Southern Rail, run by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), is working with specialist cycle repair company Handlebars after its initial plan to donate the bikes to charities that run renovation workshops was delayed by the coronavirus outbreak.
Angie Doll, managing director for Southern and Gatwick Express, said, “We are going the extra mile to help key workers go their final mile - or more - from their station to their place of work, or to travel all the way to and from work by bike if convenient.
“If you have to travel, cycling at least part of your journey is a great way to keep fit and keep your social distance.
“Many thanks are due to Handlebars for providing their essential expertise free of charge, and to our facilities and community relations teams for making this happen.
“Partnering with Handlebars is part of a bigger proactive plan to use these unwanted bikes to promote safe, sustainable travel.
“We are also asking local councils, NHS trusts and hospitals if they know of any demand among their medical staff, care and social workers, and others on the front line, for free bicycles.
“It would reduce our bike mountain further, and help more key workers stay fit and healthy.
“As key workers ourselves, we’re proud to be supporting everyone who still needs to travel. Now, more than ever, is a time to offer a helping hand where we can and support our local communities and key worker heroes.”
Every month about 20 abandoned bikes arrive at Southern’s Horsham maintenance depot for storage, in case their owners decide to recover them, and the stock of unclaimed bikes is now approaching 300.
It is not known why so many bikes are abandoned at railway stations. GTR speculate that some were probably stolen, but others, often with only minor faults, are simply left by the owners when they think the cost of repair would be too high relative to the value of the bike itself.
GTR’s community relations identified the programme being run by Handlebars, based at their workshop in the City of London, to renovate bikes and provide them free of charge to key workers.
GTR’s community Eegagement officer Rob Whitehead has worked with the firm to develop their scheme using the rail company’s ready supply of cycles.
Handlebars initially have the workshop capacity to take ten bikes, and their mechanic Andre Noble has visited Horsham depot to pick the ten machines he judged could be ready for safe use most quickly and easily.
While at Horsham, Andre gave all 272 bikes a quick inspection and graded each one according to how easy it would be to get into safe working order.
Southern intends to give more renovated bikes away to key workers, through projects it is developing with its own contacts with local NHS Trusts, West Sussex County Council and Horsham District Council.
The partnership with Handlebars is one of a series of activities being run by Govia Thameslink to support staff, passengers and local communities during this challenging time.
Andre Noble said: “Southern saw our campaign and reached out to offer support. When they mentioned how many bikes are abandoned at stations we were shocked!
“We have seen a tonne of bikes in various conditions and were happy to help identify problems with the bikes at GTR.
“Only the safe ones will go out to key workers and the rest will need a bit of love first! It was a pleasure to meet Rob at the Horsham depot and we at Handlebars are looking forward to working together in the future.”
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