with a bicycle to travel early and expect delays unless they have a reservation.
Guidance issued by First TransPennine Express states that although the operator understands cycling is a passion, it reminds customers that “the Tour de France is a spectator event, and that cycle carriage is not advised due to the busy nature of the event, stations and services”.
The county’s railways are expected to be key to Tour organisers’ plans for the July 5 and 6 spectacle, which will see many Yorkshire highways brought to a standstill by minimum eight hour road closures as Le Tour passes through.
Network Rail has moved to suspend all planned engineering works in Yorkshire and on feeder routes apart from essential or urgent maintenance, while it will work to help accommodate more services and put on extra passenger support staff.
The firm, which manages the UK’s rail infrastructure, will also station a helicopter in Sherburn-in-Elmet capable of responding to emergency situations on the county’s railways.
East Midlands Trains has announced special services and 1,000 extra seats on services between July 4 and 6, while East Coast has unveiled extra and extended services.
Northern Rail will provide the bulk additional seats to passengers on July 5 and 6.
Alan Chaplin, service delivery director at the operator, said: “It’s an honour for us, as well as the rest of the industry, to be part of this year’s Tour de France.
“Our services will provide an important lifeline throughout the weekend, connecting many spectators to viewpoints along the route, and we have sought to provide as much additional capacity as we can.
“We’ve been planning with our industry partners since last year on how to make Yorkshire’s Grand Depart an experience to remember for spectators, our people and most importantly, showcase a railway the north can be proud of.”
Tour organisers are urging spectators to use public transport, especially rail services, to help them reach some of the best places to watch the race.