TALLINN – From July 26, a bicycle ticket will be required on Elron trains during the summer season, as the possibility to take a bicycle on a train free of charge has led to a situation where bicycles clog the aisles and significantly impede the movement of passengers, the state-owned passenger service operator announced on Monday.
The seasonal requirement to buy a bike ticket when taking a bike on a train will be valid on all trains from April to the end of October. The price of the bike ticket depends on the length of the journey and equals 50 percent of the price of the corresponding full ticket, with a minimum price of one euro. The ticket must be purchased from customer service personnel on board the train. It will not be possible to pre-purchase a ticket for a bicycle, as Elron cannot guarantee that the bicycle can be accommodated on a specific departure, the company said.
"The large number of bicycles on trains is an increasingly serious problem, as often the entire aisle is occupied. This has led to a situation where the abundance of bikes prevents the movement of passengers on the train, with passengers not able to get to the toilet, the train conductor not able to move around, and passengers not able to get to their desired seat," Ronnie Kongo, sales and development manager at Elron, said in a press release.
"This is also causing delays, as the boarding and unboarding of large numbers of bikes takes a long time, especially within the city of Tallinn, where there are many stops. In addition to the above, the situation is also dangerous because, in the event of the train braking, a person with a bicycle standing in the middle of the C zone has nothing to hold on to," Kongo said, adding that a situation like this is scaring away clients, who are opting for car over the inconvenience of such travel by train.
Kongo said that when Elron placed the order for the new trains slated for delivery in 2025, it envisioned more space for bikes.
"It must be understood that additional trains will be added not before 2025 and the capacity of the existing trains is limited, which is why we are essentially faced with a choice between giving preference to providing a possibility for travel for passengers or transporting bikes as luggage," he said.
A bicycle takes up the space of several passengers on board a train and, unlike a pram or a wheelchair, taking a bicycle on a train is usually not an essential necessity.
"In the interest of the satisfaction of passengers, we can no longer continue in the same way, and in future people will have to buy a ticket for a bike from the conductor on board the train," Kongo said.
He added that while it may seem at first glance that the use of larger trains could also be the solution, leaving aside the need for tens of millions of euros in investments, such a solution would not be environmentally sustainable, as operating a larger train also means higher energy costs and a bigger burden on the environment. The most economical thing to do is to combine travel by bike and by train in such way that the bike will stay at the train station, just as is done everywhere else in Europe," Kongo added.
Elron's sales and development manager also pointed out that if a passenger is entitled to a free train ride under an arrangement with the local authority, such as the right to free rides enjoyed by Tallinners, a ticket must nevertheless be purchased for the bike.
The requirement to buy a bike ticket will not apply to passengers who are entitled to a free train ride under the Public Transport Act, such as a child who has not reached the age of seven by Oct. 1 of the current school year or whose schooling has been postponed. The exemption also applies to disabled persons up to the age of 16, a person with a profound disability, a person with a severe visual impairment, a person accompanying a person with a profound or severe visual impairment, as well as passengers over 65 years of age.
The requirement to buy a ticket does not apply to bicycles with folding frames, which are packed together, or to bicycles with all wheels less than 25 centimeters in diameter, such as mini scooters.